MLB 14: The Show Review (PlayStation 4)
For years now, Sony San Diego has been putting out not just one of the best baseball video games, but one of the best sports video games available. This year, the acclaimed MLB: The Show franchise arrived on Sony's PlayStation 4, and we all hoped the transition would be smoother than it was when the series transitioned to the PlayStation 3. The good news is, MLB 14: The Show translates wonderfully on the PlayStation 4, but outside of improved presentation, there isn't much new to be excited about.
First things first, The Show on PS4 is stunningly beautiful. There's always been a lot of eye candy in this game, and adding in the processing power and capabilities of the PlayStation 4 has only amplified the presentation. Different textures on jerseys are now visible, and the way uniforms move is much more realistic. Save for the catcher's equipment, which hovers over the body and casts odd shadows. Still, the small details like leather on gloves and the way stadium lighting reflects off helmets (and everything else) adds even more immersion to a look that was already bordering on uncannily real. Even the stadiums are now filled with more types of fans, offering more detail where once only a small bit of generic stand-ins stood.
Oddly enough, while there has been a great deal of attention paid to how MLB 14: The Show looks, a lot of the improvements are just cosmetic. Though there are some new animations to be seen, much of the game relies on the same animations we've been seeing for the past few years. This is double true if you happened to pick up The Show on PS3 while you waited for the PS4 version to arrive. With cross-platform saves possible between all of Sony's gaming platforms, you no longer had to wait for the "better" version to arrive to start playing. It's a nice feature, but one we are more interested in testing out next year with the added ability to keep your saves for MLB 15. That said, it's always nice to be able to save your game to the cloud and play elsewhere or on the go without missing a beat in your Road to the Show or Franchise.
At its core, much of MLB 14: The Show remains as it has in past iterations. There's been little to improve upon in the way of gameplay, though there have been some tweaks here and there that longtime players may notice. The Dynamic difficulty options are much appreciated, and offer players of all skill levels in different aspects of the game a way to play without ever feeling overwhelmed or too powerful. The biggest change to the standard game comes in the form of two new fast-play options: Quick Counts and Player Lock.
Quick Counts shortens game time from around an hour to anywhere from 20-30 minutes. No more will the excuse of baseball games taking too long to play be an issue with Quick Counts turned on. Each batter will come to the plate with a predetermined count, and you'll have to make do with what you're given. Some players will be better at drawing more favorable counts, while others will be in the hole right off the bat. Pitch counts are much more realistic for the computer with Quick Counts on, though there's the added pressure of performing with less pitches to work with, too. It's a nice option for those who want to use it, but often you might find yourself swinging too freely as you'll be facing down two strike counts without having had a chance to gauge a pitcher's repertoire properly. Also, with Quick Counts, it's much tougher to work in base stealing, as you have less pitches to work with to learn when to get a good jump.
Player Lock works just like Road to the Show in that you'll be restricted to playing as one single athlete during a game. This drops the game length down tremendously as you'll only be required to perform when balls are hit your way or when you're at bat/on base. It's a little odd to use Player Lock in a franchise or season, as in that case you want to have total control of the team, but have no real say in how anyone else is performing. For people who only want to hit dingers as Mike Stanton or make flashy plays as Yasiel Puig, it's a fun way to do so in the short term. Over the course of 162 games though, it might lose its luster if you're team is falling out of the playoff race.
Road to the Show returns again as well, and there's little different about this mode once again. RTTS is still quite enjoyable to play, and finally, we won't have to worry about starting our careers over again every year with the new cross-season saves in place. As mentioned earlier, it remains to be seen how that all works, but at least now we can continue our illustrious MLB careers without having to go back to the minors by default. It's always been fun to play RTTS, but this new wrinkle adds even more depth and we're likely to stay committed to our player knowing he won't be erased when MLB 15 arrives.
Unfortunately, for all the things MLB 14: The Show does right, we're still stuck waiting for any sort of consistency when it comes to online play. Provided you can get into a game in either single game or online franchise play, the experience is stilted and just as bad has it has been for the past seven years. That every other major sport can be enjoyed online with little to no issue and Sony San Diego still hasn't gotten baseball right is terrible. So much about community play is geared towards the online experience that it's pretty unforgivable at this point in The Show's lifespan that it just can't be played online with any kind of enjoyment. Sure, you can try to play, but the amount of fun you'll have is directly proportional to the amount of lag you have. Seven years. Think about that.
MLB 14: The Show is still a wonderful game in spite of its online issues, and Sony San Diego has once again delivered the quality simulation expected of the series. The new presentation touches are terrific, and combined with the strong core gameplay, The Show on PS4 is the definitive version of the game. The wait was worth it for those of you that held out, and making the leap is more than recommended to anyone that picked up the PS3 version first.
This review was completed with a purchased retail copy of MLB 14: The Show for PlayStation 4.