MLB The Show 21
By Jeff Haynes,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Popular baseball franchise takes extra bases on new systems.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Play promotes competition, sporting behavior, and the rules of baseball. Many of the challenges presented in the Diamond Dynasty modes promote meeting or exceeding achievements of the athletes in real life.
Positive Role Models
Features professional players, so if they're a role model in real life, it can be argued that they're a role model in the game. The push for a created player in Road to the Show to realize their dreams to make the major leagues is a familiar one for sports fans. Negative character elements have been removed from the Road to the Show play, making it easier to avoid targeting rivals.
Ease of Play
Players are offered one of three gameplay styles, or "difficulty" settings, along with a wide variety of personalized sliders that are available to customize their experience. Multiple options for pitching, hitting, base-running, fielding, throwing. Even still, it will take lots of practice and play sessions to master play. New pitching system in particular will be a challenge to everyone with its reliance on analog stick accuracy.
Violence & Scariness
While pitchers and batters can get hit by balls, players tend to shake those injuries off without any blood or gore shown. Some collisions also occur as players slide into bases while their opponents are trying to make double plays.
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Online play isn't monitored, potentially exposing players to inappropriate content.
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Products & Purchases
The game features loads of promotion for Topps, Bowman, Under Armour, Major League Baseball, and other brands in stadiums, such as Chevrolet. Buying game packs can be done through real cash or tokens earned by in-game play, which can be applied to multiple modes. Players aren't pushed to buy these packs, but it's easier to get a head start by paying. There are also multiple versions of the game, with varying levels of extras provided. This is part of a long-running baseball franchise, which has expanded to Xbox for the first time after being a Sony exclusive for years.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that MLB The Show 21 is a baseball simulation game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. This is the latest chapter in the long-running baseball franchise, and, for the first time, it's expanded from its exclusivity on Sony systems to include players on Microsoft's machines as well. Players are presented with three initial difficulty levels, which can be further customized with a suite of sliders and options. Even with the flexibility in the customization, the gameplay will still require lots of practice, timing, and luck to be successful during a match, especially if you happen to be playing an online opponent. Further, the latest addition to the control scheme requires pinpoint accuracy with analog sticks, which could potentially frustrate some players without significant dedication to mastering its elements. No inappropriate content is included, but there's lots of product placement for Topps, Major League Baseball, Chevrolet, 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 not moderated.
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MLB The Show 21
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A Must Have Game: MLB The Show 21
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What’s It About?
MLB THE SHOW 21 is the latest installment in the popular baseball franchise, but this year, the game has grown from its exclusive status as a PlayStation-only title to swing for the fences on Xbox systems as well. It brings with it a number of gameplay enhancements to fully take advantage of its expansion across systems, including cross-platform play, so friends can find and play each other regardless of the system they have. The game has refined the difficulty into three levels (casual, simulation, and competitive), all of which can be tweaked with various in-game sliders to fit your skills. Similarly, players have the option to choose the control scheme for each moment in the field, such as base-running, pitching, or catching. New to this year's game is Pinpoint Pitching, an enhanced analog stick-driven scheme that lets you directly influence the speed, timing, and direction of a pitch as it heads toward the plate. Regardless of the controls you choose, you can select a different option at any time, and each mode comes with thorough tutorials. Also, for the first time in the franchise's history, players can now create new stadiums. All of the game modes from last year have made a return, with a few notable adjustments. Road to the Show, the "create-a-player" career mode, casts gamers as an up-and-coming two-way player (one that can pitch and hit, as well as field the ball) hoping to make their way from the minor leagues to a major league team. Along the way, there are media clips from MLB Network personalities commenting on your athlete's progress (or regression), which feel like running segments on a sports show. These players aren't restricted to this mode, because you can also import them into your Diamond Dynasty team (which is your fantasy squad of current and classic ball players), letting you see just how well your athlete would fare against the greats of America's pastime. Diamond Dynasty has also adjusted the challenges provided across this massive mode, giving you more game situations from classic baseball to meet or exceed, allowing you to earn new players, stadiums, gear, and more. Rounding out some of the game enhancements are new batting and fielding animations, boosts to the AI in how to attempt to rob home runs from going over the fence or to play balls that bounce off the wall to cut off an extra base, and sharper graphics to take advantage of the hardware of the new systems.
Is It Any Good?
While it isn't a massive step forward for the franchise as a whole, the expansion to the Xbox ensures that a new generation of baseball fans can enjoy this homage to America's pastime. One of the biggest and most notable differences from previous years is that MLB The Show 21 is now available for players on Microsoft's system with crossplay, meaning that fans can enjoy the best baseball title regardless of the system they're playing on. That's a huge bonus. It brings in a lot of excitement to online play and demonstrates just how massive this franchise is among sports video games. It's also nice to see that for these newcomers (and even for veterans), there's a significant amount of tutorials and info to help bring them along, whether it's explaining a game mode or going over the ins and outs of the various control schemes of the game. Speaking of, it's clear that the new Pinpoint Pitching system is a clever concept to give players tighter control over the speed, timing, and direction of a ball hurled at the plate. But in practice, it's much harder to effectively locate your pitches without putting in a ton of work on the sticks. Not only do you have to choose where you want the ball to go, but you have to be extremely precise with your analog stick movement to be successful (not too fast, and not too far off the drawn indicator line, or you'll have a wild pitch out of your hands). If you're not willing to put in the work on this, you may want to choose a different setup.
Move past the controls, and you have much of the same rock-solid gameplay as previous years. The new animations deserve a callout, because it's a lot of fun to watch players slam their bat in frustration when they hit a pop fly during a clutch situation, or see outfielders scale the wall and rob someone from going yard. Beyond that, Road to the Show gets a new twist with the focus being on your created athlete as a two-way player (able to pitch and hit, and possibly be a good fielder). It's up to you to decide if you want to keep this distinction as you try to make your way from the minor leagues to The Show, or if you'll dedicate yourself to one position only. While it's nice to see the addition of MLB Network analysts like Cliff Floyd, Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and others talking about your player's successes (or failures) in video clips, these sometimes feel like they're scripted to happen at set moments instead of being specific to what you've just done. It also feels a bit lighter because the same issues from last year remain, but the focus on rivalries has been removed. Perhaps that's because there's a bigger drive to push players into the Diamond Dynasty mode to enhance and unlock new gear for Road to the Show, along with unlocking fantasy athletes and stadiums. While you can earn content by playing games, it's hard not to feel a slight push to pay for in-game currency if you're going to play and compete in some Showdown matches for bigger packs and rewards. Again, MLB The Show 21 may not be a home run, but it definitely hits for extra bases with its solid gameplay across multiple systems.
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 21 to give your created baseball teams or players 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?
Why do you think that this is the first time that MLB The Show as a franchise has expanded to multiple platforms? Is this merely a business decision, or is it to get more fans of baseball interested in playing a popular game?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: April 20, 2021
- Genre: Sports
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptions
- Last updated: May 26, 2021
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