MLB The Show 21’s stadiums are at full capacity with fans basking in the summer sun and eating hot dogs as they cheer on the home team. It’s a vision of a pandemic-free world, something we all desperately hope to return to. This ideal scenario vanishes when the final out is recorded and the players retreat to their dugouts. The socially-distanced reality many of us live in now comes roaring back into perspective, and is a big part of MLB’s presentation, right down to video conferences being conducted in living rooms with some participants having audio issues.
All of the post-game commentary is presented through podcast videos of former MLB superstars, MLB Network analysts, and The Show team members talking about your performance. As they deliver engaging conversations, you get a view into their homes and will see just how much they invested in their audio and video setups as they talk. It’s a surreal experience to take in, but it’s also successful. I have watched every one, and feel like these videos (that have differing levels of quality depending on who is speaking) do a nice job of carrying the narrative forward, especially for Road to the Show, which I am loving out of the gate. Note: I’m playing the game on PlayStation 5, but will also be looking at the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 4 versions over the course of my review.
I’m only a month into my RttS season, but being able to be a two-way player (pitcher and position player) gives you the best of the entire sport. I play first base every four days and pitch on the fifth. As I try to make my way out of Double A to the Major Leagues, I’m using the new pinpoint pitching system, which, while delivering plenty of gameplay in its different analog movements and timing for each pitch, has been a struggle. I walked five batters in my first game, and four in the next, leading to a bloated ERA of over 6.00. While I like the challenge, I don’t feel like I’m missing by much (given the 90-94 percent accuracy marks I’m often getting), yet my pitches float well out of the zone. I’m going to stick with it for a bit, and try it in other modes, but I may default back to the excellent (and proven) timing system.
Road to the Show’s challenges and clubhouse approach are mostly unchanged, sans faster loads and even cleaner menus. It’s still a fun playthrough, especially knowing my Road the Show character can float over to Diamond Dynasty, another mode that I briefly checked out.
The card collecting element is as prominent as ever in Diamond Dynasty, as are the number of avenue of plays. Before I even stepped on the field, my roster seemed more formidable than in the past, and the game threw a bunch of Cubs (the team I noted as my favorite) my way in the first packs I opened, one of which was tied to the Diamond Dynasty tutorial. Again, the interface for this mode is fantastic and the reduced load times on PS5 shuttle you along from challenge to challenge or game to game quickly.
I still have days of playing ahead of me, but I can already say that MLB The Show 21 is a hell of a game. The first impression it makes is strong, and it looks absolutely stunning. The lighting, fluidity of animations, sharpness of picture; it screams of quality. The Show is obviously the best baseball game out there each year, but it has also long been one of the best sports series, period. From what I’ve played thus far, this entry upholds that legacy in fun, inventive, and deep ways.