Review: MLB 15 The Show (PS4)

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Title: MLB 15 The Show
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (37 GB)
Release Date: March 31, 2014
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE San Diego Studio
Original MSRP: $59.99 (Standard Edition) / $69.99 (10th Anniversary Edition)
ESRB Rating: E
MLB 14 The Show is also available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 420 of the podcast.

Well, here it is, another year and another version of MLB The Show has come out. Unlike previous years though, no one was given the opportunity to get hands-on until the game was released so that’s why the review is so late. I normally spend at least forty hours in the game before I review it and this year is no different. I’ll tell you here and now though, my coverage will not include much, if anything from Franchise or Diamond Dynasty. I don’t play Franchise at all, because managing a team is just not my thing. Diamond Dynasty I’ve just never understood fully, so to try and gauge that mode simply wouldn’t be fair. My focus, as always, is on three main sections: Road to the Show, Season mode, and Online Play.

One unfortunate circumstance this year is that it seems as if Franchise is the mode that got the biggest overhaul and I’m hearing good things, but again, it wouldn’t be fair for me to try and judge it since I really don’t understand it.

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Unlike previous years, I’m not going to lay a list of the updates out but instead I’ll point you to the official site if you’re interested in seeing everything that’s changed this year (it’s probably the biggest list so far for the series).

Let’s talk some Baseball!

Gameplay:
As usual, nothing has been removed in terms of control options, and added this year is the new Directional Hitting Interface, which you use to influence where the ball flies to when it comes off the bat. It’s more of an evolution from simply placing the Plate Coverage Indicator (PCI) where the ball might be when you swing, and it takes some getting used to.

If you’ve been playing this series for any amount of time, you need to retrain how you approach batting and when you finally figure it out, it takes the game to a whole new level. To further the experience, you can also choose to allow the camera to move with the L-Stick movement. Moving the camera slightly in this manner allows you to focus your vision on where you expect the pitch to be thrown and in doing so, cleverly makes hitting that much more realistic. The movement is actually pretty slight, but it affects your ability to hit in a substantial way. It’s one of my favorite inclusions this year for sure.

MLB® 15 The Show™_20150417113626

Animations have definitely and noticeably improved as well with better motion and speed. Moving from one action to another is much cleaner now and stealing bases has never felt better. Ball physics have also gotten another major overhaul. Dunk one over the shortstop’s head, hit a liner toward the corner as your hitter motions to influence the ball to stay fair as it tails dangerously close to the foul pole, there’s a lot happening with the ball that’s never been seen before. Also, the movement of the ball out of the pitcher’s hand seems more realistic now, especially when it breaks. I still stink at reading about 50% of said pitches, but it does feel better for sure.

Season mode feels very familiar with a good deal of refinements, but nothing that really stands-out. One big improvement though that’s especially noticeable in Road to the Show (RttS) is the fact that load times from interface to a game have been significantly improved. You’ll especially notice it in RttS when you’re powering through an eight hour marathon as you work your way up to the majors, and boy does it make the experience much more enjoyable.

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Speaking of RttS, importing your character from MLB 14 The Show couldn’t be easier. As long as you have your game save uploaded to the cloud (MLB The Show’s cloud, not your PS+ cloud), when you go into RttS it will prompt you, among other options, to transfer your player from MLB 14. If you choose to do so, the game finds your save from last year and within about ten to fifteen seconds you’re in the new interface and ready to continue your progress. I’m simply stunned at how easy it was to do and it works just as well on all three systems. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at how well this is handled.

… Animation has been upgraded across the board …
The updated “Universal Profile” is much easier to understand now and we finally know what the stubs that are earned are actually for. By pressing the touchpad on the DualShock 4, you’ll be taken to a Quick Menu that, among other options, gets you access to the store. Depending on the mode you’re playing, these stubs can be used to buy training points and even an “instant heal” for your injured RttS player. I haven’t needed to use it yet, but for some players that don’t have the patience to work their way up, this offers a way to move forward a bit quicker. And yes, you can purchase stubs with real money, but again, that’s your choice since there’s no need to do so to progress in your career.

Another addition is the earned items, including bats, gloves, spikes, and a bunch of random things as well. These items can be applied to your profile and can be used to buff some of your attributes like Vision, Control, and Speed. It’s a pretty cool addition that’s incredibly easy to understand and as usual, you don’t need to use this mechanic if you don’t want to. I’m actually having fun messing with these items though and the buffs actually make a difference in certain circumstances. XP that’s earned though… yeah, I still have no idea what that affects.

MLB® 15 The Show™_20150417111637

Other new items that I’ve encountered include that new slide step system for pitchers which I despise since my current RttS player is built for stolen bases. The slide step allows the ball to be delivered much quicker to the plate, which of course lowers the amount of time it takes for the catcher to get the ball to second base. The new Instant Replay system from Major League Baseball has also been added but I still haven’t had the need for it to come into play, so I have no opinion.

On the negative side of things fielding still seems a bit wonky in RttS. I can move my player right under the ball, but somehow I still miss an easy catch occasionally. I’m not sure if the wind is grabbing it and the game doesn’t let me know somehow or if catching the ball successfully is based solely on a dice roll paired with your fielding attribute level. I really don’t know for sure, but it’s definitely frustrating when it happens.

… it’s almost breathtaking when you realize it …
Visuals:
At a glance you’ll probably think the visuals haven’t changed a bit since last year but you’d be completely wrong. Animation has been upgraded across the board and every stadium (including those in the minor leagues) have all been updated as well.

MLB® 15 The Show™_20150417110111

The biggest, and most most impactful upgrade in my opinion though, is the complete revamp of the lighting system. In years past, lighting was pre-rendered with canned changes between innings essentially. Now though, the lighting is completely done in real time and how it reacts with every single object is stunning. They even take into account the position of the sun according to the real calendar to light the stadium.

Seeing the sun setting over the fence in the left field corner as the horizon starts turning red and the shadows get long, it’s almost breathtaking when you realize it for the first time. Playing in Miller Park from MLB 14 to MLB 15 is such a huge difference now and the first time I saw how detailed the shadows for the windows were, casting even the thin frames and the “robots” ventilation in front of the windows, well, I was blown away.

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Adding even more to the realism is the ridiculous color matching this year, allowing the developers to match the grass color for each individual stadium, the uniforms, and even a real player’s skin tone. Again, you may not realize it when you’re playing, but if you go back to MLB 14 The Show and compare, the difference is monumental. The last change that I appreciate is the new, cleaner interface, which is much easier to navigate. By moving some of the more superfluous options to the “Quick Menu” accessed via the touchpad, they’ve simplified the main menus significantly.

Hair and beards can still be improved in my opinion and there still is the occasional glitch between animations but it’s becoming more and more rare. Also, I’m hoping that by next year we’ll be able to create our own signs that the crowd holds up and that the top item on my “wants” list finally happens, retractable roofs that actually open and close. I know everyone keeps asking for it but let’s all hope that it finally happens next year. We could start a pool on which will happen first, working retractable roofs or the release of The Last Guardian. It could be a close race.

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Audio:
This is probably the first licensed soundtrack that doesn’t annoy me in some way and that’s a huge relief. I’m not saying that it’s particularly good but when you have to listen to these songs so many times between games in RttS, any bad songs are experienced a lot and none have gotten on my nerves yet.

Another inclusion that I think many will enjoy is that between games in RttS, Season, and Franchise modes, if you move to the next calendar day and let it sit in the menus a new radio show called ‘Inside the Show’ will start and recap the games and outcomes from the previous day. It’s well done and goes that much farther into replicating the real experience. Make sure to check it out if you can.

… you can finally take your save from last year to the new game …
The same commentators are back once again, and as the fact sheet states: “Over 1,700 new lines of play-by-play content, and Over 1,400 new lines of color commentary”. Of course, many will still say that it’s repetitive or the same as we’ve had in previous years but I will say now when I’m in a hitting streak, I don’t hear someone say something about the streak being in the back of my mind every time I come up to the plate. That alone is a HUGE improvement (especially since I have a twenty-four game hitting streak in effect right now). The diversity is noticeable to me at least, and now that I’ve finished three full seasons in RttS especially, I think that’s a pretty good test.

MLB® 15 The Show™_20150401213452

Sounds of the Show still doesn’t allow you to bring your own sounds and music in to customize things like walk-up music or stadium sounds but again, that’s simply because the OS doesn’t allow the import of those files yet. Let’s just hope that’s not an issue next year.

Online/Multiplayer:
Okay, sit down, seriously. Online play is REALLY GOOD this year! Sure, there’s still the occasional visual glitch, but it doesn’t actually affect the gameplay. I actually liked the online play last year too but what a change in just a year we’re getting. I even played with my PS4 on wireless and it played really well still.

It doesn’t seem that voice chat works but if you’re playing with a friend you can always start a PS4 Party so you can converse as you play. It also seems that they’re handling rage quits well as far as I can see but I’m not sure if others have had any issues with that.

There also seems to be some issues in Online Franchise mode but it looks like a patch is coming very soon. We’re actually starting one soon but we haven’t done our draft yet unfortunately. With these reported issues though, maybe that’s a good thing.

MLB® 15 The Show™_20150417114900

Conclusion:
I have to say, I’m more impressed with the upgrades this year than I expected. Even though Franchise Mode reportedly received the biggest overhaul this year, the amount of improvements in the rest of the game are very evident. Heck, the shorter load times in RttS and the new lighting system make such a big difference, that would have been good enough for me this year but there’s so much more. Also, not to be ignored, the additional Minor League stadiums and the improvements to the existing stadiums made my trudge in the Minors much easier to deal with.

Even though I’m sure that plenty of people will still complain, I can’t accurately convey how big of an improvement the online play got this year. Quite honestly this is probably the first time that it can be considered ready for prime time.

So yes, in my opinion it’s definitely worth going from 14 to 15 this year, especially since you can finally take your save from last year to the new game for Franchise and Road to the Show modes, a first for any sports game and something that will be available in the following years. Like I said, you may not realize what’s been upgraded in the first five minutes in the game, but you’ll definitely start seeing the differences soon after. I’m probably about 40 hours into the game, and I don’t see me stopping any time soon.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • OsAndRavensFan1

    Such a beautiful game (I’m talking about the graphics and the actual sport itself). I do wish the retractable roofs will come soon as well as rain delays (COME ON!). On a side not, I really wish in a future Diamond Dynasty will will be able to make our teams actual expansion teams within MLB with the ability to design your own ball park. MVP Baseball 2005 and MVP 06 NCAA Baseball, both from EA, had the ability to create a ballpark. With MVP 2005, you really didn’t have full control, but you were able to start off with a minor league size ballpark and eventually renovate and expand into an MLB venue. With MVP 06, you were able to have full control of dimensions and wall sizes, but could only have collegiate sized ballparks. I just think it would be awesome if the crew at Sony San Diego would add a similar feature to the series, but I’m not holding my breath, since they have a busy enough dev cycle as it is.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/11/29/mvp-06-ballpark-creator

  • Rain outs will NEVER happen from what I’ve heard from the developers. In terms of a stadium builder, that’s a cool idea for sure and I’ll pass it along (I’m sure that’s on their list already). I’m sure it has to do with how complicated the stadiums are now though.

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