The baseball season should be underway, but coronavirus is of course proving to be the biggest spoilsport of all time. Fortunately, you can always rely on Sony San Diego’s critically acclaimed MLB The Show series releasing like clockwork – but does this last ever PlayStation exclusive entry strike out or hit a home run? We promise we’ll leave the bad baseball puns in the bullpen from now on.
With next-gen consoles right around the corner, MLB The Show 20 is likely the last entry to lead development on the PlayStation 4, and the package can feel a little too familiar at times as a result. That said, years of iteration mean that this is the most feature complete instalment in the prestigious baseball simulation thus far, and if you’ve been pining for America’s game then you’ll find lots to do.
Perhaps the most noteworthy adjustment to the gameplay this year is the addition of ‘Perfect-Perfect’ hits, which are executed once you perform flawless contact and timing. These, as you can probably imagine, lead to more effective at-bats, as you’re able to nail more line drives and home runs – assuming you have the skills, of course. The sound effect is seriously satisfying, we must admit.
Fielding also receives attention for the second year running, with more variables adding realism to the action. Skilled players, for example, will respond much quicker to popped and fly balls, positioning themselves promptly to get the out. Meanwhile, poorer players will fumble more frequently in pressure scenarios, and it just makes the game feel more dynamic overall.
This is all accentuated by a new Extreme Catch mechanic, which will give you the opportunity to leap for difficult balls. If you’ve got a star player making the play, then the risk may be worth it – but average fielders will be better off letting the ball bounce and setting up a more straightforward throw to the bases. A new throwing meter adds challenge to the latter specifically.
Of course, it’s everything that’s been built around MLB The Show 20’s already excellent gameplay that makes it such a compelling proposition. Franchise mode now supports Minor League rosters, adding thousands of real-world players and likenesses to an already dense pool of talent. The customisation options from Diamond Dynasty have also been incorporated, allowing for more personalisation.
But it’s the aforementioned card collecting mode which will consume most of your time, with its RISK-inspired Conquest mode and draft-themed Battle Royale once again taking centre stage. New mode Showdown sees you constructing a completely new rotation and beating bite-sized challenges to earn perks and runs, which can then be used against a star pitcher in a boss-style battle. It’s brilliant.
Even better is how progress is consistent across all modes, so whether you prefer to play Franchise or Moments, you’ll be unlocking cards and bonuses in a Battle Pass-style fashion. The slick, simplified season mode March to October is packing more dynamic challenges than previously, and these all help to contribute to Team Affinity progress, unlocking rewards related to your favourite clubs.
Our only major criticism is that the presentation, once industry leading, is beginning to tire on the ageing PS4 hardware. Don’t get us wrong, the game still looks borderline photorealistic on the PS4 Pro, but animations that have been in play since 2014 still repeat – and the commentary is beginning to sound similarly tired, despite the addition of new lines.
MLB The Show 20 is the definitive version of Sony San Diego’s baseball simulation on the PS4, but long-time fans may feel that this franchise is just starting to show signs of fatigue. The gameplay refinements are welcome, and this is the biggest instalment thus far, but the shift to next-gen will be welcome as the developer seeks to revolutionise the best sports game on the market by far.