Platform(s): PS Vita, PS3, PS4
I’m a HUGE baseball-video-game fan. Since the oft-wonky MLB2K series was officially axed by developer, 2K, I was sort of left up shit creek without a paddle, a wandering baseball fan in search of anything that would allow me to play my favorite pastime from the comfort of my couch. The Playstation, which has been home to the stellar ‘Show franchise since 2006 seemed my only option. In recent years, The Show boasted almost photorealistic graphics, amazing baseball gameplay mechanics, and a highly enjoyable TV-esque presentation; the sum of which made The Show the go-to game for baseball gamers the world-round. Since The Show has always been a Playstation exclusive, Xbox, Wii, and PC gamers have always been left with the good (but not great) MLB2K series, which while it tried…never quite reached the lofty heights of the The Show. So there it is: my necessity to play the latest and greatest that The Show had to offer ended up with me holding a brand new copy, once again ready to don the orange and black and take on the mighty MLB. Batter up!
The one thing MLB: The Show 14 gets amazingly correct, right out of the gate, is its simple and easy to navigate menu system. Chock-full of game modes, player options and sliders, multiplayer choices, and the fabled “Road To The Show” mode, The Show brings you right in and gives you a big warm hug full of user-friendly goodness.
Many new features in this years iteration include:
- Year-to-Year Saves – For the first time in franchise history, saves can be carried over from MLB 14 to future releases of The Show, meaning that gamers won’t have to worry about starting their Franchise or Road to the Show seasons over in years to come.
- Player Lock – The new Player Lock feature (a.k.a RTTS anywhere) gives users the ability to lock-on to any single player and enter games using the Road to the Show gameplay mechanic, allowing for faster games and more focused on-field action.
- Quick Counts – Users will now be able to play a full nine-inning game in less than 30 minutes, half the time it takes in previous iterations of The Show. Despite the shortened game durations, realistic stats will not be compromised.
- Universal Profile – A new tendency-tracking system monitors and records gamers’ unique playing styles. Those patterns are stored in the Universal Profile, which can be viewed by anyone looking to get a quick scouting report on the player. The Universal Profile can also be subbed in in place of a CPU opponent in Diamond Dynasty and Online Franchise, making for more realistic head-to-head matchups when schedules prevent synchronous play.
- Community Challenges – Players will be able to freely toy and tinker with game situations and scenarios on the fly, whether that’s the inning, score, who’s on base, or where the ball is hit. These custom situations can be bundled with a creative set of goals and put forth as a challenge to the community, whether it’s to relive the past, change history, or dream of new possibilities.
- Online Franchise – Finally, Franchise mode can be shared with friends online, with most of the features from the offline version making the transition, including Scouting, the Amateur Draft, Free Agency and CPU Trades. The mode will remain highly customizable as scheduling, divisions, postseason spots and more are all commissioner options.
- Stubs – Playing games in MLB 14 The Show rewards players with Stubs. Stubs can be used to purchase additional in-game content – like Road to the Show training points – or used in our new mode, Community Challenges. Stubs can be earned in any mode, and they are not required to progress through a mode. You can still purchase additional in-game content through the PlayStation Store.
- Diamond Dynasty Extra Innings – In this mode, a player’s team is always looking for opportunities to challenge other users in an offline setting, which allows the user to earn bonus rewards the next time they log in. When online, the player has the opportunity to challenge other user-created teams in an offline game where the CPU controls their team. Players can only benefit positively in this mode even if their team does not perform up to their normal standards.
Graphically, the Playstation 3 is starting to show its age, but that’s not to say that The Show 14 doesn’t look stellar on Sony’s last-gen machine. Obviously, the newer, shinier PS4 version looks much better, but don’t let that sway you if your only option is the PS3. It looks incredible, period. Players look and move very realistically, with many faces being almost spot-on to their real-life counterparts. Other details, like realistic beards and hair, were reserved for the more-powerful Playstation 4 hardware, although the PS3 does what it can and doesn’t disappoint. The stadiums are all faithfully recreated, as always, and the crowd…while less than perfect, still makes you feel like you’re playing in a park full of fans. My major gripe is The Show’s use of 720p as its native resolution, forcing 1080p televisions to scale or leave an empty black border around the game screen. You can of course increase the horizontal and vertical size manually in the options menu, although I never like doing this as it makes me feel like I’m overstretching somehow. Not a huge gripe, but full 1080p would have been nice, especially since the PS3 is more than capable of higher resolution. There are some jaggies and a few blurry moments, but overall, The Show 14 shows off the power of the Playstation 3 as it readies to sail into its final year(s).
Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros, and Steve Lyons all do an admiral job with the play-by-play action, although about 80% of it is rehashed from previous years with “update” commentary put in here and there. Mike Carlucci returns as the P.A. Announcer as well. Little nuances will swoon gamers that like to play in their home parks, as little things like “Let’s Go Giii-ants” is chanted, for example, at AT&T Park. I swear I even heard Carlucci mention the last BART train departure times as a particularly late night game came to an end. Fans in the seats wear various team apparel, but why-o-why can’t they EVER license that damned Coca-Cola bottle for once?!
The Show has always been incredibly deep, and with an even better Road To The Show mode, you can create your own player once again and take him all the way from minor league dust to major league glory! I’ve always loved this particular feature in The Show franchise as it really nails the feeling of being a player working your way up.
I have a feeling that MLB: The Show 14 will be in my PS3 for the remainder of the season, as its deep and rewarding gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and incredible gameplay once again deliver to make it the premier baseball video game on the market. Ok, ok, so it’s the ONLY one on the market…but it’s still the best.
Fun Factor: 9 – If you like baseball video games, look no further than The Show franchise. It should be the template for all future baseball games. You feel like you are really there at the plate or on the mound!
Graphics: 9 – Towards the end of the PS3’s life cycle, we’ve pretty much seen what the old boy can do. That said, The Show 14 pushes the system once again and creates the best looking baseball experience around! What’s up with the 720p though?
Sound: 9 – Spot-on stadium sounds, cheers, organ tunes, and for once…a listenable soundtrack. Announcers are a bit of the same, but they were never bad to begin with.
Control: 10 – Once you get the controls down, you’ll be swinging like the pros and striking out hitters left and right…that is until they get smart and learn how to beat YOU. Easy control and very intuitive.
Lasting Appeal: 10 – I don’t buy every yearly release so I’ve played previous years entries…for years. This one is no different. Tons to do and the always incredible Road To The Show will keep you busy till the Cubs win a World Series.