MLB 15: The Show Review
Being critical of The Show is to be critical about baseball. The Show is that absorbed in the sport. Class, sophistication, obsession. The Show breeds them all. It's a Dodger dog on a Saturday afternoon and the seemingly pre-written drama of fall.
But it's not written, it's random. That's what The Show does best. What was grown from Sony's wearily aged grandfather MLB Pennant Race two decades ago has become enthusiastically human. It is eerie.
Sports are, centrally, a trial of human errors and how professionals react to them. They're a series of accidental occurrences, not controlled. Most simulations never break from their inscribed digital code. The Show always does. Never is it predictable, nor does it allow for predictability.
The game has intricate little touches – a ball hopping from the infield to the outfield, reacting differently to dirt than grass, as the infielder is caught in a trap of physics. An umpire who takes one in the mask after an inadvertent swing. The bobbled throw to first in what should be a routine play. Fans reaching for a foul, robbing the third baseman of easy out. Errors, mistakes, and unforeseen obstacles overcome – that's what makes baseball. It's what The Show has been building to. Now it's here.
We're talkin' Homer, Ozzie, and the Straw
The Show is still imperfect. There are hang-ups: statistical quirks, incorrect commentator quotes. Modes are not particularly exhilarating either, at least in how little they have been stretched from MLB 14. Diamond Dynasty, an extra fantasy diversion with virtual packs of baseball cards building a personalized roster, is designed for superficial retention – and post-purchase, real money transactions.
Maybe that's what The Show needs next year, a strip of pink gum with some loose powdered sugar included inside the package.
But, packs are baseball too: tearing open shimmering foil and, as used to be, chewing questionable (usually stale) pieces of barely edible rubber touted as gum. Maybe that's what The Show needs next year, a strip of pink gum with some loose powdered sugar included inside the package. That or a Dodger dog, but freshness may be a concern.
Because see, all of this is needed to match the obsession. The sport has a perfectionist aura. The Show is confident in its representation. Show-Motion, the spiffy, charmingly punny name for replays at a crawling speed, captures the essence of the sport. That sharp bat-on-ball contact, the natural extension of a pitcher, the sightly desperation of a catcher nabbing a runner charging home.
San Diego Studio has now moved their focus toward replicating hair and beards rather than brushing up fundamentals.
Additional function is always seeping in, faulty or otherwise. A decades worth of errant missteps still sit in the options menu for accessibility. Throes of discarded pitching, batting, and throwing systems are still part of the engine, even if San Diego Studio mastered the use of meters ages ago. There is no more satisfying ping in video game sports simulations than a successful strike on the corner in The Show. The skill required for faultless, two-tap metered pitching ensures such.
MLB: The Show (of age)
Some of it is old, yes. In terms of technological progress, some of these functions should be using a walker. Design momentum has stalled even in the transition to new hardware. San Diego Studio has now moved their focus toward replicating hair and beards rather than brushing up fundamentals. Their challenge is fixing what they made right in the first place.
There are things to do. Randomly stiff animation crumples the broadcast illusion and Matt Vasgersian – masterful an actor as he is in the digital commentating booth – needs a total reset. Some of his lines likely date back to 2005. His new work is entirely situational or specialized to side features like Diamond Dynasty. There are spotty glitches (visual or otherwise) and online continues to produce instances of unsustainable lag or drop outs. However, those are not baseball's heart.
Build a character, gain levels, grow stats. If only testosterone-heavy sports junkies knew how close to hallowed geekdom they were.
To understand it all is to take part in Road to the Show. There, an upstart rookie, maybe a representation of yourself, works from the humblest of beginnings, pushes from AA to AAA, and then into the majors - hopefully.
Road to the Show is not new; it is part of sports gaming's continued reaching into the formalities of RPGs. Build a character, gain levels, grow stats. If only testosterone-heavy sports junkies knew how close to hallowed geekdom they were. And, if only those amidst hallowed geekdom knew how sports games were reaching out to them.
Road to the Show is personal. It breaks baseball down into situations. A 3-2 pitch is not the team's problems, it's yours. A chorus of fans bellow chants of “Overrated!” They flaunt your mistakes.
Maybe the home crowd is on your side. Bottom of the 9th. They're standing. It's a true baseball moment. Then you chip a soft blooper to first for a double play and the game is over. Because reality isn't predictable. It's not Hollywood. Neither is baseball nor is The Show, and that's wonderful.