SCEA has once again impressed me beyond belief with this years installment of MLB: The Show. Once again has the company gone above and beyond to try and bridge the gap between realism and video games. Year in and year out SCEA is able to bring out such joy and excitement in the gamer in me despite keeping the core gameplay similar for most of the titles existence. The ability to consistently improve on such a great game year in and year out is what brings me back to MLB: The Show and causes it to be my most anticipated release annually. The consistency is for the returning users, and the new and improved features are for the MLB: The Show first-timers, either way, I would find it hard pressed to believe that anybody could come away unimpressed with this game.
If you’re familiar with the franchise then you know what to expect from the gameplay: realistic statistics, hit variety, animations and situations that mimic what you see on television. With a full year on PS4 SCEA was able to implement some things that have been long needed for the series in terms of gameplay. The new directional hitting is a wonderful addition to provide a fresh way to hit in the game and provide a different viewpoint that more realistically mimics hitting a baseball. Being able to focus on a specific part of the zone and actually have some consequences by creating holes in other areas of the strike zone provide a different level of strategy. Do you look for your pitch in a specific spot, or try to read and react to every pitch?
Along with the new directional hitting, the outfielders taking dynamic routes to balls correctly takes fielding attributes into consideration and improves hit variety in more ways than one. You will see elite defenders cut off balls in the gap preventing extra bases and you will see subpar defenders misplay a ball leading to long innings. Often times in the past, it was possible for gameplay to get a bit stale due to repetitive animations and catches but SCEA has added tons of new fielding animations and throws that keep me interested each and every inning. I have seen a variety of flips, tosses and jump and spin throws in the past three days that keep me itching to play more.
Honestly, probably the most beautiful sports game I have ever seen. Ballparks, lighting, player models, literally everything looks fantastic, and I haven’t even mentioned the added realism licensed equipment (FINALLY !!!) brings. Something about throwing on that Wilson A2K or Rawlings Pro Preferred that is so satisfying. Not only is the licensed equipment a nice touch visually, they provide attribute bonuses for your Road to the Show player which gives you an incentive to unlock and use the specific equipment. There are different levels of equipment: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Diamond, and each level provides an increase in attribute bonuses. Obviously Diamond bats and gloves will be more expensive and more difficult to acquire than bronze ones. The new dynamic lighting looks great as well, and the fact that you can tell the difference between months now due to the positioning of the sunlight is just another small element that adds to the realism. It’s also really cool to see the sun on your back during batting practice in the early months of the season and see the shadows move as the season progresses. Player models have continued to be improved and the detail on the players is the best in the business. Arm hair is now visible and looks extremely realistic as do wrinkle lines on some players. The added options for accessories is nice as putting a thick gold chain on my RTTS character has him more swagged out than ever. The new gameplay menus throughout the game are much improved and greatly appreciated as well, making navigating through the game seamless and providing nearly every bit of information on the main menus resulting in the least amount of clicks possible.
Road to the Show is largely unchanged, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as SCEA has had years of practice getting the mode to the point where they want it and with the additions to franchise mode, RTTS was perfectly capable of holding its place as a largely played mode with minimal enhancements. The new gameplay menus for the mode are a welcomed addition like I mentioned above providing the user with much more information in a more efficient way. If you’re a fan of RTTS hop right back in there and continue what you have grown accustomed to love. If you’d like to continue your character from last year’s game, the game transfer feature works seamlessly and will have you back in AA, AAA or the majors in less than 30 seconds. The year-to-year transfer is an absolute game changer for any sports game, I literally cannot stress that enough. Not having to worry about the years of progress you have put in going down the drain has given The Show backers a great sense of relief because it truly is hard to put together a Hall of Fame career in just one calendar year.
Franchise mode received an overhaul taking a page from NBA 2K’s book and providing a role playing element to the mode which is more than welcomed. Short and long term goals give a legitimate reason to take on the challenge of controlling just about any team and the new player progression system makes you think twice about letting your top prospect break spring training with the big club or sending him back to the minors for a month or two more of seasoning. Speaking of top prospects, the new trade system will keep prospect trades more realistic and should prevent you from acquiring a great package of prospects for a 4th OF or declining SP. Unfortunately SCEA’s generated minor leaguers aren’t the greatest, so it is difficult to see how the trade system will play out at the time, once the full minors rosters are released, we will be able to gauge the system better.
Diamond Dynasty is not something I was in to last year, but with the new universal rewards system and the way cards and whatnot are distributed, I could see myself playing a lot this year. Being able to improve my team by being rewarded with new players while playing exhibition, franchise and RTTS games makes DD more enjoyable and adds to the replay value. The fact that I can improve my team without solely playing DD is good for me because I don’t want to be at a disadvantage because somebody puts in more hours than I do.
I personally only played one game online and unfortunately was not able to make it through although that could have had something to do with the fact that I was also streaming simultaneously. Other WGL members were able to start and finish online games so hopefully the servers are improved upon last year. This is definitely something we will be revisiting in hopes of getting our WGL MLB The Show league up and running soon, so make sure to continue checking back as we will begin releasing information about that shortly.
Overall, I think MLB 15: The Show is the best installment in the franchise by far and is the greatest sports game of all time to date. The little details have been improved so much that there are seamless transitions from gameplay to animations that provide a great deal of responsiveness to the user and realism. Whether you like to have full control over your players or as little control and let the ratings and animations play out, SCEA provides both options and anywhere in-between to provide the most realistic sports installment video games has to offer.
If I had to give it a number grade, I would rate the game a 8.5/10 without knowing how well the online works and the new trade logic. But it is definitely something I plan on revisiting so be on the lookout for that. Also, again, be on the lookout for information about the WGL MLB The Show league as we are eager to get that underway.