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MLB 15: The Show
Score: 83%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCEA San Diego Studio
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (2 - 8 Network)
Genre: Sports (Baseball)/ Arcade/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
The newest edition of the Sony baseball franchise looks great on the aging PS3. MLB 15: The Show brings on-field action to your living room, and the animations for players helps bring reality into the game. There is a certain amount of fluidity in the animations as well, especially when the player times throws perfectly, as he will go from ball recovery mode to throwing to your called position without any hiccups. On the flip side, the reverse can be said if the timing is a bit off. In this instance, animations are a bit choppy on purpose, yet the reality of the situation isnít quite sold.

Add to that the look and feel of the environment. While it is pretty clear that the spectators are afterthoughts, having the look of 3D models definitely helps add to the realism of the stadium. Speaking of stadiums, they too have enough detail to support at least casual fans of the sport.

Aside from the visuals, audio is always a big part of any sports game. In the case of MLB 15: The Show, most unique audio comes in the form of the play-by-play and color commentators. While, of course, there are many repeat phrases, the overall quality is pretty solid. Even when skipping through the pitching phases relatively quickly, Matt Vasgersian, Steve Lyons, and Eric Karros call the action consistently and even throw in tidbits from previous at bats.


Gameplay:
MLB 15: The Show is a typical baseball arcade sim in that it is quite straightforward to pick up and play. When you first step up to the batterís box, there are options presented that allow for an attempt to guess the next pitch coming in and a strike zone is shown to help with determining when a pitch should be swung at or let pass. When anticipated correctly, the ball will blink which can be just enough of a hint to help determine the action or speed of the pitch. That said, batting isnít as easy as one may think in that making solid contact requires not only timing, but also the ability to follow pitches into the nine possible positions around the strike zone, as well as lying off anything just outside of it.

Sticking on the offensive side of the field, base running is a crucial part of being able to turn a hit into extra bases or an RBI. The reality of the situation is that taking control of the diamond isnít the most intuitive thing. However, with some practice and likely a few learning-lesson pickoffs, it can be attained.

Pitching actually became one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Just like in the big leagues, every ball thrown over the plate becomes a game of inches. To start, each pitcher has a small handful of specialties and each one requires a slightly different approach to get it across the plate for a called strike. Pitching is done via a standard 3-click meter, with an emphasis on accuracy over power. At the start of the pitch, it is important to define where you want the ideal pitch to end up, then stick your accuracy or purposely miss to help slide the pitch just a hair away from perfect to get your man swinging. While this can be learned and manipulated, missing your mark on the meter does result in randomized balls thrown, including beanballs and pitches in the dirt.

When it comes to fielding, the biggest help is in the form of a superimposed baseball that helps indicate where pop flies will land. As long as you navigate your fielder into the vicinity, he will generally make the catch. The way you come into the catch and the timing of your subsequent throw will have a lot to do with how well you can control the bases. Fielders also have a host of moves to help with defense, although if you leave your feet, it can be a bit slow to recover.

MLB 15: The Show comes with a host of gameplay modes both online and off. In addition to the standards, including Play Now and Franchise, the heavy hitters this year include Road to the Show (work your way to the majors) and Diamond Dynasty. For those familiar with Madden cards, the latter is going to look familiar. Collect baseball cards to build a team and challenge other players (or the CPU) with your custom teams. It adds a bit of an interesting twist to standard drafts and other ways to play, which hardcore fans will certainly appreciate. Finally, for the seventh inning stretch, there are some Challenges and Mini-games that will take a bit less time to play through.


Difficulty:
MLB 15: The Show has a fair system in place, for the most part. It didnít feel overly batter-friendly and gave total control to the pitcher and his relievers. This doesnít mean that the game was easy, but it was easy to get into. Learning to take precise control did take some practice, and even still there is also a certain amount of controlled error present that forces good baseball strategy as well.

For example, while pitching was pretty straightforward, learning to control the plate took a bit of time. Each pitcher is slightly different and each pitch type causes a unique approach to spraying strikes versus wild pitches. Learning to control the corners is a must, and reading each batter stance can help get them to chase pitches as well. Then, when the pitcherís arm begins to wear out, it is imperative to get some relief pitchers warming up in the bullpen so that they donít get brought in cold.

Batting and base running was another beast in and of itself. At the plate, timing is everything. Learning to wait on a pitch is one of the biggest methods of success, but it can still be tough to determine where the ball will actually cross the plate. After reaching first, it can be a bit chaotic (but not impossible) to control multiple runners. Master this and base hits can become game winners in any inning.


Game Mechanics:
From first launch, the player is given the option to basically play as a seasoned veteran or as a rookie, in terms of what kind of gamer he/she is. This will determine the control scheme and thus how easy or hard it may be to pick up and play. It is possible to bypass some of the fine control for ease of use and vice versa. Either way, there is still much to do with timing in MLB 15: The Show.

One of the most important aspects of MLB 15: The Show is the ability to time your button presses. This is true no matter which side of the plate youíre on. Batting takes some practice because each pitcher is subtly different. It is very easy to swing early due to the translation of a 3D ball on a 2D screen, but guessing the pitch can slightly help. Throwing the ball after fielding is very much a timing issue as well. The power and accuracy of the throw will make or break a possible out or an errant throw, as well as either string together for a smooth catch and throw or end up with bad timing.

Overall, MLB 15: The Show is a pretty solid title, although I do wish there was just a bit more fluidity present in the game. At times, it felt as though there were slight hiccups in either framerate or animations that cause just enough disconnect to keep this from being a possible gem. The game modes were nice, however, so that does add quite a bit of replay value. As mentioned above, pitching ended up being my favorite aspect of the game, so that was a nice surprise considering so many baseball titles are focused on big bats.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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