MLB The Show Accessibility
MLB The Show 22 provides players with a very personalized experience that can meet most accessibility needs. Although the initial setup is extremely in-depth and a few components keep barriers present to those who want to really dive deep.
Baseball returns to the gaming diamond in MLB The Show 22 from San Diego Studios. Even with it being a Sony first-party title, the series has entered its second year on Xbox consoles and has now debuted on the Nintendo Switch. This MLB The Show 22 accessibility review focuses on the PS5 experience, and it’s worth noting that the developer has indicated the Nintendo Switch version is unique in some ways.
MLB The Show has a long-standing reputation for accurately simulating baseball and this year’s installment continues that trend. In my experience as an avid sports gamer, I would say MLB The Show is the most customizable of any of the yearly simulation franchises, albeit this can come with a learning curve, especially when it comes to optimizing gameplay for accessibility needs.
Booting and Menu
There is no dedicated accessibility menu like we see in EA Sports titles these days, but the expanse of settings offered allows the player to make the game their own. Before I go into more detail, honestly, the best advice I can give for this game would be to take the time and go through each of the settings menus to really get an idea of what is available and try out different combinations to see what is most accessible for you.
On the first boot, there are several options to begin customizing a profile with the option to tweak them later from the main settings menu. You can choose your favorite team, which will then become the default for many modes, allowing the option to skip having to select them every time.
Gameplay Style can be set to casual, simulation, or competitive, with each of them having an increased amount of input and skill required by the player. Regardless of which style is selected, you can choose one of eight difficulty options and determine whether to use dynamic difficulty — which automatically adjusts up and down based on performance. This year, the game introduced new entry point difficulty levels designed for new players to get a feel for the game’s mechanics in a friendly way.
The combination of gameplay style and difficulty does predetermine some of the other settings found in more advanced menus, such as different aspects of gameplay being automatic, but again, everything can be adjusted to exactly how you like it. This includes a full set of sliders for every aspect of the game divided into CPU and player attributes.
For gamers with fine motor disabilities, it should be noted that the bumpers and triggers are necessary to navigate menus. One of the biggest positives of this whole system, however, is that once you have everything set up to your liking, you can default your profile, so that your settings are always ready to go.
There are two unique tools for players to make the game their own — Options Explorer and Custom Practice. The Options Explorer allows a player to go through different aspects of gameplay, including pitching, hitting, fielding, throwing, and base running, in order to try out the different input methods available for each. There is a brief video and audio description for each interface, but this is also the first time where the glaring omission of any subtitles throughout the game becomes evident.
It is possible to play only controlling the hitting and pitching with everything else set to automatic. In the simplest form, pitching inputs can come down to selecting a pitch and throwing it with face buttons and the batting can be boiled down to pressing a face button at the right time to hit. Having the option for hitting to be strictly based on timing alone and not reliant on aiming with the left stick is new to this year’s game and negates having to use multiple inputs when batting — which removes a previous barrier for players with some fine motor disabilities.
The major inputs on both offense and defense can be controlled by using buttons or analog sticks. Keep in mind that the controls are not fully customizable, but rather change schemes based on options selected.
Custom Practice allows for further testing out a setup and getting used to specific in-game scenarios that you can fully control. For instance, you can strictly practice hitting certain pitch types in specified locations of the strike zone if this is something that you are having a hard time with.
When using the more complex control types, the level of timing for button presses and control of the analog sticks required increases. The pinpoint pitching mechanic, as an example, requires precise timing and movement of the analog stick to properly execute pitches. This feature is in its second year in the game and is an example of the more complicated methods available.
However, much like any other game with multiple input options, the more aspects of gameplay available to take control of, the more control you will have over the outcome and realism of the experience.
Cues and HUD
While many options for inputs cater mostly to those with fine motor impairment, there are some implications for players with visual impairments as well. Hitting offers the option to use a plate coverage indicator (PCI), which provides visual feedback on where a swing will be able to make contact with a pitch in or out of the strike zone. The PCI consists of multiple levels, each of which can be visually customized to the color, opacity, and shape desired by the player. This can make a huge difference in the ability to track incoming pitches if you choose to use a hitting interface that requires it.
There are also many aspects of the game’s HUD that make use of colors, such as feedback on a previous swing, but written feedback is also provided. Some of the HUD elements are a bit small and they cannot be resized or relocated. However, I would say that many of them are giving very granular feedback, which is most useful for higher levels of analyzing your play.
The game generally makes good use of controller vibration as feedback to indicate when perfect contact is made or warn when the player is positioned to throw a ball out of the strike zone. There is a huge range of cameras available and you can use different ones for both offense and defense.
Perhaps the biggest visual change that a player can make in this game is to choose what stadium and time of day they are playing in. This will inherently change the look of gameplay and may increase or decrease contrast. However, there are not any specific visual adjustments that can be made to the UI. The overall visual appearance of the game consists of a blue and red interface with relatively high-contrast white writing. When in the menus, there is a description at the top of the screen for what each setting does, but it can be a little bit hard to see with the small white text and the moving colors in the background of the UI.
Lack of Subtitles
Aside from the aforementioned lack of subtitles in the Options Explorer, the other barrier MLB The Show 22 has with auditory accessibility exists in the Road to The Show career mode. This sees you take a created player and bring him up through the minors and into the major leagues. This is presented through a series of podcast-style videos featuring real people from around the MLB. The videos communicate the progression of your created player and once again, there are no subtitles to relay this to players with hearing disabilities.
As far as game modes go, there are no other accessibility-specific barriers present in the card-collecting Diamond Dynasty mode, nor in the extremely customizable Franchise mode, which allows you to control as much or as little of your organization of choice as you would like. There are many different reward paths available for players, with the ability to use rewards across various modes, which can make progression somewhat less of a grind than in other gaming franchises.
To put all of this simply, MLB The Show 22 provides players with a very personalized experience that can meet most accessibility needs. Although the initial setup is extremely in-depth, the developers have put so much thought into their gameplay systems that players can take as much or as little control of the action on and off the diamond as they wish.
Overall, moment-to-moment gameplay is accessible, but a few components keep barriers present to those who want to really dive deep.