It’s funny when we get down to thinking about corporate relationships within the gaming industry. For decades, it seemed like it would be a cold day in hell before anyone would see Sonic anywhere near a Nintendo game, and here we are playing Olympic sports with them both alongside their friends.
When it comes to Sony and Microsoft getting along, who would’ve guessed we’d ever see a Sony logo pop up in an Xbox game? And here we are, it’s a new year – kinda, since we’re already in April, but bear with me here – and yet a new version of MLB The Show is upon us.
Granted, this is my first exposure to the franchise and being the baseball newbie that I am, having only really played NES Baseball and a couple of those silly SNK ones over the years, I was curious to try out a modern sim of that quirky sport. And lo and behold, I found plenty to enjoy during my time reviewing it.
First and foremost, it does an excellent job easing new players into its gameplay thanks to a fantastic story-based mode that dives into one of baseball’s most interesting historical events, the founding of the Negro league in the 1920s and its incredible popularity at the time. Through this mode, not only does Sony Sand Diego‘s MLB The Show 23 pay homage to the many athletes that played baseball for that organization, but it teaches you the game’s many mechanics by having you relive key moments in their careers.
All of that is presented at first through a series of FMVs that do a great job at setting the stage by presenting period piece photos and video recordings alongside thoroughly detailed narration about each of the players’ lives and careers, and let me tell you, a lot of them lived some amazing and inspiring lives. Each of these key personalities gets to have their own separate chapter split into a handful of stages.
For instance, at the start, you’ll get to relive a particularly famous pitcher’s memories, and through them learn the ins and outs of pitching in MLB The Show 23, which is surprisingly complex and in-depth. We’re talking of not only picking the right type of throw in order to strike out a specific type of batter, but also knowing how to see those signs and act upon them.
The same goes for other positions in the field, and as a whole, these historical lessons work pretty well in teaching you how to effectively play the game, as well as showing a fascinating side to baseball I’ve personally had only heard about in passing and through movies. Getting to see the actual faces and accomplishments this way has been something else.
Other than this mode, the game offers your usual array of sport sim modes such as franchise, where you get to be the general manager of a team and guide it through championship after championship, but if you’d rather play the game directly, you can do so by sticking with the more traditional pennant mode.
There’s also a fantasy league option where you build a team and face off against online opponents, which unsurprisingly had me getting my ass kicked by more experienced players. I didn’t mind that at all, seeing that my main focus playing MLB The Show 23 ended up being the process of learning more about the sport and that journey proved to be unexpectedly enjoyable, although for most of the time I was having fun, it was through not actually actively playing it, but watching it unfold via its many documentary-style videos.
That’s not a poke at the game in any way. For those into baseball and getting to actively participate in the playing of it, MLB The Show 23 is quite good at providing an enjoyable time, and even if you might not have any knowledge to speak of of the game, you’ll find it that it’s a very satisfying jump board, which is something not all sport videogames can claim to be.
Presentation-wise, I was pleasantly surprised at the multitude of options there are into making just about every aspect of the game that much easier to keep a track of. Mainly, having the ability to turn on closed captions for commentary proved to be a key element in making going through the admittedly long and stretched out games I’ve partook less of a, let’s say, grind.
Players and environments look as good as it’s expected, and for as much as people poo-poo on Xbox Series S, it more than handled running MLB The Show 23 smoothly. The same can’t be said about crowds, they are still ways away from feeling realistic, but that’s a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things within the game since everything else looks on par with other current gen sports sims I’ve played.
I had close to now expectations coming into this game and came about impressed with what it offers. If you are like me, a baseball newbie, you might enjoy it just as much as me, especially if you have any interest in learning more about the sport’s rich history in the U.S.
For those just returning to the franchise, I’m not educated enough in its iterative development over the years, at least not enough to say that it’s got anything other than what I got to play over whatever came before it. Then again, what there is on offer here is plenty of quality content to keep you busy, in theory.