MLB 15: The Show Review – PlayStation 4

Sony’s MLB: The Show series is nearing its tenth anniversary with this 2015 release.  I had the honor of reviewing the first MLB: The Show title way back in 2006, and have followed the series off and on over the subsequent nine years.  And while most franchises might be showing their age at this point, The Show continues hitting home runs with its yearly improvements and gameplay additions.  That being said – SCE San Diego has absolutely outdone itself this year with the best-looking and best-playing MLB-licensed video game to date.

It helps that MLB 15: The Show benefits from an additional year of developer experience on the relatively new PS4 architecture – the already-stunning visuals from MLB 14 have been made even better with MLB 15.  First and foremost, the player models are simply amazing – from the detailed facial features and expressions, to the unique player motions in fielding, throwing, and base running – the level of visual realism is out of the park with MLB 15.  SCE San Diego even worked on refining player skin tones to more closely match the complexion of the actual players, resulting in an almost-photorealistic representation of their subjects.

Likewise, the stadiums are rendered spectacularly – right down to the lifelike fans that seem for the first time to be realistically reacting directly to the gameplay.  MLB 15 displays noticeably improved lighting and weather effects which kicks up the level of realism, especially during the night games.

The visuals are only one facet of the phenomenal presentation that also features one of the most realistic sound packages of any sports game I have ever played – and that goes way beyond the entertaining in-game play-by-play and color commentary.  As with the visuals, the fans react realistically to the gameplay – and not just in terms of rousing cheers for home run hits, but also in jeers as the fans groan for disappointing plays, or throw out the random heckle toward the batter.

As great as the presentation is, what really counts is the how the game plays – and MLB 15: The Show delivers in spades when it comes to remarkable gameplay.  As baseball video game veterans will attest, baseball games are far more complex to manage than any other sports titles, simply because a  baseball title has so many roles to manage – pitching, batting, fielding, and base running all require specific controls and strategy.  Because of this complexity, gameplay improvements within baseball games typically consists of fooling the gamer into not realizing that they are actually doing less because the game  has subtly increased the amount of AI-assisted control.

These AI improvements give the game an added sense of refinement and fluidity, making the game more realistic and rewarding. MLB 15 continues this trend by better assisting fielders in predicting the trajectory of batted balls, assisting batters in analog and directional batting, and assisting runners in leading off and tagging up.  It’s still a little fumbly to jump from batting to base-running, and the fact that the buttons associated with the bases are reversed depending on whether playing a standard game or a Road to the Show game – but it’s something that can easily be overcome with practice.

MLB 15: The Show features all of the requisite single game and season modes for both local and online play – but what really takes the cake every year is the Road to the Show mode that puts gamers in the cleats of an up-and-coming player rising through the ranks of minor league and all the way on to the majors.  Gamers are tasked not only with performing on the diamond, but also with successfully managing all aspects of a career.

The Road to the Show mode is completely engrossing – especially now that players have the option to quick-skip through games, playing only a handful of fielding and batting scenarios that may or may not require the gamer’s controlled player.  It is so convenient and rewarding to knock out a half dozen or so games in a single night using the quick skip option, that it is easy to forget how tedious is was to sit through inning after inning of AI-controlled pitcher-batter duels that go to full counts including countless foul balls.

MLB 15: The Show also includes – for the first time ever – licensed equipment.  While this may not seem like that big of a deal at first, the fact that gamers now have the option to earn actual licensed equipment adds yet another degree of realism to the already amazing game.

Veteran gamers will rejoice at the fact that MLB 15: The Show – again for the first time ever – allows for year-to-year importing of game saves.  This means that gamers who already have developed a career in MLB 14 can continue their careers right where they left off.  Given that baseball seasons are 85+ games, the ability to slide into an existing season without having to start over at ground zero is a relief.

Online play is still a bit sketchy – as easy as it is to get into a game, the sheer tedium that can become of a game can be too much to fathom for the average gamer.  What is fantastic online is the Homerun Derby, which pits the local gamer up against a dozen or so online gamers all simultaneously hitting the balls into the stands.  The explosion of arrows showing each gamer’s hit is all but hypnotizing, and watching the ranking ladder change with each pitch is addictive as can be.

Nine years of experience has sure paid off, because I really cannot say much bad about MLB 15: The Show.  Really, other than a handful of odd visual player-clipping issues, MLB 15 is the most perfectly detailed sports title on any console.   Kudos for SCE San Diego for giving us one more reason to return to the mound.

Screenshot Gallery

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