2014 marked the first year Sony released its hugely popular MLB The Show title on Next Gen. Due to exclusivity rights and a partnership with MLB and MLBPA, we really have nothing to compare The Show to as it is the lone wolf when it comes to baseball games. Sure, a few new baseball games have popped up across the landscape (Super Mega Baseball, RBI Baseball 14), but they are much different games and with no MLB license, they are geared more towards an Arcade-like experience.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_slide
MLB 15 The Show proves that yes, baseball is indeed better with stunning graphics and a litany of features.

The Show on PS4 last year came with some hiccups including a delayed release well into the MLB season. Can Sony San Diego improve upon the known issues and polish an otherwise excellent game? At the time of this article, the San Diego studio has had 2 Livestream’s MLB 15 The Show Developer Livestream and MLB 15 The Show Livestream: Franchise, MLB Radio show and more! detailing some of the new features and improvements that await us in this years title. In this Early Preview of MLB 15 The Show we will take a look back at some of the struggles MLB 14 had and also look forward to this years title, which will be released in the U.S. on  March 31st.

History

This year will be the 10th release of Sony’s hugely popular MLB The Show title. It will be the second year for
the game on the Playstation 4 console. The Show, in the past, has always made an emphasis on Graphics, presentation and innovation and 2015 should prove to be no different. It was the first game of its kind to take presentation to another level and mimic a lot of things, often seen at a real baseball game. From fan signs to food vendors in the stands to funny player and umpire animations and interactions when the game is idle.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_baserun
The Show has been one of the most authentic sports gaming experiences on a console.

The Show has always delivered one of the most authentic experiences in sports gaming. It was also the first sports game to introduce an RPG style game mode with Road to the Show or RTTS in 2007. The idea is to create a player, get drafted by a MLB team and work your way through the ranks of the Minor Leagues, eventually becoming a MLB legend. Games like the NBA 2k series have since taken that concept to a whole other level but I think MLB The Show was the first game of its kind to feature that concept. 2012 marked the first year The Show featured a new game mode called “Diamond Dynasty” which is a card collecting fantasy game much like the widely popular “Ultimate Team” game modes in some of EA’s annual sports titles.

Cross platform play, pulse pitching, “Postseason Mode”, Quick Counts and Player lock were introduced in recent years and have kept the series fresh and relevant. The sheer amount of settings and sliders is best in its class and ensures players of all styles and preferences to be able to enjoy the game.

New Features

With this being the second installment of MLB 15 The Show on Next Gen, the development team focused more on polishing the game up rather than implementing monumental changes. From the footage shown so far, the game looks cleaner, smoother and the crowds are absolutely stunning.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_lighting
The level of polish in this years game definitely shows.

One of the new additions this year is being able to set a specific time of a game and the lighting will reflect the time of year as well as the time of day. For example, if you are playing a 7pm game in July, the sun will set much later than it would playing a 7pm game in April. Some footage shows sun beams hitting the back of a pitchers jersey one inning as the sun is setting, and in the next inning the pitcher being in complete shade. It really adds some realism and is surely a nice touch. The Dev team also talked about theoretically being able to see the sun rise again if playing an extremely long game through the night.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_equipdefault
Several brands of authentic equipment have been added to the game.

Another new feature for this year is the implementation of authentic equipment. This adds another layer of authenticity and in-game makes it look even more like a real TV Broadcast.

You will be able to equip your players throughout the game with gear from the following manufacturers:

Franklin®
Louisville Slugger®
Nike®
Under Armour®
Wilson®
Rawlings®
Sam Bat®
Mizuno®
Marucci®

30 Legends will be available throughout the game this year

MLB 15 The Show will also feature “Legends” for the very first time. A partnership with the MLB Alumni Association made this possible. One player from each of the 30 MLB teams will be represented and you are able to use them within Franchise Mode and Diamond Dynasty. This is definitely a welcome addition and given Baseballs rich history, it is something that can be improved upon in coming years as there are definitely some big names that were left out this year. I am not exactly sure how Yogi Berra beat out The Bambino on this list but it could definitely have to do with licensing. A list of the 30 legends that did make the cut can be found here.

A radio show has also been added to this years game. It is a daily recap show that will play in Franchise and Road to the show modes detailing the events from the prior day. It will include scores and stats, player milestones, news tidbits and trades that happened, all relevant to the league. It is still unclear if the often times stale and regurgitated in-game broadcast commentary has improved but a radio show while browsing your franchise’s menus is a nice touch.

Another feature new in MLB 15 The Show, is year to year saves. This allows you to pick up where you left off in last years game. It will be available for several game modes including Road to the Show and franchise. This is a great addition and something other games should take note from. There is nothing more frustrating than spending hundreds of hours on your created player, building him up, just to start all over again the following year. This gives people the chance to really build a legacy over multiple years and also being able to take advantage of the latest features available in The Show. For example, if you created a RTTS character last year and want to continue his career in this years game, you will be able to equip him with all the authentic gear available.

Improvements

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_comparison1
Showing off the lighting upgrades in this years game.

It is still unclear if online play and online franchise play has improved this year as Sony has been very vague in touching on the subject. The Live Streams that have been broadcast at the time of this article have been in a very controlled environment and although much of the community has asked these questions, it seems as if Sony has only hand picked the questions they felt comfortable answering.

Nick Livingston did touch on online game play at the 49:40 mark in the 2nd Livestream and assured that the team is working hard on improving it, but did not seem thrilled about having to answer that specific question.

“Improving online has been a priority for us the entire development cycle. Ultimately you need to play it to see the improvements and we will be working until code lock at improving the experience.”

Graphically the game has improved and much of that is due to the lighting system, new weather and time of day effects and authentic equipment additions.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_comparison2
The improved lighting and textures really shine up close on the player models.

The game really didn’t need much in that arena as it was already an extremely pleasing game aesthetically.
Menu load times and sim speeds have improved by up to 33% and that is a very good thing considering the amount of time that is spent in menus.

Diamond Dynasty has also been completely revamped this year to the point where I could’ve listed it under the “New Features” paragraph. It was definitely the one game mode that needed the most work to keep it going and this year will be a test to see if the added resources paid off for Sony. A universal rewards system has been implemented giving players the opportunity to earn players and rewards for Diamond Dynasty while playing ANY game mode.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_diamond_dynasty
Diamond Dynasty has also been completely revamped this year.

Legend cards can be used on your Diamond Dynasty squad and you are also able to combine unwanted cards and feed them to a player you would like to upgrade. For example, if you have a player that lacks power, you could feed him a bunch of power hitters to improve that attribute. A full overview of Diamond Dynasty features can be found here.

Final Thoughts

First off, from everything I have seen, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. You can really get fooled into thinking you are watching a real MLB broadcast by glancing over at the screen. Lighting and shading has improved, players faces and beards look better, crowds look as good as ever and menus look to be simplified. The fact that Sony has been hesitant to touch on improvements in online play scares me a bit, but if they do come around to fixing last years problems, I can see this being the best baseball game we have ever seen. I would like to see Sony take the RTTS game mode to the next level by implementing more social and lifestyle aspects to it much like NBA 2K has done with their MyPlayer mode.

MLB_15_The_Show_Preview_lighting_home_run
Sony San Diego seems to have knocked it out the park so far with MLB 15 The Show.

Overall, MLB 15 The Show looks to kick off the Sports gaming year with a bang, and from everything we have seen so far it has “Game of the year” potential once again. I cannot wait to hit the digital mound and play some hardball this spring. What are you guys’ thoughts on the game so far? Questions? Concerns? Join the community, comment below and stay tuned to #SGO for all the latest MLB 15 The Show news.