The bad news first. Yes, it is disappointing to learn that MLB 14: The Show, the latest baseball game from Sony, won’t have a PS4 version until early May. Like everyone else, I wanted to check out the improved graphics, which will include 1,000 different-looking fans in the stands.
|MLB 14: THE SHOW
Replay Value: 9.5
Overall Score: 8.9Pros: So many ways to play; online experience has variety; the music rocks.
Cons: Graphics need work; Grapefruit League stadiums need polish; announcers need coffee.
But Sony hasn’t exactly struck out. You can buy the PS3 and Vita versions, right now. You’ll have to download an update before you start. I actually played the game pre-patch. The brief wait you sit through before playing is made up for with a better overall experience.
There’s no doubt that this year’s game is worth the price of admission. You’ll see players grumble about strikes. Pitchers get that in-the-zone intensity in their eyes. And when I struck out New York Yankee Alfonso Soriano for the third time in a game, he literally sneered. It’s witnessing these player emotions that keep you coming back for more.
Sony sent out a long list of new features for this baseball simulation behemoth. But the best is the Quick Counts function, which allows you to finish a game in about 30 minutes.
In the past, I’ve been against this “quick play” idea in games like Madden because there’s so much to see on and off the field in between football plays. But tightening up the time element makes total sense with a baseball game, especially since umpires don’t enforce the rules about how long a pitcher can take to throw the ball or how long a batter can stall. In a real game, you could wait as long as a minute (or more) between pitches. I’m all for speeding things up.
You’re not forced to play that way, though. In fact, MLB 14: The Show is so customizable, you’ll probably find exactly the right way to play for you, one that suits your personality.
PLAY YOUR WAY
I’d suggest you start and finish the preseason in Beginner’s Mode, especially if you haven’t played the game before. It’s an easy way to learn, and the mode almost assures you win when you battle teams with a .500 average or less. Those wins add XP points, and your whole team levels up.
Plus when you’re at bat, it’s a thrill to see those pitches go far over the fence for a homer. (It’s also great to watch the post-run scenes of opposing coaches with their worried expressions).
I used the Power Swing button to hit when I was up by three balls. I wouldn’t say I got a home run all the time, but the odds for hitting one out of the park are much higher. That’s especially true when I am using marquee superstars like David Ortiz or Miguel Cabrera.
Online play is easier this year thanks to Universal Profile, basically a collection of stats on how you (or your opponent) plays. If your opponent swings the bat a lot and doesn’t look for balls, you can use that to your advantage.
Online play is also deeper. In Online Franchise, many of the magical modes from the single player experience move to your broadband experience. These features include Scouting, Amateurs Draft and Free Agency abilities.
Road to the Show is one of my favorite modes. In 2012, for instance, I got so hooked on this amateur mode that I played through four seasons of it. You get to play at many of the minor league stadiums and it kind of feels like a road trip to the nation’s small towns.
Choosing my own first and last name when creating a character is a big plus. Both the play-by-play guys and the stadium announcers say it when I step up to the plate. That’s a thrill indeed!
The music fits just right. You’ll hear the searing British rock of 18-year-old Jake Bugg and the jangly blues of Link Wray. Both songs really get you psyched to play baseball. Overall, there’s a good 13-song mix of rock, pop and rap (although I’d like to see twice as many songs included). There are a lot of new organ songs in the stadiums, too.
Starting this year, you can move your 2014 stats to next year’s game. I just don’t know why they didn’t add this functionality before. It’s truly been a long time coming.
But the PS3 graphics have some issues. While all of the superstar and mid-level players’ faces and bodies look lifelike, the lesser known players can look more cartoon-like. And the trees outside the Grapefruit League stadiums don’t blow in the wind.
And sometimes, the announcers sound a little behind the plays, like they blinked or looked away and have to catch up.
Yet taken as a whole, the PS3 version shows that if you innovate with loving care, you can do great things with a series that’s seen so many installments. And if you own a PS4, just hold your horses for a month. I’ll update this review when I get my hands on that puppy.