Only one baseball series captures the essence of the sport, Sony's MLB: The Show. This franchise dominates the virtual diamond with stellar gameplay options and a variety of modes, and this year is no exception with MLB 15: The Show, which arrives on PlayStation 4 as well as PlayStation 3 and PS Vita next week.
Obviously, the PlayStation 4 version will be the biggest draw, since the team at Sony San Diego took advantage of the system’s power . Like last year's game, a mixture of realistic visuals, play-by-play settings and online features are sure to bring players back in droves in time for opening day.
Customization will play a deeper role in MLB 15. Yes, you'll be able to guide a new player through the Road To the Show mode, taking him from small-town leagues to big-time Major League Baseball action within a matter of hours. However, Sony took a cue from the Madden games, adding cards that players can use to customize their players with specific gear and attributes, increasing performance on the mound, in the batter's box or in the outfield.
The gear varies, ranging from licensed attire from Nike and Louisville Slugger to official batting gloves, hats and cleats, to little trinkets that mean something to individual players and teams. Rico Carty's ritualistic candles, for instance, help provide a player with clarity before he hits the field, allowing him to make catches or improve contact with the ball. We’ve yet to see if this affects all players, but this level of customization opens up possibilities for created superstars.
In addition, gamers will unlock new cards depending how well their players do in MLB 15's modes. Not only is Road To the Show a continued staple in the series, but there's also Diamond Dynasty, where you attempt to create a legacy with your chosen team. The original Franchise mode returns, helping you manage a team behind-the-scenes as it earns wins and eventually become a World Series contender. The collectible cards will make a difference as you progress throughout each season, and hopefully to the playoffs.
In addition to the cards, players also have attitude, for better or worse depending on how they play. For instance, a pitcher may get rattled if he allows a big home run, or worse yet, loads the bases. Likewise, a batter gains confidence once he sends one over the fence, and the next time he's at bat, he’ll become more formidable.
In regard to gameplay, tweaks were made, but most of the systems remain intact. Throwing to bases, for instance, feels more realistic because you won’t make as many miracle catches trying to tag a runner. If he’s out of your reach, the opposing player will simply go for it.
With hitting, players have a better opportunity to direct their hits, depending on contact with the ball. You can still use the analog stick for accuracy, or the old push-button method if you prefer old-school play. This new system also lets you hit to a weaker areas of the field, should your player on base try to reach third, or better yet, home plate.
Meanwhile, a new pitch placement system allows for increased accuracy when it comes to speed and breaking point, giving players more control directing a pitch. They still follow a certain trajectory zone in order to execute said pitch, but once they master the system, you'll see pitchers throwing strikes and outs better than ever. That is, if the batter doesn't have a given pitcher’s number.
Between a new card system, emotions and improvements to all the major game mechanics, MLB 15: The Show should feel like an all-new champ on the mound. We'll find out when the game arrives on March 31. On top of that, we’ll offer tips on pitching, hitting and more to help you become the best baseball player.