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May 2024

MLB The Show 24

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Release Date: March 19, 2024


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PS5 Review - 'MLB The Show 24'

by Redmond Carolipio on March 28, 2024 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Swing for the fences, experience game-deciding moments, become a legend and live out your baseball dreams in MLB The Show 24.

No sport's past is quite like that of baseball. I'm not even what you'd call a baseball fan per se, but there's a kind of majesty — or regality — that seems to roll like a tide over any narrative that has to do with the game, whether it's about a certain player or an entire era. Every documentary, (good) movie or docuseries I've seen about baseball carries a kind of historical romance that's just different from other sports. It's not better, but different. Special.

It's that sense of majesty that stood out the most to me as I took a few swings in MLB The Show 24, which maintains its tradition of on-field excellence (perhaps to a fault) while also being an educational touchstone about the game's days of old. That's most present in my favorite mode of this year's game: Storylines, where players can continue to enrich themselves about more legends of the Negro Leagues or relive career moments from one of baseball's most iconic players: Derek Jeter, the hallowed shortstop of the New York Yankees.

Honestly, the Jeter stuff is where I spent a lot of time, which breaks from my tradition of absorbing everything through the game's single-player story/career mode, Road To The Show (RTTS). The production and the visual storytelling, from the camera shots and footage of the New York City subways spliced in with the documentary-style interviews with Jeter himself — yes, on a subway — leads to some wholesome baseball magic. It did for me, so I can only imagine what it'd be like for an actual Yankee fan.

Players progress through a "subway map" of Jeter's career, and those moments span from his time as a skinny, relatively unknown rookie to clutch performer to multiple World Series champion to his evolution into "The Captain." At each stop and moment, the tasks you're asked to do as you occupy Jeter's cleats range from simply getting a hit or two to batting in Jeter's 100th RBI or making a key throw. In true "team player" fashion, Jeter's playable journey also includes a couple of his teammates from the core of his championship Yankees squads, such as pitcher Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada. In addition to having to take the mound as Pettitte a few times, players can also look up his stats at different stops on the map.

Again, I'm not a Yankees fan, but this was freakin' cool. It's not just the way this particular storyline was done, but it's because it could be a portal into something that can spin this game series forward. It opens up possibilities. The design team did an exquisite job of nailing the necessary tone to tell Jeter's story, and I'd be curious to see how it would handle other greats with storied careers. They've already shown they can handle whole eras and movements.

The Negro Leagues section of the Storylines mode is one of the most important pieces of sports history one can put into a game. Introduced in last year's edition, this feature asks players to walk into the cleats of legendary Black ballplayers who made their name during a divisive time in American history. There's a wellspring of lore with these players, and The Show 24 continues to tell their stories with a sense of honest pride and reverence. This year, players get to celebrate legends such as Josh Gibson, known as the Black Babe Ruth, as well as Hank Aaron, Walter "Buck" Leonard and Toni Stone — the first woman to regularly play professional baseball. I did not know this, which speaks to both my ignorance and the game's ability to educate. When selecting each player and their path, you'll get some wonderfully narrated background from Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and some slickly produced introductions that meld old pictures and footage with a touch of modern swagger.

It's a fun tour, and like Jeter's storyline, players are asked to engage in a variety of moments through a Black legend's career. Josh Gibson forged his legacy with a mix of supernatural power and a fantastic hitter's eye, while also being an excellent defensive catcher. His episodes include facing and gaining the respect of Major League Baseball's best pitchers, tallying hits, blasting homers and facing off against another Black baseball icon, pitcher Satchel Paige, in 1942. You'll learn about Toni Stone's fielding prowess and the fact she replaced Aaron in the lineup when he got the call to head to MLB. This is all captivating stuff that has the benefit of the game's traditional spot-on presentation, no matter the era.

The rest of the game's aspects have a "settled-in" feel, which means there's not a whole lot that's changed from past editions in terms of gameplay and visuals, which were already refined to begin with. The Show still has, for my money, one of the best create-a-player features around, and its animation and visuals from every part of the field still remains top-shelf.

Perhaps the most significant addition to character creation deals in the aforementioned Road To The Show, where one can now create a female baseball player to engage in the long journey to Major League Baseball stardom. This is a pretty cool bit of fantasy baseball as players can take their avatar through the MLB combine and get drafted. There's a bit of a difference in narrative as a female player, as one can share supportive texts and messages with another talented young woman in the same position. The talking head analysis also focuses a little more on the history being made as well. On the other hand, the dudes kind of lose out because much of the narrative stays the same as it's been in past editions, and there haven't been much in the way of aesthetic changes to make the path to the majors feel less grinding.

A dip into the Franchise mode reveals a new and very, very welcome feature: Custom Game Entry Conditions, where one can actually pinpoint the exact situation within a game to take control. This is done through manipulating "situational importance" to the point where if a game is close, you can jump in. You can even do this with individual players, so if someone's about to throw a no-hitter, you can make sure they can close it out … or accidentally blow it for them. Diamond Dynasty, the card-collecting feature, remains engaging even on a very casual level for people who are into that facet of the baseball experience.

For me, the biggest impact of MLB The Show 24 was the way it honors the game's history while also offering several high-end gateways into the game-playing experience. As a sports title, it's whatever you want it to be. If you want the hardcore stuff with every pitch and swing, you got it. If you want to just destroy the CPU for a quick 10 minutes, you can do that, too. If you want to just know more about baseball's legendary figures, this is also a pretty good place to start.

Score: 8.0/10

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