MLB 15: The Show, Review

Were there a sports-style rankings system for #firstworldproblems, The Show developer Sony San Diego’s current plight would surely perch close to its summit. So great has its baseball series become over the last decade, so close to marrying the virtual and the real, season after season, that this year’s entry feels brilliant, yet also a bit… boring. Authentic but archaic. Exhilarating and exhausting, all at once.

Football games will never be truly lifelike because at any given moment the AI must approximate realistic decisions for 22 different players. In baseball, the dynamics are much simpler: pitcher vs batter, then batter vs ball, then ball vs fielder. The Show had all those mechanics nailed as far back as its MLB 10 entry on PS3.

Every in-game nuance remains perfectly tuned, too: the way ball flight is affected by a pitcher’s release; how swing timing and positioning dictate hit angles and spin; even the way in which fielders adjust their footing and weight relative to ball trajectory. If you’ve never played it before, it’ll transform your view of sports games. And if you have? It’s both delightful and disappointing.
“AMID the fug of Déjà Vu, there are still moments of pure baseball joy.”
Rosters have been updated, naturally, and new running and sliding animations feel refreshing like a post-Zinger Burger wet wipe. Otherwise it’s a case of status quo maintained and while that news should have you rocking all over the world, it’s not always the case. 

Franchise mode, Diamond Dynasty (baseball’s answer to FIFA’s monolithic Ultimate Team) and Road To The Show all serve up hours of baseball joy, yet innovate little year-on-year to the point of sometimes feeling tedious in spite of their excellence.

Bat’s All, Folks 
And therein lies the biggest annual challenge for those clever Californians at Sony San Diego: with the onfield recreation of the ball-thwaking sport so wonderfully believable, how to freshen up proceedings often enough to keep us greedy series veterans hooked? Aside from specific objectives within Franchise mode itself, it’s sadly not a question that’s been resolved in this year’s entry.

Amid this fug of déjà vu, there are still moments of pure joy that match the elation of anything you see on a real baseball field. Belting a grand slam to tie a game in which you’ve been behind for seven innings, for instance, or that final strikeout playing as the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, with a one run lead and two men on base. Those glorious occurrences feel fresh no matter how many times you’ve experienced them before.

So The Show still comes recommended, because at its best there’s no other sports title that can touch it. But to sustain future interest, it needs to find some way to reinvigorate its still-commendable shtick. Even if it’s via something as simple as a new commentary team.


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