MLB The Show 20 arrives at the perfect time with Sony San Diego delivering a clutch hit when America needs it the most.
Title: MLB The Show 20
Developer: Sony San Diego
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed on)
Release date: March 17, 2020 (March 13 Early Access)
One of my favorite baseball movies of all time, Bull Durham, ended with the following quote from Susan Sarandon’s character, Annie Savoy:
"Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”"
Whether Walt Whitman actually said that or not is still up for debate but nevertheless, the words hold true — especially right now. With the world in disarray due to coronavirus and fear and anxiety at a high, Americans need an escape more than ever. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball, America’s pastime, has been postponed, giving us one less thing to distract us from the real world. Baseball fans can only turn to MLB The Show 20 to fill the current void in our hearts and thankfully, Sony San Diego has delivered another clutch hit.
Sony’s MLB The Show franchise has long been the king of the digital baseball diamond. MLB The Show 20 continues that trend and not just because of the lack of real competition in the space — Sony San Diego continues to refine and tweak various mechanics, resulting in one of the most authentic baseball sims. A lot of what makes MLB The Show 20 so great isn’t noticeable on the surface, but it’s what’s happening under the hood that baseball fans will appreciate.
Everything about the game just feels sharper and more in tune. The improved PCI (plate coverage indicator) — which changes based on the player — provides valuable feedback on your swing. MLB The Show has always done a good job of creating realistic statlines, but grounding into a double play or popping up with runners on can sometimes be frustrating. The improved PCI at least gives you a better understanding of why you got that result.
The addition of the Perfect/Perfect hits rewards players for making perfect contact and perfect timing on swings. It’s not a guaranteed hit, but you should notice more variety in your contact and most likely an overall higher BABIP.
Sony has also tweaked some of the fielding mechanics, implementing the Extreme Catch Indicator and First Step System. Combined, these systems help the better outfielders stand out from the rest. The throwing meter’s button accuracy has also been tweaked so that, again, the more skilled defenders actually feel better. The sometimes errant throw can be frustrating, but it’s a testament to Sony’s commitment to realism with MLB The Show 20.
The series’ core game modes return. Diamond Dynasty, Franchise, Road to the Show and March to October are still the core gameplay modes.
Not much has changed with Road to the Show. The mode tasks you with creating a player and bringing him up through the ranks until you reach the big show. Aside from some interactions with teammates that can impact your on-field chemistry with them, not much is new to the mode which is starting to feel in need of a refresh.
Franchise mode is essentially more or less the same. The addition of accurate Minor League rosters makes for an even more realistic experience and is something that hardcore baseball fans will appreciate.
However, the mode’s biggest new feature — the ability to customize, rebrand and relocate teams — feels lackluster in its implementation. First off, there’s still no expansion teams, meaning if you’re going to customize a franchise, all you’re doing is essentially changing its name and moving it to a new city.
The customization options are very in depth and the logo creator is robust, almost to the point where it’s a little intimidating. I prefer letting others do the hard work and using the Logo Vault.
Once you rebrand the team, it’s time to pick a stadium to play in and this is another area where this feature falls short. You can only choose from a list of already-existing stadiums to play in. Now, you do get a fairly lengthy list that includes some ballparks that could pass as “generic,” but they lack the feeling of a true Major League ballpark. The inability to create your own stadium or even edit existing stadiums to match your team colors means you never really feel like you’re playing in a personalized stadium.
Once again, there’s no support for online Franchises, which is a major disappointment. For those looking to play with friends, there is the new Custom Leagues mode, which allows you and your friends to create or join a league, various settings and house rules to your liking, and compete online. While there is some team management, Custom Leagues lacks the depth and micromanagement found in Franchise mode. Sure, it’s nice to play with friends online but in no way does Custom Leagues scratch the itch for online Franchise.
March to October sees some noticeable improvements and has become one of my favorite modes. As a father of a two-year-old who no longer has the time to play a full 162 game season, I appreciate how the mode truncates the season and only makes me play pivotal moments.
The Momentum system throws you into specific situations with a certain goal to complete. Most of the situations are set late in a ball game and while the details may vary, the goal is usually to come away with the win. If you do so, your team is rewarded with momentum that boosts their win rate. If you fail in the situation, they become cold and you can expect more losses.
The Momentum doesn’t only apply to team goals. Sometimes you’ll take control of a specific player and be tasked with completing a certain objective. In these situations, it feels like RTTS as you only play as them for the game. If you’re successful, that specific players receives a momentum boost.
One of the things that makes this mode so great is the narrative that goes along with these situations. MLB The Show 20 does a great job of setting the tone and shaping the story for each situation so that it actually makes sense and you have some emotional investment in the outcome beyond just a win boost.
The last of The Show‘s major modes is Diamond Dynasty, the collectible card game in which you build a fantasy roster by earning digital cards of present and past players.
Just about everything you do in MLB The Show 20 feels, in some way, tied to Diamond Dynasty. It’s clear Sony wants you to play this mode and for good reason; it’s the one that contains the microtransactions.
That said, Diamond Dynasty doesn’t feel like a shameless money grab that many of the other similar collectible card games in other sports games do. There are a ton of modes within Diamond Dynasty and the rewards are plentiful enough where you don’t feel compelled or pressured to spend tons of your own money.
Moments, Conquests, and Events are back and they are joined by the new Showdown mode. In this mode, you take part in a 10-round draft that helps shape the core of your Showdown team. You’ll then take your Showdown team and partake in a series of scenarios (Moments) and mini-bosses. Completing these earns you improvements to your Showdown team as well as rewards for your overall Diamond Dynasty team.
There are multiple Showdowns to take part in, each one specifically crafted by Sony. They each feature their own specific draft theme and sets of scenarios. Overall, it’s a fun new addition that’s fairly quick to play through and a good source to earn Program Stars.
Sony San Diego doesn’t seem to have swung for the fences with MLB The Show 20‘s new features and additions, but sometimes a solid base hit is all you need. The core gameplay remains solid and the foundation has seemingly been set to finally address many fans’ actual desires as far as customization and online play.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.