For more great MLB 15 The Show content, jump over to our first impression videos of Online Head-to-Head as well as our exploration into Diamond Dynasty; and make sure to see what MLB The Show has in store for the PS4 and PS3 in our official compilation review right here.
The PlayStation Vita receives its fourth edition of MLB: The Show, and this year has the opportunity to emulate the success that the franchise’s home console versions have executed year in and year out. With the last few years in mind, the PS Vita has received limitations in order to compensate for the hardware’s shortcomings. What does San Diego Studios have in store this year?
Right off the bat, the one discrepancy here is that the game itself is entirely digital, meaning that buying the game from any retail outlet will simply provide a code to download the game. With MLB 15 weighing in at a little over three gigabytes, either PS Vita owners will need bigger memory cards or need to delete a bunch of content in order to accommodate. The size of the game itself also requires some downtime between buying the game and being able to actually play it. The significant trade off to this is that, no matter if the game is purchased physically or digitally, this portable version only costs $20 as opposed to the $40 price tag at launch for last year’s PS Vita release.
“Gutted” is not the right word to describe the amount of available modes, because most of the expected and enjoyable modes are still present: Franchise, Postseason, Home Run Derby, Road to the Show, and The Show Live (where games can be played based on the legitimate Major League Baseball schedule for any particular day) are all available at the menu. Legitimately, the only online-related game mode available is Home Run Derby, which has the same pitch thrown to each contender, showcasing the pathways that each player’s hit takes in real time. Online Franchise is nonexistent, and the new-and-improved Diamond Dynasty is nowhere to be seen either; transferring Road to the Show players between consoles is still available through the cloud service provided with the games.
Graphically, this year’s release is mostly improved. All around, edges and finer details aren’t nearly as rigid or pixelated anymore, delivering a much more authentic appearance to America’s Pastime. Lighting itself is toned out a bit, but the overall result is much improved from last year. There are only two visual discrepancies that stand out here. Firstly, the crowd itself, especially when zoomed out, tends to pixelate terribly and distill where the ball is located while in midair; happily, the ball is usually highlighted with a yellow streak when it’s airborne. The other issue is in how players are shaded. Textures tend to meld into one another, resulting in an overall look that does enough to emphasize lighting, but the aesthetic comes across as smudged; this is escalated further when players are in the shade.
On a more positive note, all batting, pitching, and fielding control schemes are all showcased and fully functional here, allowing players the opportunity to pick from their favorite play styles; which is customary to the franchise as a whole.
New players will be welcomed with a development-centric style of gameplay when it comes to pitching. From the start, each pitching style will have a toned down execution that increases alongside player success. For instance, Pulse Pitching will begin with a smaller pulsing circle for placing pitches, and further success will increase the challenge in real time, allowing for a very natural means of development. My preferred pitching method has always been Pure Analog, but this year’s new layout averages them all out to make each and every one more relevant to even the most specific of playing styles; the PS Vita joysticks still make Pure Analog much harder to execute accurately than on other PlayStation hardware.
Probably the greatest addition to MLB 15 is the sheer level of additional animations in all three games, and what’s equally impressive is that those same animations are uniformly showcased on all three devices. Fielders are no longer stiff and limited, authenticating the experience closer to a broadcast-level performance. Players have picked up a ground ball with their throwing hand and in one motion thrown the ball to get an out across the diamond. Other times, Shortstops and Second Fielders have snagged balls out of the air and then flipped the ball out of their glove to a baseman just a few feet away. Examples are rampant throughout.
MLB 14: The Show was a solid title with a few glaring negatives keeping it from being a sure-fire purchase, held back by frame rate issues, janky visuals, and limited in-game modes. MLB 15: The Show takes a more compensative approach in its portable form this time around, justifying a lack of online modes and a physical format with a very appealing price point; and the overall improvements almost dwarf the shortcomings that still linger. Nonetheless, the price point is perfect for an invaluable portable experience that features the best baseball gameplay on the market.