Graphics:
8.8
Gameplay:
8.7
Sound:
7.7
Control:
8.2
Replay Value:
8.5
Online Gameplay:
8.0
Overall Rating:
8.1
Publisher:
SCEA
Developer:
SCE San Diego
Number Of Players:
1-4
Genre:
Sports
Release Date:
March 31, 2015


It’s time once again for baseball and as usual, Sony has anted up with their annual simulator. MLB 15: The Show was purported to faithfully represent our national pastime better than any previous entry but while improvements have been made, I was honestly expecting a bit more. This ultra-realistic sim is still in need of a little tweaking and balancing, even though it’s arguably the best-looking and most authentic baseball video game we’ve ever seen. I guess our expectations are just that much higher any time a new era rolls around, and that goes double for annualized sports franchises.

Unsurprisingly, the latest iteration of The Show looks fantastic. I still say some of the character models come across as plastic-y (and a little creepy), but the rest of the presentation is top-notch. Baseball lovers will appreciate excellent animations along with exquisite stadium and crowd detailing. The multiple camera angles allow us to see various angles of the field, and each one is just downright breathtaking. It’s not perfect – a few minor graphical errors can be spotted in the dense crowds – but it’s certainly impressive, even if it’s not necessarily pushing PlayStation 4 to its prodigious limits.

The audio is a tad disappointing for me, mostly because I fully anticipated a commentary and soundtrack overhaul. I didn’t get that with Sony San Diego’s new effort; it sounds like they’re using a lot of the same tired commentary we’ve heard over and over, and the music just seems unnecessarily prominent during our micromanagement endeavors. Even so, the effects are awesome and as gameplay remains the most critical aspect of any simulator, I can forgive the lackluster color men and iffy soundtrack. The crowd sounds are especially engaging and authentic and the crack of the bat is plenty satisfying. They just need fresher voice recordings for next year’s title.

The structural mechanics of this franchise are mostly intact; veteran followers won’t have any trouble diving into the gameplay. It’s a double-edged sword, really: On the one hand, you don’t want to mess with a winning formula too much, as you invariably lose your hard-earned fans. On the other hand, adopting an overly conservative approach to a yearly franchise makes each new entry feel tired. In this case, we do get some significant changes and improvements in regards to the ridiculously in-depth Diamond Dynasty Mode, and we’ve heard a lot about the new licensed equipment, which you can unlock. You can even unlock specific superstitions for players, which will have an impact on their base stats.

We should start with Diamond Dynasty because it’s bound to appeal to hardcore baseball aficionados, and it received the most significant upgrade. Basically, it’s stripped down without being simplified; it’s a more streamlined and ultimately more accessible mode. On a personal note, being a big baseball card collector back in the ‘90s, I loved the interface that involves Topps player cards. Heck, Topps was my brand (forget silly Donruss or Fleer). It also reminded me of the little games I constructed on my own, which involved either my cards or my baseball action figures (or both), and building a team with these virtual cards really made me smile. It’s all the more rewarding to find a card for one of the Legendary players.

But even with this streamlining, Diamond Dynasty is still a touch too tedious. Games can take over an hour and if you don’t have a lot of free time, those rewards are slow to arrive. Plus, we don’t get offline challenges and tournaments – that we really should have – and of course, that’s one of my biggest pet peeves in gaming today. The good news is that the hardcore faithful should be pleased and if they too were – or still are – card collectors, they’ll probably dive in with gusto. I also have no problem with new features like Quick Counts not being included in this particular mode; it’s supposed to be authentic and Quick Counts is an arcade-y option designed only to speed things up.