Captivation is religion. It’s an element we devote our lives to in every form. In many cases the eye of our arousal is a multifaceted object. The game of baseball serves these ambitions on the field and into our homes. Video games afford us the ability to replicate the competitive nature of baseball through simulation. Advancements in technology during this generation create a sense of reality blurred in the guise of virtual creativity. Sony’s MLB: The Show series over the past decade exemplified each of these qualities and this year’s edition proves to be the most complete iteration in the series.
Following its maiden season on the PS4, MLB 15: The Show builds off its strong foundation with conceptual improvements and subtle innovations. On the gameplay side, the most significant addition is the replacement of timing hitting with a directional successor. Directional hitting takes the same principles of timing and adds the use of the left analog stick to control the location of your swing. Its function allows the user to decide where to hit the baseball and whether to pull the ball or drive it the other way. Zone hitting accomplishes a similar role but focuses primarily on locking to a specific location in the strike zone and adjusting accordingly. Analog hitting also returns to this year’s game. On the mound, the most noticeable difference is the addition of an optional visual trajectory displaying the break and location prior to throwing a pitch. This technology has been featured on television broadcasts in the past and helps assist gamers learning the nuances of toeing the rubber. As an alternative, improvements were also made to both analog pitching and hitting to ease the level of difficulty from previous iterations.
With any video game, the back of the box is the first place people look at for the newest bells and whistles for any sports game and MLB 15: The Show is no exception. “Year to Year saves” stands out as the game’s headlining feature. For the first time on any sports video game, one can conceivably continue any franchise, Road to the Show or import a season from the last year’s game into the new edition. One can pick up their Cubs franchise from their latest save date in MLB 14 or continue editing their franchise roster, though any players not part of the MLB Players Association including retired players will be replaced by generic ones. As started earlier, difficulty has been fine tuned to account for individual skill sets through Dynamic Difficulty 2.0, using adaptable AI to adjust to playing styles.
In recent years many sports video games have seen an evolution in franchise modes. From Connected Careers in Madden to Association mode in the NBA 2K series, each game rewrote the book of a traditional franchise simulation. This season while MLB: The Show opted for a less radical change, franchise will include the RPG style infrastructure pioneered by its sporting cousins with the additions of ownership expectations and general manager control contracts. Similar to the now defunct MLB 2K series, owners will display different personalities and expectations depending on the market. While a winning season for the Houston Astros might suffice, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be expected to be a perennial World Series contender. The introduction of editable contracts will allow individuals the opportunity to include actual big league contracts in the game for the first time, such as Giancarlo Stanton‘s 13 year pace, which are customarily excluded from the game due to licensing. Improved trade logic better replicates the job of a general manager than in years past, thanks to trade finder. As some teams wish to trade a veteran for prospects, other may opt for swaps of established players, mimicking the trading deadline. Broadcast sponsorships and licensed equipment add another of realism in both Road to the Show and franchise, as well as the advent of “Inside The Show”, an interactive series in franchise, RTTS, and season mode hosted by minor league broadcaster Justin Allegri. Daily updates from around the league are predominantly featured, on a radio broadcast similar to the old Tony Bruno Show on the Madden video games of yesteryear, while keeping players informed on the happenings around the league in their current season.
In its second year on the PS4 console, graphics take a sharp leap in quality with detailed jumbotrons, player personalities, batboys and nearly 2,000 new player animations, making MLB 15: The Show one of the best looking video games on the next generation of consoles. On the audio side, the broadcast team of Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros, and Steve Lyons return for their third season of work, and while many surmise commentary as the game’s Achilles heel, the team at Sony Computer Entertainment recorded over 3,100 new lines of dialogue during a two-week span in December. Though the broadcast team continues to provide accurate commentary, some will be disappointed to hear lines and phrases uttered in previous versions of the game. In its history, Sony has taken the approach of building off a foundation and new lines for franchise and an increase in conversation between the broadcast team are a step in the right direction. PS4 users however will be disappointed to learn that the popular Sounds of the Show feature from the PS3 will not be included in their version of the game due to console’s inability to store MP3 files, but will be able to play custom music with any game through any flash drive.
MLB 15: The Show releases on March 31st, packed with the most complete baseball game to date and an exclusive which helps sell Playstation consoles. The game will be released for the PS4, PS3, and Playstation Vita starting at $59.99 on the PS4 and twenty dollars cheaper on the PS3 and Playstation Vita respectively. The tenth anniversary edition retails for ten dollars extra and includes a steel book, chronicling the history of the game. The PS3 version, still one of the highest selling MLB: The Show versions, will come nearly feature complete with its PS4 contemporary with the mere exception of graphics and subtle differences in franchise mode. On any console, MLB 15: The Show provides a simulation game akin to the action on the field. The realism in tone and complexity mirrors the pageantry of the game of baseball and its level of depth, providing enough unique features and engrossing gameplay to satisfy both gamers and fans of the sport, while making it a worthwhile purchase on the cusp of Opening Day.