Also On: PS3, PS Vita
Developer: SCE San Diego Studio
After reigning supreme as the best baseball games released in the past generation, and maybe even possibly ever, the MLB The Show franchise has been a staple for Sony's consoles for many years. They have raised the bar so high that it seems it can't even be topped by their own developers. After being unmatched by competitors, the only way I thought we could see a dramatic change in MLB: The Show would be when it made its debut on a new console. To my surprise, especially after being teased by screenshots of the most realistic baseball game these eyes have ever seen, it appears that Sony used only the best player models and situations for those marketing shots. While MLB 14 The Show still looks fantastic, those looking for a dramatic leap over the PS3 visually will be sorely disappointed. As a matter of fact, those of you who couldn't wait a month and purchased the PS3 version and own both systems will have little reason to make the upgrade unless you encountered a great trade in value. All the other features that are offered on PS4 are in the PS3 version, so what you will be paying for in the end is a prettier version that is more like getting a new pair of glasses rather than a revamped version of the game built from the ground up.
Of course this is a good thing and a bad thing, depending on what side of the fence you are sitting on. Let me just say that this is still the best baseball game on the planet and it does look better on the PS4 and there is no denying those two facts. The fact that you still experience the same remarkable physics engine is also a plus since the ground work is identical to the PS3. The ball physics are still realistic and varied making each at bat one that can be a game changer at any time. It's this attention to detail and realism that makes this team of developers unbeatable in the eyes of many baseball fans. Though when it's all said and done the PS4 version is a better looking PS3 version of the game that you've grown to love, so what about the rest of the game? Are there new features, new commentary, solid online play and game modes? Read on for the skinny on what to truly expect for the PS4 version of MLB 14 The Show.
Visually, the PS4 version does feature other enhancements such as rebuilt stadiums, new fly overs, new player faces and even expanded and livelier crowds. Heck I would be lying if I didn't say that the lighting in the night games didn't result in the one of the most realistic looking baseball games that I have ever seen. While the game isn't as jaw dropping or "am I watching a video game or TV" realistic like NBA 2K14 has offered, the game is still mighty fine looking. It isn't until you look for those finer things such as the enhanced crowd that includes kids in the stands, bat boys and finer textures that really show off the blades of grass on the field that you will really see the refinement of the PS4 version over the PS3 version. While the stadiums have been remodeled from the ground up, I will have to mention that I don't think they took into account the new crowd models as you will notice tons of clipping through walls, fencing and backdrop netting, but this is more nitpicking than serious, but something I'm hoping we will see addressed next season as it does take away from the realism a bit. The game does lose some of its frame rate on occasion, but only in certain cut scenes. Some animations come off as awkward during replays too, like when a player loses their bat grip and it goes flying into the stands, the replay that follows just looks weird as there is a jumpiness when the bat leaves the players hands. I will also say that I'm getting quite sick of the "canned" animations, especially in the infields that have caused me to give up base runners or even give up runs. The issue is, certain players in unique situations will have their animations played out for you and make it impossible to make a quick throw in time to make the out. Overall the visuals are still fantastic and remain the best baseball has to offer, it just took some time to get over the relative lack of "next gen" polish I was hoping for.
Audio is where the series needs a serious makeover. While it was nice that the developers took the time to redo the crowd audio in high def, which sounds amazing, the play by play team has got to go. Not only is this the same duo and trio I've heard for too many years now, but when the team doesn't record enough audio that they have to resort to using previous years commentary too, that's when it starts to wear thin. Other than the same one liners I'm forced to endure like "Quick out by Holliday, he's going on a quick vacation" each and every game over the last 4 years, it's the lack of continuity in the old commentary that is the most frustrating part. Nothing is more disheartening hearing how Matt Carpenter for St Louis was the clear reason why they won the division last year, having then being offset by the Reds' Joey Votto needing to have another good year if the Reds are going to repeat as division champs. So who won the crown last year Sony, the Cards or the Reds, the uneducated would like to know? While there are instances like these that are broken, for the most part the sounds will get you through game to game, just to have your ears fall victim to some things just addressed incorrectly.
Of course like always, the real key to a great baseball game isn't how it looks or sounds, but how it plays. MLB 14 the Show once again plays marvelously with many options to choose from that the casual fan all the way to the hardcore fanatic can appreciate. With varied styles for batting, fielding, pitching, and even management there is easily an option available so that any baseball fan will have a satisfying 9 innings of the great American pastime. This year Sony has implemented a few new additions that they hope will improve the masses' enjoyment of the game as well. Some of these you will love or hate, but in the end they are additional options that you are not forced to utilize unless you choose so.
Quick Counts is a new addition to the features line up that plans to cut back game time spent taking on 9 innings. Honestly it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to play one game, depending on how much of the in between cut scenes you watch. Quick Counts does cut down some of that to around the 30 minute to 40 minute mark, so while not as fast as blazing through a game of EA Sports NHL, those who wish to choose this mode will find a brief bit more time of your life left to spend.
The biggest and much needed fix was to the Road to the Show mode where they have finally got rid of all the little tasks you had to do in order to earn points, that at times proved to be unrealistic and hurt your chances of moving up. Now the mode is solely based off performance and you are rewarded on your outings on a whole not just one bad play or even bad game. Even cooler is the addition of the Topps Player Showcase that has you viewed by scouts at the beginning of your career to determine where you will land in the draft. Overall the RTTS mode has been streamlined and simplified, so thank you Sony for this much needed fix.
At the time of this write up the online mode was still quite wonky as there would be days I would have a great game or two with no lag or disconnects, but then there were some days when I couldn't connect at all or was so laggy it was unplayable. It is this shakiness of the online component that you could possibly subtract a point from the overall score for. Unless the online experience is smoothed out, it can be a major thorn in the side for the players out there looking for an online fix. I will say though that the rosters are updated weekly and accurate, and the Show Live mode provides you with playing the day's actual games with the correct rosters — although some of the pitching matches I've encountered were not right (but adjustable, thankfully). Lastly the coolest new online feature is Community Challenges where you recreate your favorite baseball moments and challenge others to try and complete them. I am happy to say that this mode works as advertised and is a welcome addition to the game.
Overall, even with its faults, it's hard not to still absolutely love MLB 14 the Show, especially on the PS4. It is still the best looking, best playing, and flat out the best baseball game on the market — competition or not. Toss in the fact that you will be able to bring your saved game modes to MLB 15 next year makes adding this to your PS4 library a no brainer. Sure there are things that irritate me that I would love to see Sony San Diego address, but honestly none of my complaints keep the game from being amazing or taint my love for it. That being said, if you don't like MLB 14 the Show, then you just don't like baseball… period.