MLB® The Show™ 24_20240317154458

MLB The Show 24 Review: Another Solid Hit for the Series

Most savvy people who play sports games that are released annually have realized by now that some years see the implementation of groundbreaking features and other years are more about fine-tuning the existing framework. MLB The Show 24 falls into this second category.

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A year ago, MLB The Show 23 rightfully earned a lot of praise for bringing history to life with a series of moments that focused on not only entertaining but also educating people on baseball’s Negro Leagues. Now with MLB The Show 24, developer SDS appears to rest on their laurels a tad by choosing to expand on that feature with the inclusion of another admittedly enlightening installment on those Negro Leagues. They’ve also doubled down on that same formula by having Derek Jeter walk you through pivotal moments of his career that you can experience on the field on your own.

It’s hardly as if MLB The Show 24 can be considered a bad game since the foundation itself was already fairly solid, but it doesn’t exactly swing for the fences with the kind of innovative additions that will make this a particularly memorable entry in the series when we look back upon it in a few years.

Aside from the storylines that continue to shed light on the too-often forgotten Negro Leagues and illuminate the achievements of Jeter, MLB The Show 24 also has some meaningful tweaks to returning modes to make them more enjoyable. Franchise, for instance, introduces a new setting that allows you to customize the situational parameters that will have you jump into a game, which makes playing through the marathon of a 162 game season a little less overwhelming. Diamond Dynasty continues to be the most accessible of card-collecting modes and attempts to respond to community feedback with changes that should keep the grind interesting throughout the year.

On the other hand, Road To The Show may have provided the chance to create female players and received some updates that are largely cosmetic but still insists on utilizing a loadout system for your player that lacks realism. The game yet again also fails to add a true online franchise mode that many desire to further the depth of competitive online play. For those who are veterans of the game, you may find that even the highest difficulty of Legend doesn’t offer quite the same challenge versus the CPU that it has in the past unless you start altering some of the game’s sliders. Not to mention, there’s the game’s garish UI that has the community up in arms about how blinding it can be.

Let’s hit the diamond and take a closer look a what aspects of the game are finding the strike zone right now and where it’s currently missing its mark.

What I Like

Storylines

Just as any good movie deserves a sequel or a stellar first season of a TV show demands a second, MLB The Show 24 delivers a follow-up installment on the Negro Leagues that continues to delve into some of the premier ballplayers of the era. With the return of President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Bob Kendrick, to help provide pertinent details, this time around we get engrossing episodes that focus on standouts like Josh Gibson and Henry Aaron through the canny use of photos, animations and archival video.

By playing through moments that correspond to important events in the careers of these players, you’re able to learn something about this important chapter of baseball history as you hone your own skills on the diamond. Perhaps the most fascinating episodes detail the life of Toni Stone, who was truly a pioneer in that she was a woman competing alongside the men of the era. For your efforts and attention, you’ll also be rewarded with the cards of these players that you can then use within Diamond Dynasty. Sure, it doesn’t seem quite as novel as last year when this was a new feature, but it was worth going back to the well again to explore more of the Negro Leagues’ rich history.

Building on the same system that made the Negro Leagues feature such a success, MLB The Show 24 also showcases the storied career of legendary Yankee Derek Jeter. Using a subway motif to smartly serve as the backdrop for Jeter’s story, we get to hear all about his time in New York from Jeter himself in an interview that was conducted on a subway train. Taking us through his playing days from when he was an unheralded rookie that looked as if he might not perform up to expectations at the major league level all the way up to the seasons when he helped lead the team to World Series championships (with more episode slated to be released in the coming days), it coalesces into an absorbing trip through the Big Apple’s subway tunnels.

The moments you get to step on the field are rife with neat details and Jeter makes for a suitably charismatic and engaging tour guide. By branching out from the Negro Leagues to start chronicling a celebrated figure like Jeter, the game has surely established a precedent that they can now use for other Hall of Fame players in future games.

Franchise

On the surface at least, there haven’t been all that many major changes to the franchise mode in MLB The Show 24, but this is a case where just one new option within it may alter the way you play the mode entirely. Thanks to the addition of something called Custom Game Entry Conditions, you can now decide when you want to take control of your team based on how critical the situation is in each game. Using a situation importance slider that ranges from low to very high, you’re now able to choose not only how close a game has to be in order for you to enter it but also what inning will be the earliest one that you’ll play. You can even make the call on whether you want to jump in for any player highlight moments, ensuring that you don’t miss the opportunity to finish off a no-hitter or perfect game for a pitcher or keep a hit streak rolling for a particular hitter.

In a season that drags on for 162 games in the majors, this is a smart innovation that can assist in getting through a campaign faster while still keeping you invested in what’s happening on the field on a day-to-day basis. An inadvertent consequence of the new feature, however, is that it renders the March To October mode, which was created to help truncate a season, somewhat obsolete.

Diamond Dynasty

Despite Diamond Dynasty continuing to be the easiest card-collecting mode for casual players to enjoy thanks to the ability to obtain viable cards without needing to spend a dime, it nonetheless received its fair share of criticism from the community last year. In fact, the biggest gripe seemed to be related to how top-tier cards were available right at release and the way that you could then use these cards over the course of multiple seasons, which would extend for months at a time. In response to this issue, SDS has clearly made an attempt to have cards escalate in power with each season, as the ones you can access at release this year aren’t quite as impressive as they were last year.

They’ve also instituted a daily cap to how much XP you can accrue in any given day, which may have earned the ire of the biggest grinders in the community even as it achieves its intended goal of making end-game cards hard to obtain for at least a little while (sadly, the amount of XP you earn for gameplay seems to also have been drastically reduced in the process). Regardless, this change is ultimately a good one even if it maybe needs some slight tweaking on the margins.

On the whole, Diamond Dynasty remains an impressively deep and fun mode with plenty of different ways to play as you improve your squad, whether you enjoy facing other players online or prefer to only go up against the CPU.

What I Don’t Like

Road To The Show

Most of the areas that are coming up short in MLB The Show 24 are those that have been lacking for years now, and a prime example of that is the game’s career mode, Road To The Show. This year’s RTTS mode continues to rely on a tired loadout system that sees you earning new skill sets and perks for your created player that you can swap in and out based on your own personal preferences. That means that rather than choosing what type of player you’d like to be at the outset of your career and then having the opportunity to further hone those skills through training and performing well in games, you can display new strengths on a whim as if you were putting on a different shirt.

While there have been some presentation updates to show your player in hotel rooms and various modes of transportation between your games, it doesn’t amount to a major overhaul in the grand scheme of things. It’s a little reminiscent of how Madden updated its own franchise mode not that long ago to provide shots of your team’s coach sitting in an office and figured that would suffice. Even the way that you communicate with coaches and your agent have been altered slightly, but you’re left with the impression that your choices of what you want to say are largely interchangeable and don’t really make much of a difference either way.

On the field, it’s a little silly and overly complicated that you’re now expected to mash a bunch of different buttons in succession as if you were unleashing a deadly combo in some kind of fighting game just to throw a ball to a base. Similarly, impact moments that slow down time during diving or leaping catches inject some excitement into your time on defense but also come across as slightly gimmicky.

The only monumental update to RTTS is that you can now create a female baseball player to compete alongside the men, which is a great idea, but its implementation still leads to a lot of the same disappointing endpoints that occur on the men’s side. That said, when you choose to create a woman, there’s at least a hint of a narrative in place involving you participating in the combine and vying for the majors alongside a female friend. Meanwhile, as a man, the mode remains little more than an endless series of games interrupted by analysis from MLB Network talking heads, inevitable call-ups when you perform well and hollow training sessions without the semblance of any sort of storyline to keep you invested.

Custom Leagues

Custom leagues make a return in MLB The Show 24, allowing you to compete online against others by using either real MLB rosters or with your Diamond Dynasty cards over the course of a season. Unfortunately, it remains nothing more than a tease to those of us who desire the kind of proper online franchise that the series has offered in the past. It’s a major drawback when you’re part of a league that uses MLB rosters to find that players do not progress or regress over the course of a season and your only option is to simply restart the season with the exact same rosters.

This makes it difficult to find users to fill every team in a league since there’s no chance of assuming control of a rebuilding team because a rebuild simply isn’t possible when the future, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t actually exist. The community will have to continue to long for the day when all of the bells and whistles of the game’s offline franchise mode, like a prospect draft, are included in online leagues to make for a fair competitive balance.

CPU Difficulty

For veterans of MLB The Show who have played the game for a few years now and are at least halfway decent at the game, they’re likely to find that the CPU isn’t all that challenging as an opponent. While this has been true in past releases of the series, it seems like more of a glaring issue than ever this time around. As someone who has never ascended past the 700 level in Diamond Dynasty’s Ranked Seasons or come close to putting together a flawless run in Battle Royale, I find that I’m still able to routinely beat up on the CPU on the highest difficulty of Legend.

The CPU’s ineptitude is especially apparent when you’re using pinpoint pitching on the mound, as it’s not that hard to get AI batters swinging at pitches out of the zone and all too rare to throw enough balls during an at-bat to lead to walks. In the past, I would find myself losing a conquest game in Diamond Dynasty every once in a while on All-Star difficulty, but now it’s practically a minor miracle when the CPU is able to scratch together even just one run during such a game. Of course, there are sliders that you can use to make the CPU put up more of a fight, but it doesn’t seem too much to ask that Legend difficulty be more demanding than this out of the box.

Bottom Line

For better or worse, MLB The Show 24 sticks mostly to the tried-and-true formula established by earlier games in the series and, while this may mean that it’s a little light on innovation this time around, the game remains an impressive baseball simulation both in terms of gameplay and presentation. A second season of the Negro Leagues features more players from the sport’s bygone era and offers wonderful insight on what made them great as well.

A journey through the illustrious career of Yankee captain Derek Jeter borrows and expands on the Negro Leagues framework by allowing you to hear from the man himself and jump into his shoes for specific highlights. Franchise introduces a helpful new option that lets you stay better connected to your team through the course of a lengthy season. Diamond Dynasty corrects some of its missteps from last year and keeps its crown as the least pay-to-win card-collecting mode among all of the sports video games.

Sadly, Road To The Show’s career mode squanders any goodwill generated from being able to create female ballplayers by demonstrating little more than empty cosmetic changes, some of which are ill-advised and don’t add much to the overall experience. There’s still the glaring absence of a proper online franchise mode, with custom leagues only able to provide a dumbed-down version of what other sports games like Madden and NBA 2K are putting forward. For returning players that have developed advanced skills, the CPU opposition doesn’t present nearly enough of a challenge, even on the highest level of difficulty that the game has available.

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Read Article JWDixon's All-Inclusive Franchise Spreadsheet for MLB The Show 24
Author
Kevin Scott
Kevin Scott is a writer and video producer who's been contributing to Operation Sports since 2016. He's primarily been focused during this time on any and all video games related to football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. He lives in Toronto and still believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that someday the Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup again.