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June 2024

Super Mega Baseball 4

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Release Date: June 2, 2023


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PC Review - 'Super Mega Baseball 4'

by Cody Medellin on June 5, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Super Mega Baseball 4 delivers the biggest and best parts of baseball with the series' signature humorous style and immersive gameplay.

Despite Sony's professed appreciation of the PC as a means of giving some of its PlayStation games a second life, MLB The Show still hasn't made its way there. With the rebooted RBI Baseball series essentially retired, the only way MLB fans are going to get their fix of interactive professional baseball is via the Out of the Park strategy series. If you're open to playing without a major license and aren't interested in VR, there's the Super Mega Baseball series, which has a cartoon look but features very serious baseball mechanics in an easy-to-control package. The non-yearly series has been good enough that Electronic Arts acquired the developer Metalhead. The guess was that the developer would be tasked with working on a brand-new baseball franchise, but EA let it proceed with Super Mega Baseball 4.

If you're already familiar with the series, you'll find most of the mechanics to be the same. Pitching follows the aiming cursor mechanic of most baseball games from the early 2000s, and you use the analog stick to determine the type of pitch to throw. Batting is similar in that you have an aiming cursor, while the controller face buttons determine your swing. Fielding hasn't changed from other baseball games, as those face buttons correspond to the bases you want to throw to. Those same buttons also dictate where runners go, and the shoulder buttons handle running for all players.

For the most part, Super Mega Baseball 4 marries the technical aspects of a baseball sim with the ease of an arcade game. Transitions from moment to moment are fast, so things speed along quickly. While pitching is always manual, moving the batting cursor is automatic unless you set the difficulty high. The same goes for fielding; outfielders always run to the spot a ball will land, unless you bump up the difficulty so you control the players. A standard match is only three innings long, and extra innings add base runners to get a higher chance of scoring to end the game. It takes roughly a game to pick up on the basics.

There are some mechanical differences that flesh out the experience. Player Traits, first introduced in the third game, are expanded in variety and in how many players have something traits. You can get a batter who's perfect at hitting low balls but has bad jumping abilities or a pitcher who has a higher chance to get a strike called. Those traits now feed into a Team Chemistry system, where the individual traits contribute to the general style of the chosen team. Some players can be two-way players, and intentional walking is now a thing you can perform. These features are going to be subtle for non-baseball fans, but those more entrenched in the sport will appreciate them.

The headline feature for this iteration is the inclusion of the pros. Specifically, the game now includes roughly 200 real-life legends and recently retired players. The roster leans heavily toward the last few decades, but the selection is vast enough with some of the more well-known guys like Randy Johnson and David Ortiz mix it up with Dwight Evans, Rollie Fingers and Troy Percival. The game has no MLB license, so don't expect these players on official teams; they're now mixed up in one of eight new teams in a Legends League. As a bonus, the game also features a Creators Classic League, which has a mix of original players, legends, and online personalities like Shelfy, Joez McFly, and Jack Doyle. Regardless of whether you care for them, their presence means eight more teams to choose from, and an expanded roster of teams is always good.

When it comes to game modes, SMB4 falls in line with what's expected from other sports titles. Exhibition lets you play a local match against the CPU or another player, and you can choose any team from any league. Just like the previous games, there's a high score system that's tied to a global leaderboard. Elimination lets you do a big 16 tournament with one-loss eliminations, while Season mode is self-explanatory.

There's also a customization option for players and teams, but it has a few flaws. First, there are no changes or additions since Super Mega Baseball 3, so those expecting to expand their options will be disappointed. Second, the customization seems nested in a way that deleting a whole team deletes everything associated with it. We're really hoping for a fix to this, but you'll need to create carefully in the meantime.

On the surface, Franchise is the same as before, but there have been some tweaks to improve the experience. The free agent pool can be tweaked to have a collection of Legends and Super Mega League pros, so you aren't stuck with randomly generated characters. There's also a loyalty system to prevent players from leaving for no reason. There are tooltips to better explain some elements, so Franchise mode gets people interested in what can be a very overwhelming mode in other sports games.

The big new mode this year isn't really a mode per se but more of an option. Shuffle Draft lets you take every team from every league, completely dismantle their rosters, and reconstruct each team the way you see fit. The game still ensures that you can't just create the best team statistically, as it intelligently constructs each pool to keep some semblance of balance. The ability to use that team in most modes makes it a stellar addition that ensures it keeps things fresh until the next installment hits.

Online play is one area where things could be a little stronger. The two dedicated modes for online play are ranked. Pennant Matches have players select from the original Super Mega League teams, but the game adds an interesting twist by substituting four of your players with four pros. The choices are random, but they change every week, with the promise of the least-picked teams getting better players and vice versa. Online Leagues lets you mix up the different leagues and add your custom teams in either private or public sessions for multiple seasons. Both give you the chance to engage in cross-platform play.

Despite that advantage, SMB4 runs into the issue of taking a long time to find opponents. On average, you'll go through almost two songs on the soundtrack before an opponent pops up. Get over this hump, and you'll find the online performance to be generally fine. The only time it falters is if you hit a brief lag spike, which can result in some balls losing accuracy when thrown from the field due to the method of holding a button and releasing to determine speed and accuracy. Compared to the wait time for a match, the brief lag blips aren't common but are very noticeable when they occur.

The presentation is spruced up in some spots, with most of the additions being welcome. The soundtrack has a smattering of licensed tracks that fit in well with the general EA Sports vibe. The sounds of the stadium remain the same, which is great since that was quite good, but the stadium announcer and umpires are louder. Graphically, the game remains excellent with robust stadiums that pack in a ton of fully animated people. The exaggerated styles of the original Super Mega Baseball pros and Creators work well, and they animate nicely except for a few areas where transitions seem abrupt. Some of the players look odd with enlarged eyes and long faces.

The treatment of the Legends is hit-and-miss. Some of the Legends look very good in this style, while others are almost unrecognizable. As far as actual improvement goes, there's a better lighting system in place where helmets have a shine to them that also reveals scuffs and dings, but don't expect anything drastically different from past entries.

Valve has already marked the game as Verified on Steam Deck, and we can confirm that it works well on the device. With the default settings, the game hits a 50fps average, but the slow pace of baseball makes this good enough to fool you into thinking it's 60fps if MangoHUD weren't present. The battery life from a full charge gets you a little over two hours; the ever-changing camera angles cause that number to change. This is quite good considering the relatively short nature of each game with the default settings. The only sore spot will come from EA App integration, but compared to the publisher's previous games, this one handles it smoother. You'll get into the game first before the EA App-related stuff gets blown to full screen, forcing you to use the touch-screen to navigate and the shortcut buttons to bring up the on-screen keyboard.

With Super Mega Baseball 4, Metalhead has another solid baseball title on its hands. The existing modes get enough overall improvements to make them worthwhile, while Shuffle Draft keeps things fresh for a long time. The introduction of pros is awesome, but the game did well to not forget the originals, while the gameplay remains rock solid. Baseball fans of all types who aren't hung up on only playing with the current pros will enjoy this title.

Score: 8.0/10

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