EA SportsSuper Mega Baseball 4 from developer Metalhead Software enters the busy baseball video game market with its own fresh simulation-arcade take on the sport.
It marks the return of a franchise that last released a game in 2020 and will attempt to keep the strong tradition going—the first game back in 2014 debuted with a strong critical reception and that has been a theme since.
While attempting to do so, Super Mega Baseball 4 follows the path forged by annual sports titles and makes sweeping gameplay and presentation improvements, plus upgrades fan-favorite modes such as franchise.
With Super Mega Baseball 4, the series continues to be one of the snappier, enjoyable-feeling baseball games available.
The controls, whether in the batter’s box or on the mound especially, remain fluid and accessible to all ages. Making good contact still requires proper timing, while pitching is a matter of reticle placement and a combination of stick and button controls. Like in the last game, there’s a fun mini-game of sorts based around timing when it comes to base-stealing, too.
It feels great while fitting the theme, both not taking itself too seriously but also offering some rather surprising depth as far as strategy and execution. Like the control scheme itself, there’s an underlying for-any-age feel to the game.
This vibe extends throughout the experience. It might look like an NFL Blitz-styled offering, but hits seem to come off the bat rather realistically and fielders are only as good as their ratings.
Notably, on-screen characters feel smaller, which is an effort to make the fields feel bigger. It just works, too—there was a certain cramped feeling to the gameplay in past games that is no longer present.
Perhaps more important than feel, considering the series already had that nailed down, is necessary evolutions to the gameplay. Automatic walks are now a thing, as are two-way players and even expanded bullpens.
One of the newest gameplay features is the new fielder input, which replaces the sluggish one from past games. While nothing dramatic, it simply brings it more in line with other baseball games, helping it feel familiar.
Graphics and Presentation
Super Mega Baseball 4 is simply hilarious.
The characters are a cartoonish, exaggerated and big-headed versions of the real players. The models perfectly fit the fun blend of sim-style gameplay with arcade-heavy presentation.
These players are super animated, with a ton of exaggerated taunts and outright anger if hit by a pitch. Who needs sportsmanship? A strikeout might lead to a batter breaking the bat over his or her knee. They’re bombastic and seemingly defy the rules of physics at times, making the super-colorful, funny package—one guy’s name is Hammer Longballo—a must-see feat.
Which is funny, because some of the sim-like realistic efforts and systems make it all the better. There are droves of new cutscenes for things like the intro to games and in-game events. Lots of new camera angles at every level of the game, including pitching and batting angles, vary up the modernized feel. And obviously-new lighting effects mean realistic shadows and times of day.
Like in the past, stadiums look awesome for what they are, with the animated crowds emoting and adding to the immersion and things in the background off in the distance—like a gigantic looping rollercoaster—really adding to the experience.
Some of those mentioned new angles really help the gameplay, too. A new fielding angle better helps players judge whether they need to jump while trying to field a ball, for example.
To top it off, a new soundtrack includes licensed music and there are lots of noticeable new audio effects from commentators, as well as varied crowd noises and overall stadium ambiance.
And while this isn’t MLB The Show by any means in terms of data, graphs and more, the game offers a healthy bit of information on screen at all times while not suffocating the experience.
Franchise and More
There’s new depth to the franchise mode in Super Mega Baseball 4 that progresses things so much it could make fans of other sports games envious.
For example, there is now a loyalty meter that is influenced by decisions players will make in the manager’s seat. Those choices will boost or harm this meter, impacting what characters want to do in free agency and dictating what sort of new contracts they might take—and many of the decisions in front of players hilariously fit the game’s funny vibe.
There are worthwhile upgrades to traits and chemistry, too.
Those two are intertwined smartly, with the overall team chemistry system impacting the individual effectiveness of player traits. Rostering three of the 22 players with the same chemistry will provide boosts to specific traits for players, while seven or more gives a bigger boost.
While there aren’t endless traits and chemistry options, it adds a serious amount of depth and flexibility to the experience that makes for varied replayability that is pretty surprising for a game so wrapped up in the arcade feel otherwise.
Case in point, how and when to upgrade players is a nice strategic risk-reward. Players can upgrade characters right away for immediate gains, but saving up those points can lead to much bigger gains later. It feels like characters noticeably develop over the course of a season as a result.
There are different types of franchise leagues too, such as the Creators Classic, which lets players actually assume the digital roles of some of their favorite content creators out there.
One of the game’s bigger talking points is Shuffle Draft, which lets players pick from both legends and the Super Mega All-Stars.
Said legends include cover star David Ortiz, Hank Aaron and roughly 200 total names players will likely recognize intermixed with the fictional characters from the series.
What’s very nice about Shuffle Draft and should have other sports games paying attention is that it’s an independent mode where players draft their teams, then take those teams to franchise or another game mode.
Super Mega Baseball 4 is the king of customization is sports games again. Pretty much anything a player can think of is customizable, which really lets the individuality of a team shine.
Player agency over teams extends to free agency, where they can now customize pools of available players in detailed ways, too.
Besides those big two game modes, the game offers a robust number of things to do.
The Pennant Race pits players against random online opponents. They’re placed in divisions of up to 15 players based on skill levels before game outcomes determine division winners.
There is a normal season mode without the management side featured in franchise mode and an Elimination mode, which is a tournament of up to four players, with computer-controlled teams filling in the non-player spots. Don’t forget a normal exhibition mode.
The online league has enough functionality to serve as casual or super-competitive leagues. Things like shuffle draft, season length, inning length of games, designated hitters and even mouse-and-keyboards only on PC represent some of the large list of tweakable options.
On the technical side, Super Mega Baseball 4 runs well, as expected, and cross-play to next-generation systems makes its debut. It comes with a nice suite of options, including selecting difficulty (funnily called Ego) and being able to individually tweak the difficulty of certain things like pitching.
Super Mega Baseball 4 is a brilliant package. It woos in players of all ages with the presentation and hilarity before sneakily hitting them with depth other sports titles don’t manage to get right.
It’s a sheer joy to pick up and play a basic-but-solid gameplay experience. But it’s arguably even more enjoyable to create diverse, fully-customizable teams into a variety of game modes.
That includes a stellar franchise mode that asks players to round out rosters smartly, then retain them over multiple years. Tack on in-depth adjustable difficulty and it’s quietly a very robust offering.
While Super Mega Baseball 4 isn’t going to command the level of attention other bigger sports titles get, there’s arguably more fun to be had here that lasts well beyond the annual release cycle of most sports games.
Source : Bleacher Report