MLB The Show 20 Review
The sweet smell of grass in the spring. Flowers starting to bud and bloom. The crisp evening air.
The crack of a baseball bat, and the roar of the crowd. It’s Springtime — well, in any other year than 2020. And in MLB The Show 20, it’s still baseball season.
In many ways, this year’s Show builds upon the games that have come before it. It features roughly the same gameplay and roughly the same modes, just fine-tuned for another year.
On the field, The Show is ever impressive. Controls are intuitive and customizable. I pitch with the Pure Analog system, where I use the right thumbstick to control my throws; I hit using the Plate Coverage Indicator and the face buttons; and my fielders throw using the pressure throwing system. There are multiple ways to control each facet of the game.
While these have been around for a while in the Show games, the control features are a good peek at the rest of the game. You can play The Show however you want to — with different difficulties for pitching and hitting; deep franchise modes, controlling everything from AA signings to the price of hot dogs; a simplified season mode in March to October, where you can get through a full season in 8 hours or less; the card-collecting Diamond Dynasty mode, where you design your own logos and uniforms and put together a fantasy squad; custom leagues, where you can create your own teams (if you want) and play a custom schedule against the computer or online against your friends.
This is the most customizable Show experience ever, and among the most versatile sports games out there, whether you want a full sim or more arcade experience. I didn’t even mention the stalwart Road to the Show Mode, or the fun-for-a-bit Retro mode.
And the game is a looker. It’s hard to overstate what it brings to a sports gaming experience to see my favorite players with their exact swings, saunters, trots, pitching motions and facial expressions. The uniforms are crisp and the colors pop. The only fault I find with the visuals is in the crowd and, to-be-honest, who cares? Just show me that replay of Francisco Lindor smacking that 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th for a win.
Which brings me back to the crack of the bat. One new element to the game this year is hitting a “Perfect” swing. It happens when you swing on time and hit the indicator on the sweet spot of the bat and ball. It feels good. If you’ve ever actually hit a ball on the sweet spot; or hit a perfect drive on the golf course; or roll a perfect strike at the bowling alley; or shoot the perfect shot on the basketball court; or… you get the idea. It feels good to hit a perfect hit, and it’s rare enough that it feels as good 20 hours into the game as it did the first time.
That’s what I live for with The Show. Those moments where the game is on the line and I have to either get a hit or strike the batter out. Sometimes, I lose. But when I get that perfect shot? Man…
My preferred way to play sports games in my younger days was to jump into the deep end with a franchise mode. The Show has long had a deep and involved franchise mode, and I’ve taken my Cleveland Indians to the World Series a handful of times over the years. You can take control of any MLB team and control their entire operation from AA up through the majors.
As I’ve gotten older and time has gotten more precious, the idea of controlling every aspect of a baseball organization over multiple 162-game seasons has lost its luster. The Show 20 still has this, and the team-building aspect is awesome. But there are also plenty of other ways to play the game for people with slightly less time on their hands.
My favorite way to play is March to October. Introduced in last year’s game, March to October lets you take control of any team and try to get them to become World Series champs, or at least beat expectations. You are thrown into a handful of game situations throughout the season, and your performance in those situations gives you momentum for the games that it simulates.
Typically, you’re tossed into the 6th or 7th inning of a game where you’re up or down by a run or two. Sometimes, you’ll have Player Lock for a full game, or might join in the bottom of the 9th to close out a win. A season takes about 6 to 8 hours to play, and you really feel like you have some semblance of control over how your team performs on the field. This year, the game added the ability to target certain players in trades, and also increased Diamond Dynasty rewards that you can earn throughout the season.
Speaking of Diamond Dynasty, the fantasy team-builder and card-collecting mode is back and as good as ever. There is a ton to do even if you don’t feel like hopping online and pitting your squad against another human. I’m loving the new Showdown mode, where you “draft” a few players at the start and play through a ladder of progressively more difficult tasks, culminating in a “boss” battle against a pitcher or team that can be downright tough.
Also new this year is the ability to create custom leagues to play online with friends. You can create leagues with as few teams as you would like, using your Diamond Dynasty or real-life rosters. Choose how many innings are in each game, and how many games are in a season. It’s the perfect way to play with friends in a competitive setting.
Another addition to this year’s game, adding to the realism of Franchise mode, is the inclusion of 1,500 real-life minor league players. Now you can call up the real Tim Tebow whenever you’d like. This also impacts March to October, which gives you call-up opportunities throughout the season.
Honestly, this review scratches the surface of the depth offered in MLB The Show 20. No matter what level of baseball gamer you are — from noob to pro — The Show offers something for you. And it looks amazing.
This year’s game isn’t groundbreaking. Ultimately, it’s basically the same Show we’ve been playing for years. But it’s more refined, with more ways to play and with crisper gameplay. It’s the ultimate baseball video game experience.
And, in the 2020 world we are living in, it’s the ultimate Major League Baseball experience, period.