Baseball fans never thought they'd see this moment arrive, but it's finally here! MLB The Show 21 is officially an Xbox game, not to mention a day one Xbox Game Pass addition, and seeing the little PlayStation intro sequence as you boot it up definitely takes some getting used to! Full disclaimer, we're not hardcore veterans of The Show for obvious reasons (we don't play our PlayStations that much), but we do know a good baseball game when we see one, and MLB The Show 21 definitely hits it out of the park... at least for the most part.
If you've played MLB The Show before, you'll know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Everything from batting to pitching feels satisfying and highly polished, and a suite of new animations along with some helpful new visual indicators make plays feel more intuitive than ever out in the field. There's a new Pinpoint Pitching meter this year for experienced MLB The Show veterans as well, which offers more control than ever over your pitch, but it takes some time to get used to, so it's very much a risk-reward type mechanic.
Sony San Diego has clearly built certain areas of MLB The Show 21 with Xbox players in mind too, such as the new Gameplay Styles system. Simply put, you can choose to play with Casual, Simulation or Competitive styles, and the former is specifically targeted at MLB The Show beginners and newcomers to the sport of baseball, providing a form of onboarding experience to help you get settled in with the game. You'll probably want to transition over to Simulation or Competitive eventually, but this is a nice way to get started if you're new to The Show.
The gameplay is excellent, then - more enjoyable and refined than it's ever been - and MLB The Show 21 is packed with stuff to do, from the Ultimate Team style Diamond Dynasty mode which is feature-rich for both offline and online players as always, to Franchise mode and the scenario-based March to October season mode. Diamond Dynasty on its own has more than enough to keep you busy for the next 12 months on a daily basis, and unlike certain card-collecting modes in other sports games, it's pretty generous at dishing out rewards so you can build up a good team without feeling forced to spend real money.
You could argue there's been a slight regression in Road to the Show though. The 'Be a Pro' style mode is now more closely linked with Diamond Dynasty this year, connecting your created 'Ballplayer' between the two modes, which is neat in some ways, and not so much in others. For example, you can't create multiple characters like in previous years, and stat progression can be pretty slow and buggy (at least right now). However, Sony San Diego has acknowledged early concerns with the new system, outlining plans to fix and balance certain issues. Additionally, the team has also added some neat new features to RTTS this year such as the ability to play as a two-way player.
Next-gen consoles (the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S) also get an added bonus this year in the form of the Stadium Creator, which is a really cool addition offering loads of potential to create your dream stadium. It's filled with props to decorate your surroundings with, and you can even go as far as changing the placement and heights of the walls, although you can't use your stadium online if you do this. It's a fantastic creation suite all around, handling nearly anything you can throw it at with ease, and it's pretty intuitive to use for the most part.
As for the performance in general, MLB The Show 21 runs at a smooth 4K, 60FPS on Xbox Series X. That frame rate can drop momentarily depending on the scene, but it remains near-locked during standard gameplay, and it feels great to play. It all looks visually excellent on Xbox Series X as well, and while MLB The Show doesn't boast graphics in the same ballpark as the likes of NBA 2K, for example (especially in terms of player models), the environments really shine on Xbox Series X, and the lighting in those stadiums can be particularly impressive too.
It's a fantastic year to be getting MLB The Show 21 on Xbox. There's a welcome 'Casual' preset for beginners, the gameplay is more enjoyable than ever, and newcomers will likely be overwhelmed (in a good way) at the sheer amount of content at their disposal. Road to the Show's new Ballplayer integration won't satisfy everyone, and needs a few tweaks, but it's nevertheless still a highly enjoyable mode to play, and the likes of Diamond Dynasty and March to October are excellent options as well. We've been waiting a long time to experience The Show for ourselves on Xbox, and it's amazing to finally be stepping up to the plate with MLB The Show 21 on Xbox Game Pass.