MLB The Show 23 Review
MVP Level Production
If there's a real-world parallel to MLB The Show in its current state, it would probably be the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have been a picture of consistent quality over the last decade, and San Diego Studio's franchise has been at the same high level for that same time. It may not end up as best sports game at the end of the year, but it's always in the conversation. Such will likely be the case for MLB The Show 23, which once again delivers a stellar take on America's pastime.
The usual line-up of established modes is here again for players to dive into. Diamond Dynasty, Road to the Show, March to October and Franchise all provide their own unique experiences. Each of them has established themselves as cornerstones of the series and will likely continue to show up year after year. However, there is one new addition that steals the show for 2023. Storylines: The Negro Leagues is a mode that should not be passed up regardless of your interest in the lore of baseball.
Storylines has you stepping into the cleats of eight of the most famous Negro League players. The list of players includes Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Rube Foster, to name a few. Each player is given their own set of challenges, and additional information on the players is provided as interstitials in between these challenges. Narration provided by Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick delves into the personalities of each player, and why they are important to the history of the sport. The missions for each player are fun to partake in, and the informational reward you receive upon completing them is worth the effort.
Completing each Storyline arc also unlocks a card of the chosen player for use in Diamond Dynasty. The Show's take on the popular card collecting mode, Diamond Dynasty offers up some new tweaks for this year. The biggest among them is the introduction of seasons, which will cycle in and out cards through different periods. This opens the door for high-rated 99 level cards to be available much quicker than they have in prior years. However, once the season has run its course, the cards you unlocked won't be usable in ranked matches or Conquest mode. Another major change is the introduction of Captain cards that offer specific boosts to different cards.
I have made this clear across several reviews of sports franchises, but these kinds of modes don't appeal to me. I still feel they are designed around microtransactions and having to pay to unlock additional cards sits wrong with me. With that said, Diamond Dynasty is probably the most palatable version of the mode. There are plenty of ways for you to unlock new cards or points to purchase new packs without having to shell out the extra cash. I'm most intrigued by how seasons will switch things up, though. Forcing players to constantly mix-up their line-ups open the door for more unique matches and line-ups, which is something that is really needed. Kicking things off with a series based around the World Baseball Classic is a nice start, and I hope future seasons go in even more exciting directions.
Franchise and March to October have been adjusted to reflect rule changes in the real-world this past season. Tweaks include the implementation of the Ohtani rule, which allows for a pitcher to be used as a DH for the entirety of a game. There's still only one Shohei Ohtani, but now you can attempt to use other pitchers in the same way. Other changes include the use of the updated playoff system, rulings from the updated CBA and greater emphasis on drafting and scouting. Franchise remains the way to go if you want the full managerial experience, while March to October offers up a condensed and streamlined season. Both are enjoyable to play, and preference really comes down to how dirty you want your hands to get.
While every other mode has been the recipient of welcome improvements, Road to the Show still mostly gets the shaft. The fan favorite mode will always be a treat, and I still haven't gotten tired of making the journey from minor league prospect to major league legend. It's hard to ignore that the mode has mostly remain unchanged from last year's release. The big new addition is an option to use a selfie to generate in-game character models, which is neat, but not groundbreaking. Other additions, including new cutscenes and the return of in-game training, are of similar ilk. Nice to see, but nothing that dynamically changes the experience. I still love the mode, and probably always will, but I just want to see fresh changes for it.
The action on-field remains as great as it has ever been. Whether you are a newcomer to the series or a vet of the game, you'll find options for hitting and pitching that fit your experience level. There aren't any major changes to these systems this year, but rather just a continued refinement of minor mechanics, with better tracking of swing timing and pitch placement. San Diego Studio worked to improve the fielding last year, and they are continuing in that direction. The throwing meter when a player fields the ball has been tweaked to be more realistic depending on the skill level of the player making the play. The meter will be tougher to time if you aren't using a Gold Glove quality player, or even if the play itself is difficult to properly field.
As with last year's iteration. MLB The Show 23 still looks nice but is hampered by being cross-gen once again. San Diego Studio worked to improve the visuals in some areas, such as improving animations and better presentation. The presentation enhancements can really be seen in Storylines, which takes great care to make everything time period appropriate. From the old stadiums to the fashion of the crowds, the visuals do a great job of setting the scene. However, even with the advances, the animations still have clunkiness to them, and the lighting engine needs to be overhauled at this point. After a rough outing last year, the commentary team of Joe Sciambi and Chris Singleton is significantly improved. There is much less recycling of the same tired anecdotes, and their commentary is far more accurate to what's happening on-screen.
Even if the series is starting to show its age, MLB The Show 23 remains a top-tier sporting experience. The glut of options available for players to choose from will keep them busy from Spring Training to the World Series. Standbys such as Franchise, Diamond Dynasty and March to October have been tweaked for the better, and the new Storylines mode is a must-play. It's the best thing San Diego Studio has produced in years. Hopefully, the studio will eventually get around to mixing things up with Road to the Show, which remains solid, but has mostly remained stuck in the same place for several seasons now. All Hall of Famers must work to stay on top as they age, and that's no different for The Show.