Major League Baseball disappointed many fans when they partnered exclusively with 2K Sports nearly a decade ago, which basically erased any chance of competition for that series moving forward, except for first-party releases. Amidst this disappointment, Sony stepped up to the plate and made something special with the MLB: The Show franchise, which has been around annually ever since. After a staggered release across both gens last year, MLB 15: The Show has debuted across all Sony platforms at once with the true to life MLB experience you expect, albeit feeling mostly familiar.
The sports game genre has had a little bit of a problem in the last few years, with the games mostly being very enjoyable, and excellent representations of the sport, but each still offering only minor variations of the same game modes. MLB 15: The Show in some ways feels like that, with there being a lack of some completely new mode to the series or genre as a whole. Naturally, there is the ability to play against the computer or online competition, the usual franchise modes, the popular Road to the Show, and Diamond Dynasty, but that is the extent of the available modes.
The ability to run an organization from top to bottom is just what Franchise mode was designed for, but the mode has felt rather stagnant for a few years. This year’s inclusion of goals for you to try and achieve within not only the season, but also your current contract, does make the mode more interesting. However, Franchise still feels just about how it has for awhile now, whether that is a good or bad thing for most gamers.
Rather than spend time on providing something completely new for gamers to experience, SCEA instead chose to focus on making the existing setup the most realistic experience to date in MLB 15: The Show. One example of this involves the gameplay itself, though it somewhat moves in the opposite direction of where the series has been building. Over the last few years, the series has moved away from the use of the face buttons for hitting in exchange for the right analog stick. However, they have now moved back to the face buttons as the default, with a well crafted directional system implemented in tandem with the left analog stick. Luckily, they have also retained the previous control options for those that prefer a little more control in the batter’s box with the right analog stick.
Another level of realism is introduced through the inclusion of a much requested feature, licensed equipment. Serving as the pinnacle of the new additions to MLB 15: The Show, the equipment ranges from companies like Rawlings to Under Armour, allowing superstars like Mike Trout and Jason Heyward to reflect their real life counterparts in the game. The licensed equipment is far from just a superficial addition to the series either, as it is also utilized well in a few of the game modes.
Equipment like this in MLB 15: The Show is earned through what is known as Universal Rewards, which ties together two of the most addictive game modes, Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty. Road to the Show itself is basically the same as last year, though players have the option to use the licensed equipment to increase stats. The Universal Rewards are more important with Diamond Dynasty however, which receives a large percentage of the focus in this game.
Diamond Dynasty offers players the opportunity to not only build a team based on players that are earned through Universal Rewards, or purchased in-game, but also the ability to design a team from scratch. While stadiums cannot be designed for these teams, you will have the option to fully design their uniforms and team name. This is the mode where creative juices can thrive, with players having the ability to use their team online in a few different ways.
As good as the MLB: The Show series has been over the years, the one fault that has plagued the series is online play. From the early appearances on the PlayStation 3, there have been problems with lag, connection drops, and many other issues. Sadly, some of those issues still remain in MLB 15: The Show. As with all games, online play depends greatly on how solid of a connection both players have, but when it happens over and over, there is an issue.
MLB 15: The Show manages to both look and play better than ever
Within the numerous online games I had the opportunity to play between normal online and Diamond Dynasty, there was only one game that could be considered smooth. There was still a little lag here and there, but it played fine. The others ranged from okay to downright poor, with a few featuring full disconnects. One specific game messed up so badly online that it froze up and kicked back to the PlayStation 4 UI with a serious error message.
One of the returning features to online, which was an excellent addition a few years ago, is the requirement of you to mix up the pitching order. Instead of being able to utilize the top pitcher all of the time, you must instead use the rest of the rotation, even if you change teams. This is something that is hard to utilize in other sports games, where the lineups remain the same each game. With dominant pitchers like Clayton Kershaw out there, this is something that can help to level the playing field.
While the online gameplay is still mostly hit or miss, SCEA is making excellent use of one element of online through the cloud. Carrying over saves from MLB 14 is a breeze on PlayStation 4, with the ability to just load the game save from your hard drive. When upgrading from the PlayStation 3 or even the PS Vita version, the ability to retrieve Franchise, Season, and RTTS saves is almost as simple. Transferring between the PS4 and PS Vita version of MLB 15: The Show is also made easy, though the PS Vita version lacks many of the fine details, such as the aforementioned licensed equipment or Diamond Dynasty mode.
MLB 15: The Show manages to both look and play better than ever, but still somehow feels disappointing due to a lack of innovation. The gameplay continues to shine as always, with the inclusion of licensed equipment for the first time in the series making it all the most realistic. Choosing to make much of the game revolve around Diamond Dynasty was a wise decision, though the game itself feels mostly like a roster update than anything else. MLB 15: The Show is a must purchase for anyone that is a diehard baseball fan and wants to experience the 2015 season, but if you were only planning on buying it for brand new features, you might want to wait until next year.