As a gamer there are three quintessential pieces of expectation that come with gaming life, expensive Octobers, rage quits and an annual sports game release. Thankfully what has been seen in the past as a true hindrance on the gaming industry has now over the past few years become a progressive attempt to challenge the stereotypes that sports games in the past have carried.
No more have these stereotypes been challenged by the impressive and captivating work of San Diego Studios, the developers of MLB The Show. A franchise that similar to NBA 2K has not only put in the time to create a captivating and engaging form of gameplay and style, that has honored the sports past, present, and future. Let’s dive in to our MLB The Show 22 preview.
I may have not been to a baseball game (Obviously being from across the pond), but one thing that The Show 21 showed me was how it could impressively capture the feeling of being in a huge arena with thousands of people. Something that I believe is such an important part of a sports game that is very rarely captured, but is done beautifully in last years title.
So, following on from the success of MLB The Show 21, what does The Show 22 bring to the plate?
MLB The Show 22 Preview: Gameplay Improvements
The first change of note coming to MLB The Show 22 is through Custom practice, with players now having the ability to practice fielding. This will give us the options to control where we would like the ball to go in the outfield, if we would like the ball to be a groundball/high ball, and even have the ability to control a player at a particular position. So, if you were wanting to practice how to play catcher before going into Road to the Show you will now have that option.
One very helpful option that has been added is the ability to quickly repeat plays and hits. This can simply be done by pressing your left analog stick if you’d like to repeat a hit, and right analog if you’d like to repeat a play. As a person who only sucks at fielding, this is extremely helpful, seen as you can even practice how to rob home runs, practice your dives, bunt defence, and even my kryptonite steal defence.
MLB The Show 22 will also launch with two new difficulty options, these being Amateur and Minors. In the developer video released on Sony San Diego’s YouTube channel, they stated that the idea behind these additions was that they wanted to make the build up through dynamic difficulty much more seamless. Which they think will make the game much more accessible for newer players.
One of the more notable things I think coming to MLB The Show 22 is changes to hitting, most notably with what San Diego have called ‘Dynamic PCI’. Quite simply, no longer do players have a solid PCI (Plate Coverage Indicator) in and out of the zone. Now if you move your PCI out of the hitting zone it will now shrink, limiting your changes significantly of getting a hit outside of the zone.
Initially when hearing this, I thought it was a way for beginners to learn how to watch balls, rather than blindlessly swinging and popping the hitters’ arms out of their sockets for a strike. Which yes was confirmed, but according to San Diego they wholeheartedly believe that this change was a way to make the game more realistic. They made it clear that this change was made to limit the number of foul balls at bat. Meaning you should in theory no longer be in a situation where you’ve been pitching to the same batter for 5 minutes waiting for that one fastball they will inevitably launch over the fence. Which in my eyes is an amazing addition.
Other changes coming to the PCI is the new inclusion of the PCI Anchor. The PCI Anchor is instead a row of 9 dots, that appears after pressing the left analog stick. You then select the dot you want lock onto and it will hold your PCI to that particular area of the zone. Which yes you can still move, but it will pull your PCI back to the area you locked it. San Diego stated in their dev video that this feature was a way for beginners to not just endlessly drag their PCI to another part of the zone. With them stating that it was intended to provide all players a better form of precision.
Changes to contact and power swings have also been made making them a lot less effective. Contact swings are now less effective when striking outside of the zone, with the intention for players to now only use the swings when trying to extend the count. Power swings have now also been nerfed to try and make them more situational, and only used when you are almost certain it’s a pitch that you can hit. The easiest way I can explain the changes are: if you are behind the count and need to extend your AB, then contact swing, but if you’re ahead in the count and think you can get lucky and hit a homer, use the power swing. Effectively trying to get more players to use the X (A) button much more often.
Finally, the last change to hitting is through improvements to hitting physics. Now if players would like to have a higher hit velocity for inside the zone pitches you will have to swing early. For pitches in the middle of the zone players will swing on time. And finally pitches which hit the outside of the zone will now have to be hit late in order to get the maximum exit velocity speed off the bat.
Now we are onto changes to pitching, notably with PAR (Perfect Accuracy Regions). Now when you pitch you will now have dynamic regions, where the pitch can go on a perfect throw. But the region will change depending where you put the pitch in the zone. So for instance if you throw a change up (which is a pitch thrown commonly at the bottom of the zone to try and get the hitter to chase it), at the top of the zone, then the pitch will move a lot more unpredictably in that area. Sony San Diego did this to try and enforce what they call ‘proper pitching etiquette’, and teach players where pitches are normally placed in the zone.
The pitches that are being affected by dynamic PAR are: Changeup, Curveball, Circle Change, Forkball, Knuckle Curve, Screwball, Sinker, Slider, Slurve, Splitter, Sweeping Curve, Vulvan Change, and a 12-6 Curveball. The pitches that are not affected by Dynamic PAR are: 4-Seam Fastball, 2-Seam Fastball, Cutter.
And finally, the last notable gameplay change coming to MLB The Show 22 (which is also my personal favorite) is to fielding, through perfect throws. Now when you perform a perfect throw you will now get much better animations from the base defenders and catcher when trying to tag out runners. This was done to try and get more players to use better defensive outfielders, to try and stop all offensive based teams, as well as trying to teach players to preload their throws, to try and trigger better fielding animations.
MLB The Show 22 Preview: Road To The Show
Apart from new additions to the analyst team such as Joe Mauer, Rachel Balkoveo, and Ron Darling, while playing as your ballplayer you will also have the addition of rivalry games to improve the realism of your games. So for example, if you’re playing for the cubs, and you’re about to go up against the cardinals, you will hear what analysts feel about these rivalries, and how it affects a young player. For instance, you’ll hear what Carlos Pena thought about the rivalry when he played for the cubs, which in my opinion is such an amazing way of making the games you play feel much more impactful and interesting. It’s so awesome and makes the game feel much more realistic and that your ballplayer is an actual rookie just about to play his first hostile game of baseball.
As well as this changes to the dynamic analysis videos have been made. So, for instance if you go on a string of games where you don’t get a hit, or get the ‘Golden sombrero’ that will be talked about by the analysts. If as a pitcher, you struggle to strike people out, or are being hit more often then that will be talked about. Once again adding to the intended realism of the mode.
When it comes to improvements to your ballplayer, they’re a lot of updates. Firstly, with the introduction of multiple ballplayers allowing you to have more than one ballplayer. So now you can have a ballplayer that is a catcher, one as a starting pitcher, and one that is an outfielder. Giving you the options to play over 10 ballplayers allowing you to play at different positions, and try different builds.
As well as this, when creating your ballplayer, you will have the option to choose whether you would like to be a Two-Way Player, a positional player and finally whether you would like to play solely as a pitcher. Now eliminating the vocal hatred from the community that you had to start as a Two-Way Player in MLB the Show 21.
You will also have options of what archetype you’d like to play with when creating your ballplayer. So as a hitter at a positional based player you will have the option to focus on either: Power, Contact, or Fielding, where you will then be given the options of what positions you can play with that archetype. As a pitcher you can choose whether you want to focus on breaking or velocity for example. Giving you the option of how you want to play road to the show, not how the developers want you to.
The progression system has now been changed, thankfully. Now you can only progress your ballplayer missions to get better perks and attributes solely through Road to The Show. So, no more diamond dynasty challenges, hurrah! As well as this progression is also much quicker than last year, challenges in the programs are shorter, meaning you should get rewards much quicker, with a larger variety of awards too.
The rewards are specifically based on the ballplayer that you create through that particular program. So, if you want to make a contact and power-based build you will have that option. At the end of every program, you will have option to upgrade your stats significantly, starting from Bronze then upgrading to the silver archetype, then gold, and then finally Diamond. The other rewards that you can get in these programs are perks that you can slot into these archetypes improving particular attributes, such as fielding, power, or contact. Or situational perks that can for instance give you a boost in contact when behind the count. As well as this you can also get bat grips, bats, and gloves to again upgrade attributes to your player also.
Finally, as a pitcher you can now select what pitches you want to use in the mode, which hallelujah, is music to my ears. No longer do you have set pitches. These pitches can also be upgradable individually as well. So, if you want to practice your 4-seam and upgrade that for a dozen games, and then want to change to a cutter, that can now be done.
MLB The Show 22 Preview: Franchise Mode
Sony San Diego wanted to make it clear that Trade Metric was not Trade Logic. According to them, it is the new foundation for evaluating players based on the players age, potential, performance, and contract values. 30 year simulations were then done to study how rank relates to a players potential. Player rank relates to WAR (Wins Above Replacement), and from that WAR relates to AAV (Average Annual Value). This, according to the developers, allows for logic system improvements.
One thing that I’m really happy about is the changes to AI trade logic. Along with you now being unable to trade for players that have just signed in off season, teams will now have a much better logic when it comes to how they’re controlling their team. For example, rebuilding teams will now no longer put their prospects on their trade block, while play off teams will now likely to try and trade for that last player to push them toward the world series.
As well as this AI teams will now value top players a lot more. This means that they will now ask for much more assets in order for you to sign that star player. The example the developers used was Juan Soto. In order for the developers to sign Soto to the Yankees, they had to trade two of the top five prospects in Major League Baseball, making trades for star players more realistic.
Another way to stop players from offering extremely unrealistic trades, the devs have significantly decreased the value Relief and closing pitchers in comparison to starting pitches. They explained this was a way to try and get the AI to ask for more valuable assets when you’re looking to obtain star players.
Your budget is now based on the 40-man roster, rather than on the entire organisation, it now means that you have a greater amount of money available for signings. Making your budget much more realistic, especially with the inclusion of a more accurate CBT (Competitive Balance Tax), and changes to team market sizes according to current trends within the MLB.
The big change coming to contracts comes through maximum contracts which can now go up to a 15 year length. As well as this the Maximum salary (AAV) you can now offer is $35 million.
Logic to player contract demands have now also changed. So now if a star player has a bad year, and they enter free agency, it will now cost less to acquire that player. On the other hand if you are a relief pitcher for example, who is playing extremely well, this will significantly increase the value of their contact. This was once again a way for the developers to try and make the mode more realistic.
Two-way players have also been improved by now allowing them to play as a designated hitter while they don’t. And while they are playing as a DH, their pitching stamina will increase. An example used by San Diego was with cover athlete Shohei Ohtani. In previous years his pitching and hitting statistics would be affected due to his pitching stamina not being increased while designated hitting. They now believe that this should realistically represent what the Angels are currently doing with Ohtani.
A further change to off season comes through changes to the exclusive signing period. The Developers noticed that a lot of top players would sign during the exclusive signing period. So what they have done now is try and make bigger players wait in the off season. So more star players will now test the waters of interest in free agency. Again done to make off season in Franchise Mode much more realistic.
Finally, the developers revealed community requests that have made it into Franchise Mode. The first change comes to the sliders. Players will now have the option to change injury sliders for both simulation and In-game. Along with this Pitcher stamina has now accurately been reflected in the post season. Pitchers will now recharge their stamina must faster, following complaints from the community that they couldn’t even play a four-man pitching rotation due to pitchers stamina not recovering fast enough over the post season. The last community request that has now been included is the transaction log, which has been expanded significantly to tell you more in depth information of trades and signings over that season
MLB The Show 22 Preview: March to October
March to October, is typically known as being the more casual Franchise Mode. Where you will jump into the most important parts of the season, and depending on how many games you win or lose will shape how difficult your future games will be. All previous iterations of the mode would only happen over one season, but this is now a thing of the past. In The Show 22 you will now have the option to play multi-season March to October playthroughs with your team.
The biggest change coming to the mode though is that you will have option to make changes to your team in the off season. Like Franchise mode, you will be given an off-season budget, which you cannot exceed. When it comes to actually signing new players this will be done in what I think is one of the coolest features in any career/managerial mode in any sports games, the big board. The big board is three blocks where you can place your three most wanted signings, the higher on your priority the higher their interest to join your team will be per week.
You also have the options to filter what players your team needs. So for instance, the devs decided to use the Blue Jays. When using the positional needs option, the AI decided that in that particular season they needed improvements at 2nd base, 3rd base, and relief pitching. After selecting these positions, all players who play at those positions automatically gained interest in joining your team.
After this the devs looked into the team needs option, which are twelve different categories that best describe a certain type of player. The devs chose on base machine (a player that does everything they can to get on at least first base), and Groundball pitcher (a pitcher that aims to limit home runs, and fly balls, but instead aim to keep the ball grounded for fielders to catch runners on base). So what is cool about this is that the game will not just look at player ratings that match the criteria you’ve chosen, but will also look at how players played previously in the last simulated season.
So when it comes to selecting players for your big board you will be given three option tabs. These tabs are: Top Free Agents (This is according to their rating and previous season stats), Recommended Free Agents (These are based on the choices you made through Team needs and Positional needs), and finally Free Agent Rumours (These are players that have been approached by teams, and what contracts they have offered).
As mentioned previously, once you have added a player to your big board, you will gain interest from that player every week. But while simulating if that player is approached by another team you will have one last chance to sign that player. You will then immediately find out how much interest that player has to join your team. But if it is low, you will unfortunately have to offer them a more lucrative contract for them to increase their interest (more years and more money)
But one really cool thing can happen here, if that player is a top 25 free agent in the free agency, a new animation will occur, which I personally think is both very cool and very cruel. So the new animation is similar to when you pack a diamond in Diamond Dynasty, the player will walk out of a stage, either wearing your teams jersey or the other teams jersey that offered them a contract. So yeah cool, but cruel. So theoretically, if the player has 52% interest to join your team, there is literally a coin flip chance that they might join your team. It’s such a troll, but i love it so much.
The devs explained interest as being based on your previous season team success, location, age of the player, and their morale. Based on this you must have at least 50% interest for you to offer a contract to any player on your big board.
Occasionally an agent can contact you directly telling you that their player is interested in joining your team. So randomly you could get an alert for you to sign that player. This entirely is based on what you set your team and positional needs to, their age, the location of your team and finally your previous team success. Which again is so unique, and too be honest so cool.
Finally, the last thing that they showed regarding the mode was based on a specific contract option. So every season you will have the option if a player has 55% interest in joining your team you will be able to offer them a guaranteed contract. Meaning they will 100% join your team, which does sound good, but does come with a rather large negative. If you use this option you will unfortunately have to offer a contract that is higher in annual payment to the player, but also how long the contract will be.
And that is your in depth look at what is coming in the newest … in this legendary franchise. And yes, you may be asking where is the Diamond Dynasty section? Well I’ve decided that it is so vast and popular, that it will need its own through deep dive once the game is released on Friday. But at this time, San Diego have once again shown that they are the leaders of sports game excellence. I am so excited to get my hands on this game, and you should too.
MLB The Show 22 will be available on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and for the first time ever, Nintendo Switch. The Show 22 will be available to play on April 1st if you have bought the MVP or Digital Deluxe Edition, and April 5th on Xbox Game Pass, and Standard Edition purchases.