MLB The Show is one of the stalwart sports game franchises in all of gaming. Sony San Diego has found and continued to perfect a core game that feels consistently good to play and strikes a delicate balance between making you feel like you’re a part of the game and ensuring you understand how difficult it is to be a major league ballplayer. With MLB The Show 23, the franchise continues with another strong entry, if it doesn’t make any huge changes. The inclusion of the Negro Leagues Storylines mode, which covers the history and key players of the Negro Leagues and allows you to play through some of their greatest moments, is a great addition for those who are particularly interested in the history of the game, and it marks the most significant addition to The Show in a few years. Otherwise, even though MLB The Show 23 doesn’t make many notable changes aside from some gameplay tweaks, it continues to be a great baseball game with a wide array of modes and the tightest, most satisfying baseball gameplay you’ll play.
"Even though MLB The Show 23 doesn’t make many notable changes aside from some gameplay tweaks, it continues to be a great baseball game with a wide array of modes and the tightest, most satisfying baseball gameplay you’ll play."
The ability of a sports game to make you feel like you’re an integral part of the experience in multiple unique ways is among its most important jobs, and there’s no game that realizes that opportunity quite like The Show. Over time, Sony San Diego has introduced a slew of new game modes that vary the experience and allow you to experience baseball in a bunch of different ways. What’s startling about The Show is how equally fun each game mode is. Franchise mode and Road to the Show, of course, are classics, but a mode like March to October continues to be one of the more enjoyable modes in any sports game, as it fuses the best parts of team management and individual player performance. Even Diamond Dynasty, The Show’s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team, is still my favorite card collecting, team building mode in any sports game. Its variety of different offline and online gameplay experiences give you a real ability to improve your team without having to get smacked by online players every time. I also have to shout out Conquest mode, which, while not new, is my main reason for coming back to Diamond Dynasty.
The thing is that none of these modes have really changed year over year. If you played any of these modes in MLB The Show 22, you’ll feel like you jumped right back into the fray with a handful of tweaks here and there. Road to the Show, even with its increased ability to model yourself after Shohei Ohtani and live out the dream of being the league’s next two-way player, continues to feel relatively stagnant from last year and years prior, and I’m starting to lose the desire to make my way from double-A all the way up to the big leagues. Franchise and March to October, too, haven’t seen many tweaks or upgrades and are effectively the same experience as they’ve been before.
The key addition to MLB The Show 23 is a new game mode called “Storylines,” an in-depth look at the history of the Negro Leagues and an opportunity to play through the biggest moments of the careers of ten key players from the Negro Leagues, with more promised over future games. This is a fantastic installment both for the love of the game and the education of its fans, many of whom most likely aren’t aware of the key players the way they would be of comparable MLB players. Of course, you can play through the rise and barrier breaking of the great Jackie Robinson or the all-time great pitching of Satchel Paige, but you can also learn about other players that I, admittedly, wasn’t as familiar with, like Rube Foster or Hilton Smith.
"The Storylines mode is a fantastic addition both for the love of the game and the education of its fans, many of whom most likely aren’t aware of the key players the way they would be of comparable MLB players."
Sony San Diego partnered with the real Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and provides a documentary-style view into these players’ careers, narrated by the Museum’s president Bob Kendrick. It’s a fascinating view that gives great insight to the impact these players had and how great they really were. Each player also has a ten-part story thread that allows you to play through some of their biggest moments. For Jackie Robinson, for example, you get to play the game in which he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The actual gameplay of the Storylines mode is a bit more mundane, though still interesting and relatively varied. You don’t get to play the full games; instead, you have to complete increasingly difficult tasks within single games. For Jackie Robinson, it starts with getting one hit and moves to getting multiple hits in a game, getting on base, or stealing a base. On the pitching side, it’s frequently about pitching scoreless innings or getting strikeouts, sometimes with specific pitch arsenals like Rube Foster’s screwball. If there is one negative about the Storylines mode, it’s that each level can, on a gameplay level, become a bit repetitive if you play them too quickly. With that said, it’s fascinating even just to see the aesthetics of the game at the time, from the eye-popping uniforms to Satchel Paige’s long windup. It’s worth it, though, as by the end you’ll have learned a lot about the history of baseball, and you’ll have gotten a few handy Diamond Dynasty cards in the process.
On an overall gameplay level, there have been a few noticeable tweaks that make batting and pitching a slight step up from last year. While batting, it feels like the Perfect-Perfect outcomes, which frequently result in home runs or hard-hit line drives, happen slightly more often, and on the DualSense controller, these hits are among the best experiences in the game. Pitching, too, feels slightly more precise. I tend to use Pinpoint Pitching, which feels both smoother and more understandable this time around. I felt as though I knew any time my timing was off, and I began to hit 100% accuracy more frequently than ever before. It’s worth noting that while the rosters have been updated alongside most of the new rules the MLB is implementing this year, including the elimination of the shift, there’s a glaring omission of the pitch clock. It isn’t quite as impactful to the video game as it will be to the on-field game, but my ability to pick off as many times as I want or take as long as possible on the mound felt a bit off compared to what’s happening in the league right now.
"MLB The Show has become one of the premier sports games on the market because of its fantastic gameplay and wide array of enjoyable modes, and The Show 23 doesn’t do anything to slow it down."
In a lot of ways, MLB The Show 23 feels like a slightly upgraded version of MLB The Show 22. Each of the existing game modes feel almost identical to past years, which is to say still incredibly fun, if not as revolutionary. The addition of the Storylines mode and the in-depth look at the real history of the Negro Leagues and its greatest players is a fantastic addition that adds a slightly varied new gameplay style alongside a great platform for learning about the history of the game. Regardless, MLB The Show has become one of the premier sports games on the market because of its fantastic gameplay and wide array of enjoyable modes, and The Show 23 doesn’t do anything to slow it down.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Storylines mode is a great way to learn about the game’s history and see it from a different perspective; Slight gameplay improvements; Not messing with an already great formula.
No major additions to existing gameplay modes; Omission of pitch clock.
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