MLB 15: The Show Review – Desmond In The Rough


Developer: SCE San Diego Studio

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platforms: PS4 (Version Reviewed), PS3, PS Vita

Release Date: March 31

"Well, Sony had done it,SCE San Diego had won it,With Yu Darvish hurtin’ all the while,Fielding errors and goofy glitches made us smile,While Lawrie lay unconscious on the bar-room tile.ChorusWe’re talkin’ baseball,From Montgomery to Seattle,MLB 15: The Show baseball,Billingsley and the Cowgill,Jason Heyward’s grotesquely swollen jaw,Everth Cabrera and his run-in with the law,We’re talkin’ PS4,Diamond Dynasty and the draw."

MLB 15: The Show, just like baseball, is not geared for just anyone. You have to appreciate the subtleties, the patience, the slow burn as excitement slowly, but surely, creeps over you. You have to take the good with the bad; get back out there on a bad day and repeat successes from a good day. Sony’s latest entry in their baseball simulation series has ultimately taken those lessons to heart, refining the process and repeating the mechanics down to a T. What we get is a very reliable, very repeatable delivery that gets results, even if it means an inevitable trouble down the line.

“Feeling real” seems to be the #1 goal in mind this year, as MLB 15: The Show does more to improve upon itself than to embark on new gameplay adventures. Everything you can do to upgrade the feel of the average MLB stadium has been done, including real-time sun and shadow positioning that reflects where the sun would be throughout an MLB season. Night games in San Francisco during April play vastly different from those in October, where pitching under the misdirection of shadows makes picking up location and spin on the ball that more adventurous.

Further additions include the new “Color Matching” technology, with character and stadium grounds coloring drawn from and photographic evidence. I’m a big fan of players looking as close to their real-life counterparts as possible, with Paul Goldschmidt looking as fish belly white in MLB 15: The Show as he is somehow capable in the dead summer of the Arizona heat. Plus, with hundreds of new gameplay animations, including batting stances, pitching motions and emotional reactions from players, it’s hard not to feel immersed as a ball player.

As much of an effort has been poured into these facets, the PS4 version of MLB 15: The Show shows a refined image up close. Peeling back for the larger picture, however, and you’ll see more of the same as you did from games past. The colorization and style of the grass may look different, yet all pieces look as flat and unresponsive to the baseball as if they were AstroTurf (like what the Rogers Centre or Tropicana Field currently use). AI players still make egregious fielding errors, sometimes reacting like a ball is dead while the runners score an inside-the-park home run. Glitches in the dozens seem to be a constant in every MLB: The Show entry, and MLB 15: The Show carries that tradition well.

While being light in gameplay options, what MLB 15: The Show did focus on this year is an important step towards the strength of future editions. Year-to-year saves has been a constant request for series fans, many of which are tired of creating new Road to the Show players from scratch, or building dynasties once again from the ground up. For the first time in a major sport game franchise of any kind, Sony will offer cross-platform saves from MLB 14: The Show to be recognized and accepted into MLB 15: The Show. Not only does it make the jump from PS3 to PS4 easier for hesitant fans, it shows a dedication from the developers to take into account requested features. It should be interesting to see what kind of additions like this are made going forward.

Directional hitting seems to be a new universal batting feature for MLB 15: The Show. It’s an on-the-fly mechanic that allows you to aim for locations to swing at in the strike zone, offering more location guesswork than before. You can still not aim your bat and use the classic timing mechanics, yet this new optional hitting interface works best when utilizing it in situation hitting situations, including moving a runner over to third, or influencing a fly ball for a sacrifice fly. It even makes drag bunting more fluid, whereas this style of hitting influence required preconceived indications before the pitch.

New to home console versions of MLB 15: The Show is the idea of tying real-world advertising sponsorships (that both Sony and MLB athletes are likely to receive) into the gameplay mechanics. Licensed equipment will benefit both your Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty players, giving boosts to stats based on the prestige of the usable equipment. Rawlings, Under Armour, Marucci, Wilson and others can boost the stats relevant to your players, which can be that deciding factor between a struggling or successful player.

At least [the monetization scheme is] not as abhorrent as it could be.

With boosts in equipment, however, comes the inevitable monetization of it within a virtual marketplace structure. If you play a lot of exhibition, online, RTTS or franchise-related games, eventually you will earn both free Diamond Dynasty cards and pieces of equipment. However, they are random, and usually terrible. The easiest (and most alluring) path would be to visit the marketplace, where players can buy and sell aforementioned collectibles for Stubs. The problem is that a 9-inning game will roughly get you 100 stubs (50 for average RTTS game), while some of the better pieces of equipment and DD players sit in the tens of thousands range.

The natural inclination, therefore, is to buy Stubs with real-life money in order to speed this process up. Just as is the case with most annualized sports games, microtransactions have begun to dig deeper into the developmental architecture of MLB 15: The Show. At this point, Sony should be begrudgingly applauded for allowing so many options to earn freebies of your own through regular play, including card and equipment packs through repeated daily logins. If it helps keep the studio lights on as SCE San Diego continues to churn out games of a niche genre (for gaming fans), so be it. At least it’s not as abhorrent as it could be.

Franchise Mode has received a soft reboot with General Manager contracts. Instead of being a company man, you will be charged with maintaining a club while always on the look out for better things. Hitting expected goals out of your club is fair, and exceeding expectations allows you to improve your rating. Trade and contract logic has been revamped as to prevent some of the sillier exploits. Finally, brand sponsorships can be won just like equipment, bringing bonuses to your club’s budget for every time your team hits goals. For example, a diamond Nike sponsorship might bring tens of thousands of dollars for every win.

Alongside the general tightening of control mechanics, as well as new cut-off man options, you can expect a lot more of the same from MLB 15: The Show. Things just feel a lot more concise, especially that of load times. Last year’s edition had load screens hang as long as those in Bloodborne, while now they resemble average times of the past. The ball dances beautifully off the bat, sometimes with English on it as it nicks off the very tip. Fast batters will hustle to beat out a single to first, while the Robinson Cano’s of the world might not hustle out of the box on a sure out. Everything seems to be in its right place.

That is, unless you want to use any online-related gameplay functionality. You would think, with so many millions injected into Sony coffers with the advent of PlayStation Plus being required for online play, that a first-party Sony studio would be able to reliably develop MLB 15: The Show to play properly on their own servers. Outside of updated real-life MLB scores and standings, online play is choppy. Simulating play of real-life games becomes a chess match of crashes, while some players are notably absent from lineups. Despite getting his first MLB hit and homerun on Monday afternoon, Devon Travis was not playable that game in The Show. When you can’t keep updated rosters for such a mode, what’s even the point? And this is coming from an improvement over online service last year!

Baseball season is here, and there is no better companion for sports gaming fans than in MLB 15: The Show.

Furthermore, regular online play is generally jerky, full of crashes and unreliable. You will likely lose a handful of connections before finally landing a challenger. Once you actually get in, the stuttering of off-speed pitches makes it hard to pick up direction and speed of the baseball, resulting in artificially high strikeouts and low runs. It makes the Toronto Blue Jays and the R.A. Dickey knuckleball an oft-discovered opponent, as unreliable movements double up the effectiveness of une balle papillon. It sucks that this connected mode of play is so damn frustrating, and is essentially the biggest annual problem holding back this series from the highest echelon of quality.

It’s hard to recommend a baseball game to just about everyone, as the sport itself belongs to a specific audience. If you own MLB 14: The Show and are looking for that giant step forward in options and new gameplay experiences, it might be worth it to wait until next year. Those who love the series but haven’t picked up the game on PS4 yet (I personally bought it every other year before reviewing games), MLB 15: The Show is an excellent first step. I haven’t had enough time on the PS3 version yet, but what is evident is the jump in visuals is crystal clear. Essentially, with a weak competitor in the MLBAM-developed RBI Baseball series, you’d be damned to find something that plays better (outside of management simulation).


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Baseball season is here, and there is no better companion for sports gaming fans than in MLB 15: The Show. A series that has entered its 10th year, it has never looked better than it has today. The quest for photo realism draws closer by the year, with improvements made to make the baseball gaming experience on Sony multitudes better than you would anywhere else. We’ve come to expect more and more from this series as years pass, but with development for the PS3 still a factor, there are some ways the game is being held back. Online play and monetization schemes continue to be the series’ downfall. Bottom line is that you’re playing MLB 14: The Show but with markedly better performance, and with updated rosters. That’s more than enough for now.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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