Also On: PS3, PS Vita
Developer: SCE San Diego Studio
In general, I’ve judged entries in the MLB: The Show series for how well they work as single-player, offline games. For the most part, this has served me pretty well. It’s allowed me to turn my beloved Blue Jays into perennial World Series champions in numerous Franchise modes, and I’ve sunk hundreds and hundreds of hours into creating the best baseball player of all time in Road To The Show. Save for the odd detour into online home run derbies, I’ve been perfectly happy playing the game all by myself.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t looking for a robust online experience, because if I was, what’s offered in MLB 15: The Show is so thoroughly terrible I’d probably end up turned off baseball games for good.
I know this has been the constant criticism against every game in the series so far, but it’s remarkable how little has changed in this, the tenth edition of The Show. Calling the game’s online play “abysmal” might be too charitable, since that might possibly imply that it kind of works. The fact is, online games in MLB 15 are thoroughly unplayable. Lag is a constant fact of life, which means that nothing works the way it should. Solid ground ball singles into the outfield suddenly find new life as fly balls. Soft infield pop-ups have a crazy tendency of turning into screaming line drive homers. A player with a bit of a lead off of first base will suddenly be sliding into second with a steal. Basically, ignore however a play looks at first, because odds are good it’s going to change a moment later.
MLB 15’s online is so bad it even fails at the basics of pitching and catching. It got so bad that I simply started throwing meatballs down the middle, since the game would invariably take them and turn them into something entirely different. A slider up and in? A beautiful 12-6 curve? A splitter in the dirt? Only The Show’s servers know for sure, because I definitely didn’t. And on the flip side, hitting turned into an unpredictable adventure on every pitch. Sometimes you’d swing at a fastball that looked like it was right in your wheelhouse, only for the game to hiccup and decide the pitch was actually in the dirt in the batter’s box on the other side of the plate. Again, here I just gave up and ended up swinging at everything, confident that as long as I took enough swings, odds would be good that I’d be rewarded with the occasional hit.
Of course, this parade of errors and glitches was only possible when I was actually able to connect…and the number of times I was able to find, connect with and finish a game against an opponent was embarrassingly low. It’s probably worth noting that I had a slightly easier time of connecting with opponents on the PS3 version — though considering this meant entering the hellscape that is MLB 15 online, that’s hardly a silver lining. (In a weird way, I guess, this arguably makes the Vita version of the game the best one — it may not have online play outside of the home run derby, but that means it’s also free of the glitches described above.)
Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine many people are buying The Show for online play. Not when they have…uh…RBI Baseball to play instead? Okay, not a great example. Nonetheless, I imagine most people picking up MLB 15 are doing so for similar reasons to why I’ve always played it: because they want that definitive single-player experience.
Funny thing, though: some of those same glitches that killed the online game seeped into offline play as well. I mean, it wasn’t super common, and I’m willing chalk a lot of it up to my own ineptitude…but at the same time, I don’t think me sucking at analog pitching or hitting can be blamed for balls suddenly warping from one spot to another, or for hitters developing hitches in their swings that make them go from starting their swing to ending it instantaneously, with no in between motion to speak of. As I said, it didn’t happen all the time, but it did happen enough for me to be a little concerned.
For the most part, though, the offline MLB 15 experience was pretty solid. There aren’t any huge innovations, but the few that are here — particularly the “Find a Trade” option in Franchise mode — clearly add to the game as a whole. Franchise mode is still comprehensive (if not as comprehensive as OOTP 16). Diamond Dynasty does a great job of forcing you to slowly upgrade your team, and if you’re the type who likes to pay to win, it allows you to do that too. And, of course, Road To The Show is as outstanding as ever; I don’t know if I have it in me to take another player from Double-A rookie to 15-year veteran, but it’s still nice knowing I could if I wanted to.
The only real complaint I have about the single-player experience — apart from those random glitches — is how stale the announcing sounds. Maybe it’s only the sort of thing you notice if you’ve spent roughly 500-600 hours playing through RTTS in MLB 10 on PSP, but if it weren’t for the fact Matt Vasgersian and Steve Lyons occasionally mention new players, I could’ve sworn the dialogue today is pretty much exactly the same as it was half a decade ago. Of course, considering that the game’s online feels like it’s being played on a connection from even further back in time, I guess stale announcers are the least of SCE San Diego’s problems.
Because there’s such a massive disconnect in quality between the online and offline versions of MLB 15: The Show, I’m really not sure how I feel about it. The former is absolutely awful, so bad that if I weren’t a massive baseball fan already it would make me question how anyone could possibly like the sport. It’s the sort of fundamentally broken gameplay that make people gnash their teeth over the Master Chief Collection…only in The Show’s case, it’s worse, since it’s never worked, no matter how many times fixes have been promised and allegedly implemented.
Then again, because it’s been so bad for so long, it feels like it’s not even something worth expecting at this point — that if they somehow ever get it right, it’ll be cause for celebration, but until they prove that it’s possible you should go in with zero expectations (and even then, prepare for your hopes to be dashed). That’s probably putting things a little too charitably, of course; seeing as it’s a prominently-displayed feature, it seems like it should work, you know? Luckily, MLB 15 has more than enough single-player content to tide you over until it works — which is kind of impressive, since you might just be waiting forever.