Everyone’s favorite annual baseball title returns with the release of MLB The Show 23 just in time to celebrate the start of spring training and the 2023 Major League Baseball Season. With the increase in video game prices, it can be tough to justify purchasing a brand new title every year, especially if it offers nothing new compared to the previous ten iterations you may already own. This is the 18th addition to the iconic franchise and is the best we’ve gotten. No other MLB The Show has been this polished and provided a new, excellent feature like MLB The Show 23.
For what could easily be included in patches or DLCs, a yearly sports title’s biggest problem lies in the studio repackaging the same game at the same market price. While there isn’t much you can do to change how the sport of baseball itself is played, studios can at least improve its presentation, and MLB The Show 23 does just that.
The attribute changes were one of the most remarkable improvements. More specifically, how the Clutch attribute replaces previous attributes in certain situations, like when runners are in scoring position. This change will amp up the pressure and test your mettle as a hitter or batter. Whether you are struggling to exit an inning or have the game-winning run second base, you will feel the pressure to perform like a superstar, which was lacking in previous installments.
Another helpful improvement that makes MLB The Show 23 a more fluid experience is the improvements to the swing feedback system, which was successfully achieved by changing its on-screen presentation. By presenting the data using a natural left-to-right, top-to-bottom approach, you can quickly understand why your last swing was successful and adjust if not. Hitting is one of the most complicated aspects of the game, and I found I could make minor adjustments to my player’s swings, resulting in more successful at-bats.
MLB The Show 23 looks great on all platforms regardless of whether it plays on older gen or the latest-gen consoles and televisions. However, you won’t see much improvement from MLB The Show 22 to MLB The Show 23. Instead, where MLB The Show 23 shines is the 5,000 new animations that were added, including 100 that you will immediately see when playing on offensive or defensive. Particular new animations stand out when players dive for balls or perform amazing plays, like robbing a foul ball. These amp up the realism, further eliminating the awkward actions of either your character or AI-controlled players.
You may be asking, what does MLB The Show 23 bring to the ballpark that my previous favorite entry doesn’t? Technically, only two new features are brought to MLB The Show 23. The first feature is the creation of the Face Scan in the MLB The Show’s companion app and the new Storylines Mode that provides a fun experience that showcases the potential of future installments.
MLB The Show 23 Face Scan
The new Face Scan feature allows you to take a selfie and then upload that selfie to MLB The Show 23. The game uses that image to create a usable character in Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty modes. While this may seem like a cheap gimmick, it works surprisingly well and gives sluggers a break from the ugly, generic models we’ve endured for years.
My experience with the new Face Scan feature was frustrating, but I was delighted with the results once I got through all the minor annoyances. First, the companion app didn’t have the Face Scan feature after I updated it to the 23 version. However, after uninstalling and reinstalling the app, it was there. Second, it took me a few tries to get the perfect selfie based on the AI it uses to scan the photo for anomalies that could interfere with the game’s ability to use it.
Once all that was done, I was surprisingly shocked to see a pretty close version of myself in-game. Of course, it wasn’t precisely like me. It was more like an Uncanny Valley version of myself, like one you would see in a movie like M3GAN, where an AI looks almost human but not 100%, which is a bit unnerving.
In fact, every time my partner walked by and saw my player, she just shook her head and said it was creepy. While this probably wasn’t the response Sony had in mind when introducing this feature, I would honestly call that a success. It was fantastic to play “myself” in Road to the Show instead of a generic guy that breaks the immersion every time he appears onscreen.
New Storylines Mode: The Negro Leagues Season 1
San Diego Studio worked closely with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and its president Bob Kendrick to recreate stories of the most iconic players from The Negro Leagues. You will experience the lives of eight of these players in an episodic format. Each player, on average, has eight episodes resulting in 73 episodes to experience across Season 1.
In one episode, we see how Satchel Paige fought against adversity by proving he was the real deal. You pitch as Paige during one of his most remembered moments when all other defensive members kneeled behind the mound. This adds to the challenge and gives a small glimpse into Paige’s skill. Not only did he have charisma, but he had the skill to back it up, even in ridiculous ways. Do you?
The presentation by Kendrick and being able to play as the iconic players was a huge blast, and I’m eagerly awaiting Season 2. The infinite possibilities of a Seasonal Storyline mode excite me with all the rich baseball history we can learn about (A League of Their Own and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, anyone?).
Unfortunately, the generic commentary continues in the storyline mode and breaks the immersion of playing an iconic player from the past. While it is fantastic to hear commentary about the player compared to their modern counterparts, the play-by-play gets old quickly. In addition, they missed an opportunity to pull soundbites from historic matches so we could experience what it was like to play baseball in that era.
Sonically, the audio within The Negro Leagues Storyline is unbalanced. The presentation led by Kendrick vs. the actual gameplay’s audio conflict against one another, and are constantly at odds when played through my TV speakers. As a PSA, adjust your sound sliders before starting the storyline mode to avoid this.
Finally, the storyline mode still utilizes the game’s soundtrack, which sometimes seems out of place. This is yet another example of a missed opportunity to use music from when the iconic player played. Even if era-specific music weren’t used, organ music (introduced to baseball in 1941) would have been much more effective.
No Import of Previous Data
Year-to-year saves, and certain user-created content from previous installments are not available in MLB The Show 23, which is a huge disappointment and a franchise misstep. All your time spent on your last RTTS player, Dimond Dynasty team, or Stubs Purchases is gone. You cannot import stubs, items, XP, or save data transfer from MLB The Show 22 into MLB The Show 23. Another disappointing aspect is that no created stadiums will transfer to MLB The Show 23 either. So all that time, money, and effort you left on the field is gone if you decide to upgrade to this year’s installment.
Let’s Play Ball… Unless You Are On PC
Another huge missing feature is the inclusion of the MLB The Show franchise on PC. While there is a workaround to play MLB The Show 23, if you are a member of Game Pass, it doesn’t work very well in multiplayer modes and just doesn’t cut it. Sports lovers and PC gamers remember playing games like NHL 97 and Triple Play 97 on their game riggings back in the day and hope that hockey and baseball return to PC. With devices like the Steam Deck, it would be amazing to play baseball on a mobile device that won’t struggle from the comfort of your bed or on the go.
The Negro Leagues and Face Scan are the two primary reasons that earn MLB The Show 23 a recommended purchase if you are still undecided about it. Other fantastic additions are the new animations and gameplay tweaks that improve existing features. However, MLB The Show 23 isn’t without its downfalls, the biggest being its missing features like year-to-year saves, missing an entire player base, and the poorly placed in-game generic commentary.
MLB The Show 23 overcomes its downfalls and provides baseball fans with a fantastic experience that offers many reasons to keep playing past the initial spring training hype. Instead, you’ll want to keep playing through the entire MLB season, which is rare because you often move on to other titles before opening day when a baseball game fails to hit (often striking out altogether). MLB The Show 23 will have you practice your best home run calls because the latest installment in the iconic franchise knocks it out of the park.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on March 28th, 2023