Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: MLB The Show 21 continues to create the most consistent sports product out there. It doesn't get bogged down by microtransactions, offers tons of modes, and features enough improvements to once again be a must-play for fans.
New additions like Stadium Creator on next-gen consoles
Improvements to pitching/hitting mechanics
Huge improvements to Road to the Show
Online play still features bugs at times
Virtually no changes to create-a-player options
Why you can trust Android Central
When MLB The Show 20 launched last year, it marked the last time the game would release solely on previous generation consoles. Now, just in time for the start of the 2021 MLB season, San Diego Studio is back once again with the latest entry in the MLB The Show franchise. MLB The Show 21 will not only make the leap to next-gen but will be a multi-platform title for the first time ever.
Like many games making the jump to the PS5, MLB The Show 21 features a handful of huge changes that make the game much more exciting. While MLB The Show 20 had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortened MLB season when releasing content, San Diego Studio has made an impressive return to the field. MLB The Show 21 features a ton of improvements and new details that make it one of the best sports games on the market.
MLB The Show 21: What you'll like
|MLB The Show 21
|MLB The Show 21
|San Diego Studio
|Sony Interactive Entertainment
|Single-Player, Local/Online Multiplayer
|$60 for PS4, $70 for PS5
One of the first things you'll notice when you start up MLB The Show 21 is just how faithful the game is to real-life baseball. Once again, San Diego Studio's recreation of the game is nearly perfect, right down to the commentary teams and logos that are displayed throughout the stadium. For those who want them, MLB The Show 21 also features a handful of cinematic breaks in between pitches and at-bats to simulate the feel of watching the game on TV. Pitchers will walk around the mound, cameras will pan across the stands, and the batter will step into the box before an at-bat, which all add to the very impressive sense of realism.
For those who might not be fans of the sport or are new to it, MLB The Show 21 has added an extreme number of play options. San Diego Studio has made it a point to make sure that gameplay can be tailored to nearly any experience level, including total beginners. You'll get to choose one of three gameplay styles and will be given the option to play through a variety of tutorials that showcase the new ways to play. Two of these new ways include major changes to both pitching and fielding.
While meter, analog, and pulse pitching are all still available in MLB The Show 21, the game has also included a new "pinpoint pitching" method that aims to make things feel more real. With pinpoint pitching, players will have to match the route of the pitch with their analog stick, with the accuracy and break of the pitch determined by how well you draw the pitch out. As for fielding, new ways to locate and field a ball have been included, with players now able to track the path of a fly ball much easier than ever before.
Outside of gameplay tweaks, MLB The Show features tons of new effects, with San Diego Studio touting more than 100 new animations, along with some new lighting. While past MLB The Show entries have always felt incredibly real, the added animations and small tweaks made to how players move around the field all make for a much more engaging experience. Connecting a perfect swing and hitting the ball out of the park or placing a perfect pitch feels better than it ever has, and while the game does have a bit of a learning curve, the dynamic difficulty the game features is perfect for helping you learn as you play.
Elsewhere in MLB The Show 21, you'll find many of the same modes you'll recognize from past games. Everything from Franchise to Diamond Dynasty — MLB The Show's version of Madden and FIFA Ultimate Team — make a return, albeit with a different look to them. While MLB The Show 20 featured brighter menus with tons of subsections, MLB The Show 21 opts for a much more minimalistic take on UI. It's not a major thing, but it was much nicer navigating through the many menus.
Despite the changes, don't expect too much in the way of new features when it comes to modes like Franchise or Play Now. However, both Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty have been nearly completely redone.
Big changes in key areas
For those who may be unaware, Road to the Show (RTTS) allows players to create their own MLB player and take them on a journey to the major leagues. RTTS is usually one of the most popular modes found in MLB The Show, and fans of the mode this year won't be disappointed since San Diego Studios has taken to trimming a lot of the fat away. RTTS still doesn't come quite as close to the full narrative campaigns that the NBA 2K and Madden series have attempted to create, but these are still big changes.
For starters, players no longer have to play through a series of scouting games before being drafted; the mode instead drops you right into the pre-draft process. Developers also added brand new media inclusion, with various personalities from MLB Network chiming in periodically to comment on your player's growth and development throughout the majors. Thankfully, it seems as if a ton of content was filmed for these moments, as I haven't run into any repeat videos and I've put a pretty decent amount of time into the mode so far.
One of the best additions, however, is in how players level up their ballplayer. While you'll still earn boosts in stats by playing through games, MLB The Show 21 now features a Loadout system that allows you to outfit your ballplayer with various customized setups that each have their own ability tokens, which you can equip. Since RTTS starts you in the shoes of a two-way player (a player who both hits and pitches), you can set up two load-outs, each one tailored to the different aspects of your position. If you choose just to become a hitter or pitcher, you can still have different load-outs, allowing you to specialize in things like power-hitting or being a speedier player on the bases.
As for Diamond Dynasty, the mode has been tweaked to make things much more streamlined. For more experienced players, things like Team Affinity programs, Moments, and much more have been changed to make playing and earning cards much easier. In a similar move, Diamond Dynasty now also sports a feature called Parallel levels, which allow you to level up your cards as you play and upgrade them into better versions of themselves. Diamond Dynasty remains one of the best modes that MLB The Show has to offer, and unlike its competitors, it doesn't rely too much on microtransactions for players to get good cards. Instead, the game offers a fun grind through its different modes that allow players to build and play with a team that they don't have to worry about being too weak or bad compared to the competition.
When it comes to new additions to the world of MLB The Show 21, one of the biggest comes in its all-new Stadium Creator. It's important to note that this mode is only on next-gen platforms, but it's a load of fun for those who can experience it. For years, the ability to create a custom stadium has been something fans have been asking for, and now, it's finally a reality. With a ton of different props, players can create pretty much any type of stadium they want, complete with their own custom dimensions and wall heights. Better yet, players can also download and play on other created stadiums, so making unique or popular stadiums might mean your creation ends up being played by the entire community.
MLB The Show 21: What you won't like
One of the usual complaints regarding sports games is that Franchise modes found in them can often feel a bit neglected. Unfortunately, this holds true when it comes to MLB The Show 21 since the mode hasn't received too much of an overhaul. After receiving some long-overdue changes in last year's mode — including a full array of editing options and the ability to move teams — this year feels like it's been put on the backburner. While this isn't too much of a negative draw to the game, players who pick up sports games for their Franchise modes will almost certainly feel a bit disappointed.
Another feature that fans may be sad to see go is the ability to import saves from past years. Usually, players could load in Road to the Show created players from their past versions of MLB The Show in order to continue playing as them. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option in MLB The Show 21, as it has been removed. It's likely that due to the addition of Xbox consoles as a platform and the various crossplay functionality, San Diego Studio thought it would be best not to offer it, so perhaps it'll come back next year.
MLB The Show 21: Should you play it?
4 out of 5
When it comes to next-gen debuts, sports games can often end up as below-average entries. Either they include too many features that don't work or seem more or less the same as a previous generation game. Luckily for baseball fans, MLB The Show 21 has hit it out of the park, as the major changes to various game modes all seem to be a success.
While some modes didn't receive many changes and a few features were scrubbed, MLB The Show 21 still remains one of the best and most consistent sports titles on the market. Add to that the general faster and smoother gameplay that the game benefits from thanks to its next-gen play, and MLB The Show 21 remains a must-buy game for fans of the sport and sports gamers everywhere.