Developer: SCE San Diego Studio
Platforms: PS4, PS3, PS Vita
Released: March 31st, 2015
You really can’t fault the MLB The Show franchise for being comfortable in its own skin because: 1. Developer SCE San Diego on an annual basis has represented America’s Pastime faithfully in a near perfect representation of the sport – 2. Things that aren’t broken don’t require fixing. So while MLB 15: The Show is yet another feather in SCEA’s baseball cap, I’d like to see them take a more aggressive approach in regards to adding some things to spice up the franchise going forward.
And for good reason. MLB 15: The Show is one of the best-looking sports game ever made. The big league stadiums that are painstakingly detailed look even better when you witness the sick day-to-night cycle as shadows creep across the field during a game. When you combine this with a dynamic crowd (Ramone Russell who’s the Show’s community manager can be spotted in the virtual crowd), and players that move realistically across the field it all adds up to a beautiful experience. A lot of sports games don’t look as good when you zoom in close up, but the Show looks awesome during live gameplay and replays alike. That’s no small feat.
Plays So Good
More than anything The Show’s pristine gameplay is what the series has built its foundation on and this hold true in ’15.’ Often sports games find themselves plagued with “money plays” or gameplay exploits but The Show plays a smart game of baseball and you’d be hard pressed to find anything you could get away with more than once. Baseball is a game of strategic decisions, and The Show represents those wonderfully. For as well as it plays I’d be remiss not to mention some of the legacy issues that have haunted it are still present. You still see too many hard smashes up the middle that pitchers either make acrobatic stops on or the ball ricochets off their body. There are also a few instances where a tag animation will activate prematurely causing your player to completely whiff on an incoming base runner that should’ve been out by five feet but instead slides in safely. Fortunately these things don’t happen enough to put a damper on the overall gameplay. The duel between the pitcher and batter is one of the more incredibly tense moments in sports and that is an area MLB 15 shines like a diamond. Pitchers are smart, able to pick up on weaknesses and make you look like a fool by trailing stuff outside or throwing those 78 mph curves that tantalize then disappear under your bat. I’ve been playing this series since its iteration and I still can’t lay off that low changeup, something the game seems to sense as pitchers are smart enough to exploit your weaknesses. Showing patience at the plate (something I have little of) has always been key when playing The Show and it is oh so rewarding when you finally do get a hang of a meatball and crank one. SCE has long mastered the art of hitting and pitching, and minor tinkering aside their blueprint remains the same here. The biggest change to gameplay comes via the “new” directional hitting which gives batters the chance to influence which direction their hits go. I use the term new loosely because technically it’s a system that’s been in place for a while but this is the first year an emphasis has been placed on it. As a result the ability to induce ground or fly balls is more dynamic. This really comes in handy when you run into a defensive shift where the defense overplays to one side. I’ve been able to make them pay by poking one down the third base side with no fielder in sight.
- Diamond Dynasty returns and it’s been upgraded for MLB 15. While it’s still a cash cow heavy mode SCE has made it more refined by removing contracts and budgets. Now you just jump in and create your team and try to improve it by acquiring players through card packs.
- Road To The Show returns virtually untouched. They did add the ability to unlock and equip gear that for your future HOFer such as bats, shoes and gloves all of which come with stat bonuses, but the core mode is the same as last year. It’s time for SCE to revamp RTTS and incorporate some kind of storyline in a similar fashion to NBA 2K15’s MyPlayer mode
- Franchise Mode falls victim to the same plight as RTTS, relying on its stellar track record with small additions that don’t really move the mode forward. There is a new “Inside the Show” radio report feature this year that keeps you up to date on different things going on within your franchise and the new menu layout is more streamlined this year. While these are nice, I’d love to see SCE really make some radical changes to this mode. A weekly video wrap up show in the This Week In Baseball vein would be dope. It would be sick to see video highlights of happenings around your league like walk-off homeruns or a no hitter that was pitched. Spotlights on career milestones like a player hitting his 600th homerun or a pitcher’s 300th win. Also the ability to add expansion teams would be something else that would breathe life into franchise. I remember the long defunct All Star Baseball by Acclaim had an expansion mode and that was back in 2004, so I know SCE has the talent and resources to make this a reality.
- Year To Year Saves is absolutely brilliant and something fans have been clamoring for years now. Users have the ability to transfer their existing franchises from MLB 14 to MLB 15 using the cloud feature. Just upload your save file to the cloud and bring it down to your PS4. Then MLB 15 will recognize your save file. Kudos to SCE being the first to do this.
The Show seems comfortable taking small steps each year and while MLB 15: The Show doesn’t bring a lot of really impressive upgrades to the table, the elements it does get right further solidifies its standing as a top notch baseball sim. Imagine the rarified air this title could approach if SCE San Diego decided to shed its old pair of comfortable cleats in exchange for some brand spanking new ones. – written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
BMR Approval Rating: 8.5
The product in this article was sent to us by Sony for review on the PS4