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MLB The Show 23 is a Standing Triple



MLB The Show 23 review

MLB The Show 23 Review

Developer: San Diego Studio | Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment |
 Genre: Sports | Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, PS5, Switch
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X

In the world of sports simulation video games, nearly all offerings have become stale and begun to lose their audiences over the last ten years. FIFA has increasingly leaned into the ultimate team pay-to-win strategy monetized via loot boxes, Madden has struggled to innovate gameplay, instead turning a poorly realized story mode, NBA 2K seems to have taken a little from column A and a little from column B, and NHL can’t seem to settle on any single direction to develop in. Against all odds, Sony’s baseball sim, MLB The Show, not only has managed to buck the trend plaguing the genre, but it continues to deliver a comprehensive suite of features at a level of quality that puts all others to shame. MLB The Show 23 is akin to one of baseball’s rare occurrences, the standing triple; it’s not a home run but at the same time, so much was done so excellently that all it takes is just a tiny push to put points on the board.

At the core of any simulation game is the gameplay experience. Sim games walk a fine line between being too arcadey and overly complex. This challenge is often solved via how the player interacts with and controls the game. With each added layer of complexity, developers risk losing more and more of their audience. Translating real-world movements like running, fielding, and batting to a digital representation of those actions in a way that maintains a proper level of sophistication requires a higher-than-average level of complexity of interaction. The Show 23 makes this interaction look like child’s play.

MLB The Show 23
Image: Sony

As developers of sports simulation games seek to both improve and innovate their gameplay they introduce new ways to register information and input controls. What The Show started doing a few years ago, and thankfully continues to do, is allow the player to customize the game to their liking. Despite having not always used the moniker “The Show” the game has been around for 25 years. And in those 25 years, Sony’s San Diego Studio has experimented with several different means for the player to interact with the game. What The Show does that so many other sports simulations don’t is it gives players the freedom to choose from the best and most popular interactions over the years. Allowing me to choose to pitch via a meter while other players can choose from pinpoint, pure analog, as well as many other options for batting, baserunning, and fielding, allows each player to play the game in the way that feels most comfortable for them.

Not only do these options allow players to play in the way that is most comfortable to them, but they also offer a variety of levels of complexity to the simulation that is significantly deeper than simply automating more and more parts of the input process. Through multiple legacy interaction layouts, The Show 23 maintains the franchise’s gold standard of dynamic simulation depth of scalability. 

In addition to the pure excellence in control schemes, The Show 23 introduces some minor but crucial improvements executed so well that they vastly improve the simulation experience. Rather than the simple reticle used to aim the player’s swing, there are three reticles of various sizes that are all positioned in a way that allows the player to intuitively control the type of hit they intend. So instead of simply aiming and swinging the bat, the player can choose to hit a grounder, line drive, or a sacrifice fly. And best of all it’s not a simple choice but a matter of skill, so if the player isn’t good enough to execute their own plan then they can do things that are not intended. This degree of simulation carries throughout all aspects of the game.

MLB The Show 23
Image: Sony

The variety of control schemes and interaction UI layouts combined with the newer, nearly perfectly integrated features that meaningfully enhance the simulation experience make The Show 23 feel both retro and modern at the same time. San Diego Studio has slowly been working toward the perfect balance of approachability and nearly limitless skill ceiling and this iteration of The Show has hit it. A sports simulation game that can be fair, fun, and challenging to two players of radically different skill levels simultaneously is truly an example of world-class game design, the likes of which being impossible to match is proven by there being no one else in the industry willing even to attempt to challenge San Diego Studio’s prowess on the diamond.

Regardless of how great the gameplay is, the overall experience would be nothing if it weren’t supported by a proper suite of game modes. Luckily for baseball fans, The Show 23 has shipped in a completely finished state with all the expected play modes and then some. The standard modes like franchise mode, road to the show, and exhibition mode are all present and accounted for, but it’s the inclusion of the negro league story mode, custom online leagues, and retro mode that flesh out the game. The negro league story mode shines a light on an often forgotten crucial piece of baseball trivia; custom online leagues expand the breadth of the multiplayer experience in a way that will give the game legs in a way that every modern sports game needs, and the retro mode offers a bite-size old school experience at a significantly greater level of simplicity than the rest of the game. The suite of game modes and features offered by The Show 23 is what remixes the best-in-class gameplay into different flavors and makes The Show 23 a fully comprehensive package. 

MLB The Show 23
Image: Sony

While the gameplay and game modes continue to build on the long-running legacy of The Show, the visuals of The Show 23 seem to be a significant step backward. The franchise has historically been known for its stellar gameplay and second-to-none visual presentation, but The Show 23 fails to live up to its predecessors graphically. Some of the more famous players have character models that look damn near photo-realistic like all players did in previous game iterations, but others look like much more generic GTA characters. Minnesota Twins star Byron Buxton looks like he was scanned several times to get even the most precise details, but other players that play significantly less look like they were made by the game’s character creator. And the baserunner monitor in the top corner of the screen is so pixelated with colors so flat, and almost no lighting effects look to be pulled straight from the earlier iterations of the PlayStation 3 versions of The Show. 

If I can take a minute to don my tin foil hat: Sony’s recent speculation during Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision proceedings that Microsoft may one day intentionally release a lesser version of Call of Duty on the PlayStation in an attempt to damage the PlayStation brand speaks volumes to what Sony themselves might be capable of. The fact that nobody was thinking of that, or at least nobody was willing to say it except for Sony, leads one to naturally question if Sony has ever considered employing this strategy itself. This, combined with their having to be forced by the MLB to develop the game for other platforms besides PlayStation demonstrates both a reluctance to develop for other platforms and, at minimum, a willingness to conceive of a means of retaliation for having been forced to do so. 

Were it not for Sony’s comments, the lackluster visuals on my Xbox review copy of the game would have simply been exactly that: lackluster. But the perfect storm of these recent comments, Sony’s having to be forced to put the games on other platforms, and the surprising regression of the visuals in a franchise that has always been, at least partially, known for its second-to-none graphics leaves a modicum of doubt in my mind. Taking the tin foil hat off now, the subpar graphics can also reasonably be explained as the game being developed for several different hardware configurations and, therefore, not enjoying nearly the level of optimization as previously expected. 

MLB The Show 23 stands as a shining beacon for all other sports simulation games to aspire to. Despite the less-than-great visuals, The Show delivers in a huge way. The mixing of several different legacy control schemes and play styles and the addition of some really deep gameplay modes loads the bases for the standing triple that is The Show 23 to bat three in at once.

News writer and Xbox reviewer. Patrick lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with his wife and their dog Ghost. Patrick studied economics at the University of Northern Colorado and is particularly interested in the market dynamics of the video game industry. When he's not working Patrick can be found walking Ghost through downtown MPLS, binging The West Wing on repeat, or playing hockey. You see everything Patrick does right here on

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