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MLB The Show 21 Thoughts From a Lapsed Fan

MLB The Show 21 lapsed fan

MLB The Show 21

MLB The Show 21 Thoughts From a Lapsed Fan

With the release of MLB The Show 21 on the PS5, this marks my fourth different generation with SDS’ baseball series. This is a testament to how consistent the franchise has been over the years. In an era where a lot of excitement surrounding upcoming releases feels manufactured, there’s something genuinely special about the day the new Show hits. It almost feels like a bonus Opening Day for baseball fans. But it’s a feeling that has escaped me the past few years as I haven’t followed baseball as closely, which resulted in me skipping the past three or so releases. In other words, I am a lapsed fan who is returning for MLB The Show 21.

MLB The Show 21 Lapsed Fan Review

After buying for so many years in a row, it eventually started to feel like a giant roster update. But with the first-ever next-gen console release, this year seemed like the perfect excuse to get back on the horse, and coming from that perspective, I feel like Sony hit it out of the park (sorry) with this release.

Booting up the game for the first time made me smile as I immediately noticed Sony finally addressed one of my oldest gripes with the series by finally updating the menu system. It isn’t a drastic change by any means, but it did receive a needed fresh coat of paint. It’s a lot cleaner and easier to navigate. A small item, yes, but it was something that made me even more excited to play my first game.

mlb the show 21 lapsed fan review

And that’s when my first big “WOW” moment came as I started my first game at Comerica Park with my Tigers. From the opening intro to the first pitch, it felt like I was at the stadium on a cool, calm Saturday afternoon. My wife was in the room at the time and she was similarly wowed at how realistic everything looked, almost like watching a game on TV, especially when you use the camera angle situated behind the pitcher. Add in the MLB Network presentation style, and it really does look, feel, and sound like a TV broadcast. And as an added touch, the angle differs based on the ballpark, which is another subtle but important detail that Sony has nailed for years now.

Easy To Please

I feel like I might be an anomaly as the mode that gets the most play out of me is, believe it or not, Exhibition. I’m not a fan of card-trading modes as they feel like a grind at best and a pitiful money grab at worst. I have browsed around a bit in Diamond Dynasty, but haven’t really bothered to go into much detail. It’s just not the way I prefer to play baseball games in particular, but I will give it a shot at some point.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with franchise mode so far, and it’s not something I used very much in the past. That is something I look for in other sports games like NBA 2K and Madden. With The Show, however, I struggle with dedicating a lot of time to a mode that is handled much better with OOTP. And if I’m going to focus on playing games instead of simming seasons, I would much prefer playing with a variety of teams and players instead of grinding with the same lineup for 162 games.

Gameplay Remains Top Shelf

mlb the show 21 thoughts from casual fan

But as is the case with any sports game, the extra bells and whistles don’t matter if the gameplay isn’t solid. The Show’s gameplay has always been right at the top along with NBA 2K in terms of realism, and coming back to the franchise this year has me feeling right at home. The game is extremely customizable, allowing you to have the experience that you want. If you want a home run-heavy arcade experience, you can do that. If you want to slow things down to a realistic pace, you can do that as well.

An underappreciated aspect of The Show is how customizable the on-field experience is. It feels like there are dozens of pitching/hitting interface options. You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out your preferred settings. I’ve found myself using Pulse pitching a lot this year. It strikes a great balance between “too difficult” and “too easy.” But again, if that isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll find something that is.

mlb the show 21 - 18

Speaking of pitching, it feels as great as ever, and I would go so far to say that I enjoy that more than hitting. There’s something satisfying about carving up a batter and finishing him off with a swing and a miss on a fastball high and out of the zone. I also love way the controller vibrates when a runner is in scoring position and threatening to tie the game. The Show does a great job creating an immersive experience that makes you feel the pressure of the moment.

Hitting feels as great as I remember as well. Pitching may be my favorite, but nothing feels better than getting a perfect swing and seeing the ball fly over the left field wall. It’s made me jump off the couch a few times in excitement. I decided to start on All-Star difficulty with no sliders just yet, and let’s just say I won’t be upping the difficulty anytime soon. It’s been a challenge thus far, but it definitely hasn’t been frustrating. It makes me want to keep playing so I can get better and experiment with other hitting interfaces.

Fielding has always been a mixed bag for me. Realistic fielding is hard to recreate. As soon as the bat contacts the ball, fielders must instantly react. Without some sort of pause to allow the camera to switch, it would be nearly impossible to catch hard hit ground balls or line drives. And I’ve never found a fielding camera that I’m comfortable with. I always struggle to take the right angle or I turn the wrong way to start. With this release, I’ve been experimenting with auto fielding. I’m not a huge fan so far. It does solve the issues I described above, but only controlling the throw instead of the path to the ball doesn’t quite feel right either.

Gorgeous, But I Still Have Some Issues

As I mentioned above, MLB The Show 21 is an absolutely gorgeous game, and that applies to everything: the gameplay, the cutscenes, the dugout shots, etc. It’s a great game to play, but it’s also a great game to simply watch and enjoy. Day games in particular are absolutely stunning with the way the sunshine pops all over the field.

If I had one bone to pick, it’s that the frame rate stutters way too often. I get that it’s a first-gen release, but it is Sony’s game, so you would think there wouldn’t be any hiccups. But far too often it skips as the pitch is being released. Because the game otherwise looks and runs so smoothly, when it does skip, it’s quite distracting and will sometimes mess with my reaction to the pitch.

Bottom Line

I will say that as much fun I am having with this game, I can’t help but wonder how much of that is tied to my temporary break from the series. Everything feels new, but the same. But again, baseball is baseball. There’s only so much that can be done to make each version feel new and exciting, and that applies to sports games in general.

Either way, The Show has been a rock-solid franchise for many years. The years that I skipped, the game received the same solid reviews it always has, and this year it’s no different. However, reading through the forums, I see there is a lot of frustration with some missing features of RttS and franchise, so for the folks who tend to gravitate towards those modes, you might want to do some more research. But if you’re just looking for a baseball game that looks amazing and plays the same, look no further.

If you’re a long-time fan of the franchise who took a break for a few years, now is the time to give it another shot. I don’t regret skipping a few releases, but The Show 21 has definitely reinvigorated my love for the franchise. I don’t know if this is the best version of The Show that has ever been released, but it’s certainly my favorite so far.


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  1. two things strike me after reading this:
    1) IMO the menu is vastly different from any of the ones from 14-20
    I do like the change but I'm still getting used to it and I'm not yet entirely comfortable with. but I do like what they did in the change
    2) no mention of create-a-stadium in a PS5 Show review? for someone who isn't into franchise or diamond dynasty but likes Play Now exhibition games, you'd think create-a-stadium might be right up Mr. Kosal's alley. I can't wait to get a ps5 and start playing in as many different stadiums as I humanly can
    other than that, still an interesting read

    With the release of MLB The Show 21 on the PS5, this marks my fourth different...
    Written By: Brandon Kosal
    Click here to view the article.

    Excellent article my man and I am not even a lapsed fan. I’ve played this game in the past maybe one time but I am thoroughly impressed and pleased at the immersion and gameplay this game offers. I have found myself playing this game and getting the enjoyment we all should get out of sports games. I am glad that I was not a every year buyer or player of this game so it’s truly a new experience. This game has me looking at the mlb network and watching games lol. I can also gain a new perspective of how some Madden players can not play the game for awhile and pick it up and say it’s the best Madden they have ever played!!. It’s a fresh perspective that they see and it does make a difference.. the realistic gameplay and broadcast immersion should be a goal for all sports games as this game model has proven to add both casual, new, and diehard simulation fans to the game and more importantly to the sport....
    Enjoyable read and I agree wholeheartedly that customizability is a key strength of The Show. I, too, play The Show to enjoy games of baseball on the field and have little to no interest in being a GM, whether in The Show, OOTP, or any other game. But while I have played full seasons in the since-removed Season mode and in Franchise mode in the past (and certainly will again in the future), my mode of choice these days is Postseason and I think it might be an enjoyable choice for others who find themselves playing Exhibition mode because they aren't interested in slogging through a season in Franchise or because they like to play with historical rosters from eras that predate the current 30-team Major Leagues.
    Postseason Mode isn't as flexible and customizable a tournament mode as I would like, but I find that creating the matchups I want to play in Postseason mode is generally simple and ups the stakes of the games by placing them in the context of a series, which allows me to experience the depth of teams' pitching staffs and benches in a way that single Exhibition mode games never could. It also allows me to set series length for all rounds except for the Wild Card round, which means seven-game Division Series for me, but could mean one, three or five game rounds for someone else. Want to play a single American League game without a DH or a National League game with the DH? That is possible in Postseason mode. You just need to choose the appropriate settings at the start and make sure you place your teams of choice in the proper slots in the brackets. Playing an interleague game or series of your choice is not easy in Postseason mode, but is possible if you are willing to sim to the World Series a few times until your desired matchup is created. While all games in Postseason mode are night games in October and November, I find that to be a fair trade off for the increased flexibility and control of my baseball universe.
    I do have a wish list for Postseason mode that includes being able to choose start times for all games, being able to chose from among all previously used MLB postseason systems (and perhaps adding a 16-team tournament option as well), and having the option to rebrand teams in Postseason mode, which would be a wonderful addition for those of us who play with historical teams and all-time franchise all star rosters. (For example, with rebranding putting the Astros back in the National League or the Brewers back in the American League would be a relatively simple task.) Given that I doubt there are a tremendous number of Postseason mode players out there, I doubt these wishes will be granted. But it is always nice to dream.
    two things strike me after reading this:
    2) no mention of create-a-stadium in a PS5 Show review? for someone who isn't into franchise or diamond dynasty but likes Play Now exhibition games, you'd think create-a-stadium might be right up Mr. Kosal's alley. I can't wait to get a ps5 and start playing in as many different stadiums as I humanly can

    I can only speak for me, but I crossed create-a-stadium once on a DD play through for stadium options. It wouldn’t let me select something and I haven’t looked at create-a-stadium since. I think more often than not its easy to just forget it’s there which may be why there was no mention.
    Nice read although I must say the menu structure frustrates the heck out of me this year. When they switched to the square block menu a few years aho within weeks I could navigate with ease. Now after more than a month I still find myself clicking back because I’m not in the sublayer I thought I would be.
    Could be personal but I know some of my friends feel the same way.
    About the framerate, I only notice some small hickups in cut scenes.
    If card collecting modes just really aren't your thing and you have no interest at all then ok. But if the main thing turning you away is that you feel like it's an endless grind or a money grab I really think you need to give the mode a shot. Between all of the sports games I play it's the only card collecting mode that I get in to. It is the furthest thing from a money grab, SDS puts out so much content that's easy to grind for for free that you can build a good tea to compete online without much effort. Myself I'm a grinder so I end up doing most of the programs they put out but I know several guys that barely grind and just focus on grinding for the specific players they want so they can spend more time playing competitively online. It's the only card mode that I feel like I can keep up without spending any additional money. I was primarily a franchise player until I tried a little diamond dynasty in MLB 19 then got heavy in to it last year.
    you wanna talk about lapsed fans? how about us xbox fans who haven't played ANY MLB game since 2K13? we are having a TON of fun with this game. I know at least 2 peeps who haven't played ANYTHING on the Xbox since NHL/Madden 18 or 19 who are just racking up hours upon hours in The Show 21.

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