Spring is here and that means a return to the diamond for another dramatic season. MLB The Show 21 is available but this time, more people get a chance to play it. For the first time ever, MLB The Show makes an appearance on Xbox, and not only that, it is available on Game Pass so you don’t even have to buy the game to play it if you are a member. When I first booted up the game it was a bit surreal seeing both the Xbox Logo and then the various Sony logos. If you have played The Show over the years on PlayStation you generally know what to expect. For those who aren’t familiar with the franchise though there are a number of different modes to keep you busy as you make your way through the long baseball season.
The first mode that I dived into was Road to the Show. In this mode, you take an up and comer and go through this career. First I got drafted to an MLB team (during my playthrough I got drafted to the San Francisco Giants) and then you get sent to their AA team to try and gain some experience and also to try and discover yourself as a player. I went the two-way route to try and determine what is best for me. What that means is that in some games I was the pitcher, in some games I played shortstop, and in some games, I was the pinch hitter. I enjoyed this variety as it let me play from different viewpoints in the game but I will say that it was a bit annoying that as a shortstop I didn’t really have control of much. I know that is the point of this particular mode but, for example, if our pitcher was really bad one game and I was playing shortstop, there really wasn’t anything I could do. When I was the pitcher though, everything was up to me and I would regularly send the batters back to the dugout after having swung their bat and connecting with nothing but air.
When playing Road to the Show you are managing your whole career. You have an agent that gets in contact with you from time to time to see if you are happy and if you aren’t, he’ll try to do what he can to make you happy. There are times either before a series begins or after where you’ll have to watch a clip of two guys talking about how you are doing and debating on whether or not the team that drafted you were right in taking a chance on you. During my career, I had my fair amount of detractors but there were also a few people on my side as well and these segments did a fairly good job of keeping up with current events. I went on a bit of a slump at the plate and during one of these segments they talked about how I was hot in the beginning but maybe now the pressure of the big leagues was starting to get to me. Then when I got out of that slump and started to hit regularly again they talked about impressive it was that I was able to get past the mental hurdle of that slump and get back into the swing of things. In between games you can hang out in the clubhouse where you can see what is going on with the league such as standings, statistics, who the league leaders are, and more. You can also see how your player is doing, your stats & awards, where your relationship is with your teammates, and more. You can also look at the team as a whole with the roster, the lineups, the injured list, and things like that. Then, of course, you select “play” and advance to the next series.
Next up was Diamond Dynasty. This is somewhat similar to the “Ultimate” mode in EA Sports games so if you have played one of those you at least have some idea what to expect here. They aren’t identical of course but just generally speaking, I think it is a good comparison. In Diamond Dynasty you get the chance to build your dream squad that consists of today’s players as well as legends of the sport. In the “home” screen of this mode you can manage your squad, check out standings and stats, get ratings, and more. Of course, you want to play the game of baseball as well. There are “missions” to beat, moments to relive, and conquests to conquer as you strive to improve every aspect of your team. You can also just play against the CPU in a normal game offline. If you want to compete against other fans you can play online in ranked seasons, a “battle royale” mode, play with friends, and more. If you are really into the collecting aspect you can go into the collect section to see what kind of cards you, what your sponsorships are, open any packs you might have earned playing the game, and more. There are also different collections to acquire which will give you rewards to help out your team. Then of course you have the ability to exchange some items as well.
If you want to jump ahead and just experience the most exciting part of the season then the “March to October” mode might be for you. March to October is kind of like an abbreviated franchise mode. The key here is that the time investment in March to October is substantially less than it is in the standard franchise mode. When you first start the mode you will have an immediate decision to make. Do you pick the Favorites, Contenders, Underdogs, or Longshots? As the Favorites, you have certain expectations to meet while the Contenders are definitely still in the hunt. The Underdog teams have something they have to prove and the Longshots are looking to shock the world. Once you select your tier you then need to select your team. After you do that you need to decide the level of difficulty. There is a dynamic difficulty where the difficulty of the game will adapt to how you are performing. If that isn’t your thing then you can pick Beginner, Legend, Hall of Fame, All-Star, and more. Once I got done with all of that I was thrown into the action. I needed to win the game so that my team could get some momentum. This momentum is used in games I don’t play. If my team has momentum, the chances of them winning are better than if I didn’t have any momentum. One example I came across is having a three-game series with the Padres. I didn’t play the first two games of the series as I’m really only doing key “moments” in this mode. I got to the third game of the series and my new “moment” was to complete the series sweep on the road. If I did that successfully I would gain even more momentum and great things would begin to happen. It is a pretty cool idea and I enjoyed the abbreviated nature of not having to go through all 162 games in a regular season.
Franchise is another game mode in MLB The Show 21 but this one is fairly straightforward. You pick your favorite team and try to bring home a World Championship. This is your standard mode if you want to go through a normal season but you don’t want to do anything else like you might have to in Road to the Show or Diamond Dynasty. Additionally, you can play this game online to see where your skills really stack up. Our time with the game online was a tad hit and miss as there were some server problems here and there. It didn’t happen all the time of course and when they were up things seemed to work well and the game played smoothly. Those times when it wasn’t working though could be pretty irritating.
One new thing that fans have been requesting for years has finally arrived with the Stadium Creator. This gives you a wide variety of things to consider with 1,000 available for you to help build your dream stadium. When you first start you’ll see a bunch of already created stadiums such as “Tutorial Park”, “Triple Decker”, “Mountain Yard”, and much more. There is also a Minor Canvas you can work with, a Major Canvas, a Dino Lair, or if you just want to start with a completely blank slate, a Blank Canvas. You can let your imagination run wild. Once you have completed your dream stadium you can add it to your team in the aforementioned Road to the Show mode. Simply go to the Clubhouse, go to the “League” menu, and then the Stadium Assignment option. Once there you can pick your created stadium and have it be your team’s home stadium. It should be noted though that this new Stadium Creator feature is for current generation consoles only. That means you can only do this on the Xbox Series X|S or PlayStation 5 consoles.
As I made my way through the different modes and spent a good time on the diamond, I was impressed with the entire package. The game simply looks great, although I suspect it will look even better once they can focus solely on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation. The soundtrack was nice as I found myself bopping my head to it as I was going through the menus. The commentary seemed to be largely on point which can be a problem in some sports games. I also really enjoyed the commentary segments in Road to the Show that helped push my story along as I tried to make it to the majors. I didn’t really have any issues with the game other than the intermittent connectivity issues when trying to play online that I mentioned above. If you are new to this franchise there is a definite learning curve, however, they hold your hand pretty well in the beginning so that you can determine which is the best play style for you. If you are a baseball fan, The Show is consistently a great title every year and this year is no different. If you are a Game Pass member on Xbox you can play this game without buying it so you really should try it out for yourself and see what you think.
**Sony provided us with a review code for the purposes of this review.**
Originally posted on Gaming Target