Just how close can we get to the real thing when it comes to sports video games? PlayStation’s MLB The Show series has long been regarded as the best-in-class baseball simulator on consoles. With the arrival of the PlayStation 4, Sony’s San Diego studio has once again outdone themselves, and is getting really close to answering that very question.
Frankly, it’s not competition that’s spurring this baseball franchise along. Their only serious competitors at 2K sports threw in the towel with their MLB 2K series, after having fought a losing battle for some time. This year, it’s PlayStation or bust for a AAA-baseball experience, but despite having noone to compete with but themselves, San Diego has essentially outdone their own creations with the PlayStation 4 version of MLB The Show 14.
Utilizing the power of the PlayStation 4, MLB The Show has never looked better. It’s also chocked full of all the content that is found on the PlayStation 3 version. We’ve seen some games need to cut corners on the next-gen versions, but The Show is as full featured as its little brothers. While 2014 wasn’t exactly a banner year for improvements in the franchise within itself, it’s still a rather impressive package of content to dig into, with franchise modes, online dynasties, and Road to the Show outside of just playing exhibition matches and taking in the impressive sights and sounds of baseball powered by next-gen hardware.
Visually, The Show is dressed to impress. It’s got some of the most realistic looking crowds we’ve ever seen in a sports game. Stadiums are fantastic recreations of the real thing. You’d be hard pressed to find any major differences at a glance, and in some cases there are likely none. Players are easily identifiable, and are of the quality that we saw in the generational leap for the NBA 2K series. Baseball has never looked better on a video game console than in The Show ’14. This is expected though. The Show on PS3 isn’t a bad looking game by any means, and the extra horsepower of the PS4 allows the for a significant upgrade.
San Diego Studio has something for every type of player in MLB The Show ’14. There are a wealth of customization options that allow for purists to play for different levels of challenge. You can head down the expert route for a more intricate game of baseball where you control every aspect of every player on the field, or you can slide towards the beginners side of the spectrum and play a less challenging game that requires you not learn the many intricacies of the control scheme on the offensive and defensive sides of the game. San Diego also tackles a problem that’s long been associated with baseball games — their length. Introducing a new quick count feature, the game’s length is shortened, in a game mode that’s part simulation and part player controlled. This mode places control in the player’s hands in various situations. Sometimes, you’ll need to pitch your way out of bad count, others, you’ll have the advantage. The same goes for each at bat. Sometimes you’ll step up to the plate with an advantageous count, others you won’t. Quick Count is fun and quick, until it’s not. The random nature of what situation you’re placed into will sometimes feel stacked against you at the most inopportune times.
For those content with playing offline with friends, or taking on the game’s many offline modes like Season, Franchise, Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty, there’s plenty of great baseball to be played here. Deep franchise and season modes allow for a ton of customization and multi-year team building toolsets. Franchise players are afforded a wealth of options in directing their teams to victory, which include scouting new talent and fostering player training to make them better over time. Road to the Show is a familiar mode, which has users creating a player to be drafted by an MLB team. Once done completing a set of games to showcase your talents, you’ll be drafted by an MLB organization, and then it’s time to work your way into the majors. Diamond Dynasty is a trading card game that’s been in The Show for a couple of years now, borrowing from EA’s popular Ultimate Team game mode, players build teams, earn tokens, and buy cards to fill out their rosters. There are online implications for Diamond Dynasty, but you can play against the CPU if you so choose. Playing games will net you points, which can be used to buy player card packs, access new stadiums, and improve your team. When you think it’s up to snuff, you can then head online to battle other players in more competitive games. When you’re not around, your team will earn these spendable points in an “Extra Innings” mode.
A lot of the modes in MLB The Show 14 blur the line between offline and online. Even when playing against a computer controlled opponent, stats and rosters are being pulled from MLB.com, allowing you to play the day’s MLB match-ups in modes like “The Show Live”. Or modes like Community Challenges aren’t necessarily playing against other opponents, but are dictated by players across the PlayStation Network.
Though when you do head online there are plenty of options as well. Ranked and Exhibition modes allow you to get a quick game of baseball in using a matchmaking system on PSN. Players can also search for and join, or create Online Franchises, which feature the same robust set of tools that their offline counterparts do. The only bad thing about some of the online modes is the myriad of problems that can occur when trying to play a online match. While it’s not as bad as previous years, there’s still some lag involved with online play. It can make hitting impossible if there’s too much lag, and can be very frustrating. There are also instances we’ve seen where the announcers flat out get calls wrong, or don’t make them at all. Instances of lag seem to be the most sporadic. There’s been no rhyme or reason to when they’ll occur. The developers have addressed fans when it comes to The Show Online, and claim that the game will get better with time. Head to head online match-ups weren’t the only area that we encountered network errors. Playing through the Diamond Dynasty online modes, and connecting to buy card packs from the marketplace, we encountered errors in this mode each and every time we played it. As it stands, it’s an enjoyable experience, and when it’s running smooth, it’s only slightly bested by the offline modes. Most of the issues we took with The Show ’14 came in the online aspects of the experience, but those who don’t like loading screens will probably be disappointed with the length of the ones found in this game.
Minor annoyances aside, when MLB ’14 The Show is running well, it’s an impressive game to say the least. The presentation will wow you each and every time you fire up the game, and there are modes for every type of player. MLB ’14 The Show is an integral upgrade for fans of the franchise that recently upgraded to the PS4. The enhanced visuals might not be the best or most realistic that we’ll ever see from the franchise, but they are the star of the show considering just how similar the feature set is between generations. With no competition in sight, PlayStation 4 players don’t have any other options when it comes to baseball simulations, but then again, the year-in and year-out commitment to quality from Sony San Diego made it so they never really needed those options in the first place.
MLB 14 The Show
- Available On: PS4, PS3
- Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developed By: SCE San Diego Studio
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: May 6th, 2014
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "MLB ’14 The Show is an integral upgrade for fans of the franchise that recently upgraded to the PS4. With no competition in sight, PlayStation 4 players don’t have any other options when it comes to baseball simulations, but then again, the year-in and year-out committment to quality from Sony San Diego made it so they never really needed those options in the first place."