With the new baseball season underway comes MLB The Show 23, the latest installment of the baseball simulation game from Sony San Diego. Throughout my gameplay on PS5, I found this to be a worthy upgrade for a yearly release sports simulation series. The inclusion of a new shift restriction for infielders made getting on base easier. The pitch clock the league began using this season is not in the game, which is a positive, since it could have created a barrier for players by putting everything on a strict time limit. The game does a great job of being welcoming to new players and the experience can be customized to be as simple or intricate as desired by each individual player.
Onboarding Hits a Home Run (For Some)
On the first boot, the game guides players through three very important decisions. First, a favorite team can immediately be selected, which will become the default for many game modes. The next screen includes the three different play styles and describes each of them. Casual is aimed at a relaxed audience, simulation represents a happy medium and does its best to be realistic and competitive puts a heavy reliance on player skill.
The last choice is difficulty, which returns with an impressive eight distinct levels from beginner through legend. Again, this screen has descriptions of the intended audience for each. After the difficulty is selected, you are presented with the option to turn on dynamic difficulty, which can adjust based on your performance. Difficulty levels for different parts of the game can be adjusted independently, allowing for a player who might be great at batting, but struggle pitching to have a more individualized level tailored to them.
Next, the UI will ask you to enter the Options Explorer. Given the sheer number of interfaces to control different aspects of gameplay, this is a phenomenal way for players to begin making it their own. Players are introduced to a very organized walk-through of interfaces, with dedicated sections for hitting, baserunning, pitching, fielding and throwing. The individual menus contain short videos and verbal descriptions of each interface available and a list of inputs required.
When it comes to the interfaces themselves, there is a wide variety of choices. Some phases of the game, such as fielding and base running, can be set to automatic, allowing players to focus on fewer tasks and inputs. For each part of gameplay, there are options to use either face buttons or the analog sticks for control. After you select an interface, you can try it out before saving it to your profile. Once you have made a selection for each category, the Options Explorer will put you directly into a game to test them out. It is important to remember that there are many other settings that are set to default at this point, which the player can now go into the pause menu to further adjust.
UI and Menus are Clean but Lacking
The UI in this game is clean, as fans of the series have come to expect. Everything is presented with relatively high contrast, consisting of white text on a dark and blue background. Bumpers and triggers are required for menu navigation and controls cannot be customized. However, controls for gameplay itself will vary greatly, depending on interfaces and other game assists that you select.
Settings menus are very in-depth and may seem a bit overwhelming for new players. Conveniently, there is a description of what each one does, and once you find the specific set up that works for you, you can make this your default profile for easy access. Interestingly, there is no dedicated accessibility menu, although there are numerous settings that impact accessibility. Visual adjustments, such as color blind filters, contrast, and text size are not available. Additionally, subtitles and support for any type of screen reader or menu narration are absent.
Gameplay is What You Make It
The fact that each phase of gameplay, such as batting, pitching, etc., can be customized individually is great for making it accessible to as many people as possible. Custom Practice is a perfect place to make sure that your set up is optimized for you. Here, you can set the CPU to do exactly what you would like to work on. This year, the developers took it a step further and added the ability to adjust the frequency of different pitch types, on top of the previously available chart to specify locations. One very useful aspect of doing these practices is that you can choose your cameras for different phases of the game and see a preview of each of them.
Button Accuracy throwing
The biggest change to gameplay this year is the updated meter for Button Accuracy throwing. There is still a reliance on color differentiation, with red, yellow and green zones, but this year, the green zone for a perfect throw will move based on the difficulty of the play and the fielding attribute of the player making the throw. This means that a perfect throw release point is not necessarily in the middle of the meter anymore. While this does make fielding more meaningful and interesting, it may be a bit harder for players who have difficulty with determining colors or releasing a button hold at a specific time. Thankfully, there are numerous other ways to control throwing and it can even be set to automatic if desired.
Cutscenes without subtitles
For gamers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, moment to moment gameplay will be very accessible, with several visual elements communicating information. However, there are some barriers to immersion. A long-standing issue with the franchise’s lack of subtitles negatively impacts Road to The Show, since the story is communicated via cutscenes. The biggest addition to the offerings this year is the new “Storylines: The Negro Leagues”, a playable history lesson of significant moments of players from this era. Each featured player has several episodes that are introduced with videos, again lacking subtitles, to give context for goals.
For visual accessibility, many HUD elements can be turned on or off, from swing feedback to catch indicators. The UI can become visually busy, but you can prioritize elements to what suits you. There is a new plate coverage indicator (PCI) that is bat shaped. If you are using a batting interface that has a PCI, this one is great, since it is visually customizable like the others and shows where your bat’s sweet spot is versus the incoming pitch. Some HUD displays rely on color differentiation to relay information, but a few, such as swing timing, are also relayed with words. A returning useful feature is the controller will vibrate if you are aiming a pitch outside of the strike zone, along with changing the color of the indicator from red to blue.
Requires multiple inputs
Even when using the most simplified classic pitching, you will need to hold the left stick where you want to aim the pitch while pressing the face button to deliver. For players on current generation hardware who want to use Stadium Creator, an accessibility mode aims to take away the need to hold down certain buttons while using another input. You need to keep the joystick in the direction of the selection you want while pressing the face button, which somewhat nullifies the feature by requiring multiple inputs anyway.
As a whole, MLB The Show 23’s accessibility will be determined by the amount of control a player desires. It can be adjusted to be as complex or simplified as needed. As with any game’s accessibility, there is room for improvement, but MLB The Show 23 continues its trend of being truly customizable, while maintaining its accurate representation of baseball.
A review copy of was provided by the developer / publisher.