Considering the real MLB has recently delayed its 2020 season, MLB The Show 20 literally is the closest you’ll get to real pro baseball for a while. So it’s a good thing it’s great, as usual! That said, this is an annual franchise, and this year’s version isn’t as much of an improvement over last year’s impressive MLB The Show 19 as we’ve seen in big years in the past. But it finally adds some much-desired variety in ways to progress through the excellent Diamond Dynasty card collection mode, expanded customization for its addictive Franchise mode, and further gameplay tweaks to improve what was already one of the best, most dynamic baseball simulations we’ve seen to date.
One of the best gameplay tweaks this year is that perfect contact and perfect timing on batter hits leads to hard-earned ‘Perfect-Perfect’ hits, which let batters get more involved by rewarding you with higher-quality content that will lead to more home runs, line drives, or hot-shot grounders (a higher BABIP, basically). That makes the Plate Coverage Indicator a potentially deadly weapon during at-bats, because you can use your own skill in combination with your batter’s skill to make those precision home runs. Just as in MLB The Show 19, you can customize your PCI in any way you’d like, making it truly your own for the best results.Where last year’s outfielding improvements made playing the outfield way more dynamic and enjoyable with features like a ball path indicator for top-ranked outfielders, the simulation still needed work, especially when the CPU was in control. MLB The Show 20 takes another necessary step forward here: Outfielders have been dialed in more, and now react more accurately than ever. Your skilled fielders will get a good first-step jump to catch a fly ball, while poor defenders risk fumbling it at the critical moment when closing in on a high-risk catch attempt. This adds to the realism of MLB The Show 20, and it also reinforces the need to keep your hits away from the opposite team’s best field defense.
Graphics and animations look just a bit sharper this year, but it’s definitely beginning to feel like Sony San Diego is pushing the upper limit of what the PS4 and even the PS4 Pro are capable of. Even on “Faster” mode on PS4 Pro, which claims a ‘stable’ 1080p image, you may experience infrequent frame drops in moments when a lot of players are on the screen at once. Whenever I watched a team take their victory lap in the rain, for instance, my PS4 Pro began to sound like a jet engine on a runway. With options for native output to 4K HDR, and some of the most detail ever put into individual scans of real-world player likenesses, equipment, and animations, MLB The Show 20 feels like it’s just begging to be played on a PlayStation 5.Franchise mode, where you run your own team just the way you want, is still one of the highlights of this series, so it’s disappointing so little has changed this year. As always, you can micromanage how your team operates, or you can simply let the computer do it all for you while you focus on playing baseball. However, there’s at least one improvement: For the first time, MLB The Show 20 carries over the team customization system from Diamond Dynasty for its Franchise mode, which is a great idea. That said, it’s unfortunate that it isn’t necessarily as well-implemented as it could be. For one, it’s still hard to make a team logo that looks great in its overly complex and unintuitive logo maker tool, but worse, you still have to adopt a real team’s home stadium as your own instead of being able to create your own. Even your season goals are tied to a template based on a real team. As a result, my custom team never felt fully my own.
At this point, many longtime fans have been yearning for the ability to craft their own stadiums for Franchise mode, and rightfully so. With the amount of depth given to the character creator, and even the team management simulation itself, it seems odd that Franchise mode still doesn’t give you the ability to design a personalized stadium that shows off your team’s true colors.
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This can be forgiven though, because something else that has been sorely missing from past iterations of MLB The Show is finally here: Minor League rosters are in full effect now, carrying in what must be hundreds of real players and their likenesses from double-A and triple-A teams into circulation. It’s now far less common to run into made-up players on the field. This is fantastic news for hardcore MLB fans who want that pure fantasy baseball experience and who pay attention to real MiLB players that may actually reach MLB positions at some point in the coming seasons.
It sucks that there’s no such thing as a multiplayer Franchise mode, and the highly anticipated Custom Leagues mode doesn’t deliver anywhere near the same amount of depth or nuance. It’s true that this mode introduces a way for you and your friends to join a league and compete online as your favorite teams, which is good. You can still select the number of teams per league, select which teams you and your friends play as, and you can even change a few of the house rules. The problem is the options for customization and micromanagement here are ironically much less fleshed-out than in other established modes, such as the Franchise mode that it’ll be heavily compared against. In other words, if you value customization you can safely ignore this one and challenge your friends in Diamond Dynasty mode instead.
The community market is back as well, meaning that you can just as easily sell your best cards to other players for Stubs and use the proceeds to buy whatever you want instead. Some cards are already trading for hundreds of thousands.
It isn’t at all hard to earn Stubs through regular gameplay if you are consistently winning games and crushing Moments in Diamond Dynasty mode, which often nets you about 100 Stubs per win. You can also insta-sell cards you earn by winning for 100-200 Stubs or even higher at the lower levels, but it is slightly disgruntling early on that certain Diamond Dynasty challenge brackets have entry fees of between 500-1,500 Stubs, depending on the mode.
Sadly, there isn’t much to talk about regarding MLB The Show 20’s version of Road to the Show because so little is different. You can bring last year’s save file on through, but you probably won’t find that enough’s changed to justify going through all of it again. There are a few changes to the user interface, including the addition of markers that indicate when your plays on the field impact your relationships with teammates, but it’s still fundamentally the same exact game as it was last year. One cool new thing about MLB The Show 20 is the ability to pick an ‘affinity’ team when you first log in, which gives you a unique reward progression track as you play and nearly ensures that you’ll be drafted into that team at the beginning of your Road to the Show career path.
Over in Diamond Dynasty mode, it’s great that many of the rewards you earn, such as experience points and equipment, can also be taken with you to other modes. This isn’t anything new, but now there are more ways to play and earn said rewards by doing virtually anything in MLB The Show 20 that constitutes regular gameplay. Moments, Conquests, and Events are back, and it’s enjoyable that progression in each of those modes still contributes to your Live Series Collections, Team Affinity, and XP Reward Path.
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There’s also an entirely new mode within Diamond Dynasty:. tThe brand-new Showdown mode, which is instantly one of the best parts of MLB The Show 20, especially because you don’t need to progress into the regular Diamond Dynasty mode to get the most out of it. Here’s how it works: as you take on a brand-new squad outside of your regular Diamond Dynasty rotation, you get to complete a series of bite-sized challenges. For example, ‘Take the lead in the 9th inning’ or ‘Hit a home run before making X amount of outs’. Likewise, the ‘boss battles’ against legendary MLB pitchers, like Al Leiter, and even ‘mini-boss’ encounters with up-and-comers like Walker Buehler, are challenging and tense.
Finally, March to October, which sorely needed some love before, now has a new Momentum system to heat things up if you’re winning a lot, which affects your win rate between key moments. Likewise, losing matches can kill your momentum or even send you on a losing streak. Incredibly sharp casting from Matt Vasgersian and the like pinpoint key moments in those turnaround games, making it enthralling to turn a losing streak into a winning streak and regain positive momentum once more. This system definitely adds a new layer of emotional investment to March to October mode, compelling you to make it all the way to the postseason. Also new to MLB The Show 20, you can now call-up new and trade your players throughout the season, and it’s particularly cool that you can focus on improving the performance of one player by successfully completing a special challenge match.