MLB The Show 23 Review: The Show Goes On

MLB The Show 23 is our second crack at a baseball game.

We enjoyed last year’s iteration, but as relevant novices to the franchise, it was missing a little something to keep us coming back for more.

While the visuals and gameplay were solid, things could seem a little repetitive at times, especially over a full calendar season. It’s an approach that fans of the sport will likely enjoy, grinding out wins and testing their mettle, but the casual fan might need more to hold their interest.

So how does the latest offering hold up?

Much like other sports titles, there seems to the a formula to MLB The Show 23. Like last year’s game, there’s an opening cinematic for the cover star – Jazz Chisholm Jr. of the Miami Marlins.

Like developers San Diego Studios did with Shohei Ohtani in the previous game, we chronicle some of Chisholm Jr’s history with the sport, dating back to his time in the Bahamas. We also get to see what kind of a player he is, with him displaying an all-action approach to the game, diving around making spectacular catches and hitting the leather of the ball.

True to formula

Unfortunately, unlike the Ohtani version of the game, the gameplay does not seem to reflect the qualities of its cover athlete. By this we mean there are no real amazing plays in the outfield that you can control, or the energy that comes with trying to steal bases or making double and triple plays.

The action while playing is still relegated to pitching and hitting.

While these are the two core components of baseball, a lot of the other elements of gameplay can be automated, and that certainly takes some of the chance or unpredictability out of the game. As such, fielding feels like something that is relegated to the background, when it should really have a bigger part to play.

Speaking of the mechanics, before you play your first proper game, you run through some tutorials, teaching you each aspect of gameplay. Each of these aspects features around four different options in terms of controls. For most, whether it be batting, pitching, fielding, and more, we opted for the most straightforward approach.

This usually means using one of the action buttons to prompt swings of the bat or the type of pitch you want and where to place it. There are more complex inputs should you desire, but we found the simple approach being the lowest barrier to entry. It is also more favourable once the adaptive difficulty system kicks in.

Ultimately batting boils down to one thing – timing. Get that right that and you’ll be leading the home run races most seasons. As such, not much has changed in that department since last year’s game. The same goes for pitching, with the on-screen suggestions for different types of pitches seeing you through games most of the time.

Winning therefore, is not as challenging as you may think, and is easy for most newcomers to the game to do. This is understandable given how nuanced baseball can be, and the endgame here is to make MLB The Show 23 as easy to pick up as possible.

Working your way up

Shifting to the different gameplay modes and the usual suspects are there – namely a franchise, career, and squad builder (Diamond Dynasty).

The key new addition is Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which allows you to play through and celebrate the lives and accomplishments of past African American baseball legends like Jackie Robinson.

It is an interesting addition, especially for those wanting to know more about the history of baseball. It will also be interesting to see whether other times in baseball history will get the same treatment in this franchise.

Back to the mainstays and the franchise mode is much the same as last year’s version, with the key difference being a new drafting system to help you identify and add up-and-coming talent to your roster. Being able to manage a franchise brings with it challenges that a sole career mode does not, and might offer the more fulfilling experience that some players may be looking for.

As for the career mode, again, not much has changed, with options fairly rich in terms of customisation options and having to work your way through the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues. It can be a grind at times, and being able to fast rack might be helpful, but in general the presentation in this mode is solid.

Lastly the collectibles squad builder mode is kind of middling in our opinion, but much of that may be down to the fact that we are not diehard baseball fans, as such winning in-game collectibles don’t necessarily carry the weight expected.

Final verdict

MLB The Show 23 is another solid entry in the franchise.

It does not stray far from an existing formula, and while that means you know precisely what you’re getting when you boot up this game, it is also not adding anything new to the mix to fully captivate newcomers.

It therefore succeeds where its predecessor does, but also falls short in the same areas.

That said, for R1 199 on PS5/PS4, you’re getting a slick looking sports game that is well licensed and plays as expected. Those wanting a bit more, however, will need to get their fix elsewhere.




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