The latest version of MLB 15: The Show looks better than any other entry in this sports game series and offers a wide variety of finely honed gameplay mechanics that embody the realism of baseball. New fielding animations bring exciting possibilities to the diamond, like players throwing their bodies in harm's way to knock down wild hops. The players also have more personality than they did in previous editions, and they often add a little more excitement or tension to a particular play. Anthony Rizzo takes a few extra seconds to gloat after clobbering a ball, and Yasiel Puig always seems to be fired up.
The improvements on the field unfortunately shine a brighter spotlight on the series' little visual problems. After a first baseman makes a beautiful backhanded grab and control is handed to the player to run to first, the shift in weight and momentum looks awkward, like someone hit fast-forward on a DVD player. The transitional animation from a player roaring out of the batter's box and slowing to a trot also has a little hitch in it every time.
The battle between the pitcher and batter is mostly the same this year, but players have one new option to explore when standing at the dish. Directional hitting, a batting mechanic that allows players to influence where they might drive the ball by looking for a specific pitch location, can be immensely satisfying -- when it works.
After playing MLB 15, you may start to wonder why Sony hasn't taken more chances with innovations to this series. It's still a terrific game, but if you come back to it year in and year out, this season's offering doesn't have much of a spark.