It's hard to believe that MLB The Show is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Despite dominating every other baseball title for the majority of these years, Sony's series has never shown complacency. Instead, it's aged like a fine wine, and gotten better with each new release. When booting up MLB 15 The Show, there's nothing here that's going to blow your mind, graphically or gameplay wise – but are the under-the-hood improvements enough to keep the reigning champ at the top of the totem pole?
Whether you're throwing 98 miles-per-hour fast balls or just chilling in the outfield waiting for your opponents to hit a pop-fly, the game controls smoothly. The action's never been broken in this series – if anything, it's always been the best aspect – but it feels that little bit smoother in this edition. There are some small additions, of course, that will completely change the way that you approach certain situations. We'll get into those in a little while.
Outside of the action, the visuals are great – but not much of a jump from the last iteration on the PlayStation 4. Stadiums in particular are impressive; the amount of attention to detail makes you feel like you're actually inside said park. If you ever had the dream of visiting every MLB arena, just pick up this simulator and you'll get the same results – minus the hot dogs.
Player models for the most part look accurate as well – except for Clayton Kershaw, who for some reason looks like a Frankenstein player. Mike Trout also doesn't have a picture like virtually every other player in the game, which is an odd oversight. It wouldn't be a big deal if both of these players weren't the faces of baseball at the moment, but they are – and these admittedly small omissions contrast the attention to detail that's present in every other facet of the package.
But enough of the presentation – let's take a swing at some of the new additions. Despite being considered boring for non-fans, baseball is all about those minor battles that occur throughout a game – and MLB 15 gives you even more control in these situations. If you're a pitcher, you can now side-step, allowing you to throw the ball faster minus some accuracy in order to tag a base runner out. You can also take a pause and look over at the runner just to let him know that you're ready if he decides to take off. Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but it successfully recreates the battle that a pitcher has almost every innings with the men on base. This is a simulator after all, and recreating the feel of being out on the field is the primary goal.
On the other side of things, as a batter, you now have a directional hitting interface, which is a fancy way of saying that you can aim whichever direction you want to hit the ball. This sounds simple enough, but it's hard to master. When you are up to the plate, there are so many things that you must consider now: is there anyone on the base? Has the defense shifted to the left or right? Is the pitcher right-handed or a lefty? All of this occurs before a ball is even thrown in your direction. And as an outfielder, you can control cut-offs – this is every baseball aficionado's dream.
Elsewhere, the artificial intelligence has become smarter, and reacts appropriately to all sorts of situations. Meanwhile, there are improvements to lighting, animation, and everything just looks better. None of the tweaks will stand out immediately, but they're noticeable if you go back to the previous games. Indeed, the only thing in need of a major overhaul is the commentary. It's not the worst, but like other sports games, the announcers will eventually begin to repeat themselves over and over again.
Finally, off-the-field, there are some improvements to the gameplay modes that many will appreciate. Both the Franchise and The Road to the Show options include year-to-year saves, allowing you to bring forward your created player and franchise from the previous edition using the cloud. It's such a neat addition that it's surprising that no other sports game has introduced it before – who wants to start a new career every year, right? The game also now includes sponsorships, allowing you to make some additional in-game cash – it's just another thing to think about. And there are licensed gear brands, so you can pick your favourite real-life kit if you're into that.
Nothing about MLB 15 The Show will impress right off the bat. That's not because it isn't great, but because we've come to expect the very best from Sony's series. It's the under-the-hood gameplay improvements and additions that really make the difference, then; engaging in mental battles with base runners, pitchers, and even outfielders is a big part of the experience this time out. As a result, this is the best entry in a franchise that's showing no signs of slowing down – even after ten years of success.