Arcade sports games, once the cornerstone of any good console catalogue, have generally become unfashionable and outdated. Unless you count fantasy sports like Rocket League, the era of NFL Blitz and NBA Street is sadly long behind us. Super Mega Baseball, now in its fourth instalment and officially under the umbrella of EA Sports, is at least flying the flag for the underrepresented genre – and while this entry is generally quite similar to its predecessor, it’s still an entertaining alternative to Sony’s more straight-faced MLB The Show 23.
The big addition this time is the addition of legendary players from MLB’s storied history, like icon Babe Ruth and Hall of Famer David Ortiz. These stars pad out an entire new league of pre-created teams, but are also sprinkled into the online Pennant Race on rotation, keeping rosters fresh across the various in-game seasons. As with past instalments, this flagship multiplayer mode sees you working your way up the competitive ladder by taking on opponents from all over the world, and with crossplay enabled this time, it’s fairly easy to find a rival.
While the online suite is strong – including Online Leagues, casual Exhibition matches, and more – there’s also a fairly robust Franchise feature to keep offline players occupied. This is, considering the arcade nature of the series, a lot deeper than you may expect, with Team Chemistry elements incorporated to add strategy and depth to the roster building experience. Unfortunately, we found the user interface across the board to be untidy at best and overwhelming at worst, and this didn’t exactly encourage us to interact with some of the mode’s deeper features.
Fortunately, when you’re out on the field, the game’s pure fast-paced baseball. The ingenious Ego system from past releases returns, allowing you to tune the difficulty exactly to your tastes, irrespective of whether your strengths lie in pitching, hitting, or fielding. The engine has been given an upgrade, and this allows for some more dramatic weather lighting, while players are much more animated than ever before. There’s a lot of personality to the presentation, as you overhear food vendors calling out the cost of their snacks from the stands while you wait for your next pitch.
And all of the customisation, the staple of the series, returns in the background – allowing you to build your own team, right down to the minutiae like uniforms and logos. While there’s no shortage of pre-created content, Super Mega Baseball 4 will reward those willing to invest the time to personalise it exactly how they want it. It’s that, paired with its very entertaining arcade gameplay loop, that ensures this fourth instalment doesn’t drop the ball – even if it never quite feels like the seismic upgrade we’d expected when developer Metalhead Software was acquired.