MLB The Show 21 is ramping up for a launch next month, and there's good news when it comes to the Sony San Diego and their commitment to the very core of what makes a baseball sim work.
As much fun as modes like Diamond Dynasty, Road to the Show, and March to October can be, none of that really works unless the basic gameplay, especially hitting and pitching mechanics, truly deliver.
While we won't know for sure until the title lands and more players get their hands on it, right now the previews we've seen are making MLB The Show 21 look like it has the best pitching and hitting engine the series has seen yet.
A History of Changeups
MLB The Show 21 will be the sixteenth installment in the MLB The Show series which first debuted on February 28, 2006 for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.
We've seen the series go through plenty of its own changeups, from the introduction of Pulse Pitching in MLB The Show 12 to directional hitting in MLB The Show 15.
We've also seen some years, particularly MLB The Show 17, fail to really improve on the hitting and pitching engine in the game in a way that players wanted, but that inaction won't be the case this year.
Challenge Yourself or Keep it Casual
MLB The Show 21 is a game that will surely attract some of the same players that have enjoyed the series in the past, by Sony San Diego has shown they're keeping new players in mind.
If someone isn't already a veteran of The Show, there will be multiple gameplay styles and difficulties to choose from in MLB The Show 21 which will allow players to make things as challenging or relaxing as they want.
The three gameplay styles are Casual, Simulation, and Competitive, and they'll be accompanied by difficulty levels of Beginner, Rookie, Veteran, All-Star, Hall of Fame, and Legend that can be augmented with Dynamic Difficulty which adjusts based on your performance.
While these affect the game as a whole, they'll also make a huge difference in the hitting and pitching as the chosen difficulty and gameplay style affect how those engines operate.
Check swings are finally being addressed
One of the most frustrating parts of MLB The Show in recent years has been the frequency of check swings, and many players have felt they were completely out of hand.
The good news is that this was directly addressed in the latest Feature Premiere, and there will be changes in MLB The Show 21.
They stated in the stream that there will be fewer borderline check swings and discipline is being removed entirely from the equation, which will put the challenge entirely on players and user input if you want to become a check swing king.
MLB The Show 21 introduces Pinpoint Pitching
If you were hoping for a new pitching system, you're in luck. Pinpoint Pitching will debut in MLB The Show 21, and it looks to be the most challenging system yet.
We finally got to see this new feature in action during yesterday's Feature Premiere, and they'll be using what's called a GRD System measuring Gesture Performance, Release Timing, and Direction of Release to determine the success of an individual pitch.
This new system comes with unique stick gestures for different kinds of pitches, but the challenge of it comes with the reward of what they're calling the most accurate pitching input yet.
PAR or Perfect Accuracy Region
While Pinpoint Pitching is just one of the pitching systems available in MLB The Show 21, they also revealed PAR (Perfect Accuracy Region) which will apply to Pinpoint as well as the returning Meter and Pure Analog styles of pitching.
The addition of PAR is aimed at managing player expectations and giving them a better idea of where their intended pitch is actually going to land, with the interface above showcasing a shadow that indicates the most likely landing zone for a perfectly executed pitch.
PAR will be one of the most dynamic parts of pitching in MLB The Show 21, and it'll be different between pitch interfaces, see differences for individual pitchers, and change between difficulty levels.
PAR is also affected by energy and confidence, so the way a game goes will directly affect how consistent a pitcher is able to be as it progresses. PAR will also interact with RTTS progression, perks, and quirks.
Practice Mode makes Perfect Perfect
One of the final big additions for MLB The Show 21 is the way they've completely revamped Practice Mode, which is absolutely ideal for players looking to improve their skills.
You will now have full control over the pitcher you're facing in batting practice and exactly what kinds of pitches they're sending your way.
If you're particularly struggling against low inside curveballs, you can focus only on that zone and have the pitcher send only those kinds of pitches your way.
It looks like MLB The Show 21 will give players a greater challenge than ever before, but the pieces appear to be in place for those who put in the work to truly make their game Perfect Perfect.