A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that MLB The Show 20 is the latest installment in the baseball simulation franchise that's exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Players get the option to select multiple gameplay modes, such as playing through shortened seasons, classic moments in baseball, and bringing a created player from the minor leagues to the major leagues. The Show offers multiple control settings, as well as tutorial and practice sessions, so players can find the scheme that works best for them; even still, some of the higher difficulty levels require great timing, ball placement, and luck to be successful at the plate. Similarly, some of the new meters can still be hard to pull off regardless of difficulty level, although these are optional during gameplay. No inappropriate content is included, but there's lots of product placement for Topps, Major League Baseball, and other brands in stadiums or in stat boosting items found in card packs. These items, along with players, stadiums, and other extras, can be purchased with real money or earned by playing through sessions in every game mode. Players could potentially be exposed to inappropriate comments in online games because they're unmoderated.
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What's it about?
MLB THE SHOW 20 steps up to the plate with the latest installment in the popular baseball franchise, packing enhanced play and new features for fans of the national pastime. Along with a visual overhaul of players and stadiums, the game has received notable adjustments in timing for fielders and batting. This year, your reaction to a hit ball is vital, thanks to the first step system, which gauges whether you'll be in the best position to deny a ball from going over the fence or missing it entirely. This is paired up with an extreme catch indicator, which determines whether you'll make those Sportscenter-worthy plays -- or watch as your fielder eats turf with the ball bouncing away. A new optional throwing meter allows you to preload throws to simulate the split-second reactions needed to make double plays, or toss from the outfield to the plate to rob your opponent of a run. For batters, there's a new hit mechanic called Perfect Perfect, which gauges your timing and aim to send the ball screaming into the outfield, or out of the stadium. Road to the Show has received new challenges during games, enhanced friendship and rivalry bonuses, and accurate minor league rosters for AA and AAA teams. March to October has enhanced the scenarios you'll face throughout the season, including the option to call up specific players from the minor leagues, and a trade hub to respond to the needs of your team over the course of a season. There's also a new mode called Showdown in Diamond Dynasty, where you draft a squad of players and pick perks to enhance your team. You'll then play specific challenges in an attempt to win new players before facing off against an ace pitcher. Win, and you get bigger rewards. Lose, and you're ejected from that set of missions entirely, and will have to start all over from the beginning.
Is it any good?
This year's chapter of baseball gets you as close as possible to the game without sitting in a stadium. MLB The Show 20 is the sharpest-looking baseball game ever, as players look closer to their real counterparts than ever before, and for the first time, real minor league rosters are included, making the journey of athletes from minors to majors more believable. Similarly, tweaks to the fielding and batting system just feel right. You can't rely on your outfielders making mad dashes and snagging fly balls. Now, if you don't make a good first step in the right direction, you're going to give your opponent extra bases. Even better is the new Perfect Perfect batting system, which gauges your timing and aim on a pitch. When your timing is just right, the ball soars through the air from the whip crack of the bat. It doesn't guarantee that this ball will be a home run, but it sure gives you a jolt of excitement when your player drives the ball during a key moment. Speaking of key moments, the new Showdown mode takes this concept and raises it to a tense fever pitch, becoming easily one of the most engaging modes that The Show, and arguably many sports games, has had in years. Draft a team from a handful of players and choose a set of perks to enhance your squad. From there, play through scenarios, like avoiding strikeouts or getting on base a certain number of times. Failing gives you no help, while successfully completing these tasks lets you draft additional players, and gives you points toward a Showdown against an ace pitcher from a major league team. Here, you receive a set of outs (like 15 or 20) as you try to score more points off this hurler than his team has. Win, and you can continue for additional prizes, but fail, and you have to start over from the beginning. Considering that some showdowns cost in-game currency to enter, each at-bat feels vital and important, every swing and pitch exciting.
All of this being said, some elements should be sent back to the minors. For instance, the preload pitch timing meter is supposed to capture the split-second decisions and reactions necessary to make throws, but it fills up way too quickly, resulting in far too many wild throws, even with practice. If you're looking for extra challenge, you can turn it on, but it's much better if you leave this feature in the dugout. Another issue: Some sections just feel stale. While Road to the Show has tweaked the relationship features between teammates and rivals, the "story" of your created player has been the same for years now, and Show veterans know the sequence of plot cutscenes in their sleep. Similarly, the booth commentary feels stale and outdated, using many of the same phrases in a series of games, so on-the-field action doesn't seem that dynamic. But overall, MLB The Show 20 is still full of great features that will easily rally baseball fans to cheer for its gameplay.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism. Do you feel pressured to spend your money on in-game packs in MLB The Show 20 to give your created baseball teams an advantage, or would you rather earn new players by playing multiple baseball games?
Does playing this game make you interested in playing or watching baseball in real life? What about learning about classic moments of the sport? Do some of the modes get you interested in fantasy baseball drafts? Could it make someone who isn't a fan of baseball become a fan of the sport?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.