Doesn’t Have Its Fastball

HIGH Great action, expanded franchise options, classic MLB players.

LOW Graphical stuttering that affects gameplay. No trades.

WTF The umpires are WAY too quirky this time around.

I am a passionate Super Mega Baseball fan.  I own a physical Handley Dexterez jersey – and I consider myself more of a supporter of the Beewolves than I am of my beloved Phillies at this point.  I’ve logged far more hours in the SMB franchise than The Show, and that’s why it pains me to say that even though it’s still an excellent baseball title, Super Mega Baseball 4 is a bit of a letdown.

It’s not to say the team at Metalhead have lost their way when it comes to recreating the action on the field.  SMB4 still plays well on the diamond with solid pitching mechanics, satisfying hitting and ball physics, and great roster management. 

The new stadiums look phenomenal, recreating the spirit of classic real-life ballparks while adding personality all their own, from the amusement park beyond the wall at Bigfly, to the classic orca statues at the Beewolves home park. 

On-the-field action has been spruced up with even more animations, including new fielding animations that add more variety to routine catches and throws, not to mention players reacting to throwing a strikeout or belting a dinger into the stands.  A personal favorite is watching angry batters shatter a bat after being frozen by a particularly nasty slider for strike three. 

Player models have been made to look a bit more realistic than last time, most likely to accommodate one of the most interesting features in SMB4 — the inclusion of about 240 former MLB ballplayers, from legends like Babe Ruth to modern stars like “Big Papi” David Ortiz.  I was a little disappointed that my personal hero Roberto Clemente was left off the list, but I can’t deny that adding these luminaries is a welcome feature, especially since fans have the ability to add these players to rosters as they see fit. 

To coincide with the new faces, 55 new traits have been added, giving members of each roster a quirk or extra ability (or defect) which affects gameplay.  For instance, Ruby Greene, the DH for the ‘Wolves now has the effect “Mind Games” which causes opposing pitchers to suffer a hit to their accuracy when facing the crafty veteran.  Of course, pitchers may counter with a composure trait that allows them stay focused and make them less likely to give up a walk, even when facing a hitter’s count.

Off the field, multiple game modes have been given facelifts.  The oft-requested Shuffle Draft has been implemented, allowing players to draft a fresh roster when starting an online league or franchise.  Leagues/Franchises can also be set up to allow legends to appear as free agents as a season progresses.  The Phillies fanboy in me giggled at the prospect of signing Mike Schmidt to the B’s to add some stroke to a roster known more for overall balance than for power hitting. 

Would-be franchise managers now also have to contend with team chemistry (affected by various traits of players) and earning bonuses for teams who build synergy in their rosters.  However, they also have to deal with wavering player loyalty, which could make re-signing Billy LeBoink tough during the offseason if I don’t cater to him a bit more during all-new decision points. Most of these wind up being a binary “pick one of two players” choice which results in a bonus for the favored and a significant drop in loyalty from the spurned, but it does add another layer of management to everything else I need to juggle as the season progresses.

Unfortunately, a number of cracks have begun showing in Super Mega Baseball 4’s core that lessen the experience. 

While the stadiums look fantastic, the actual fields seem a bit lifeless.  There are great particle effects on the dirt by home plate, but the grass textures are really flat, and especially noticeable with the gorgeous layers of polish everything else was given.  There are still no replays except for home runs, and while I liked the new animations for umpires, their voices are often grating and the dialogue is repetitive, as are the stadium announcements. 

Franchise mode still lacks the ability to trade players, relying only on sign and release, which limits a manager’s options when trying to make roster tweaks as the season wears on.  Most damning, though, are the frequent stutters that occur at random during a ballgame.  Graphical stuttering is bad enough (especially when all of my setting manipulations do nothing to limit/eradicate it) but these hiccups often occur while trying to aim a pitch (causing unintentional balls to be thrown) or while the ball is being delivered to the plate, hamstringing me as I’m batting. 

Online play has been a mixed bag as well, with the aforementioned graphical hitches coupled with some difficulty in trying to find opponents. 

Frustration and SMB have never gone hand-in-hand before, but these issues have lessened my overall enjoyment of Super Mega Baseball 4, especially when compared to the superlative third entry in the franchise. There are a lot of high points here, but I’m hoping the team tightens things up in the next iteration.   

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Metalhead Software, Inc. and published by Electronic Arts.  It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S, PS4, PS5, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 1 hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief, Mild Violence. The official description reads: This is a baseball simulation game in which players control fictional teams through various seasons. Players engage in several game modes while improving their skills (e.g., pitching, batting, fielding). If a pitcher hits a batter’s helmet, an exaggerated knock-out animation occurs (e.g., spinning and falling to the ground). Players can select sounds/effects to play when game events occur, including a “fart” noise for a batter striking out. Voiceovers sometimes reference alcohol (e.g., beer, moonshine).

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles. Gameplay elements using an audio cue also have a visual component, but there may be a slight delay, especially when the alert for a stolen base comes up, hampering a player’s ability to throw the runner out.  No voiceover is subtitled, meaning all in-game chatter, announcements, called balls and strikes, etc. is unavailable. This game is not fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. All keyboard commands are remappable, but controller inputs are not.

Jeff Ortloff
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