MLB 14 The Show Review (PS3)
As the immortal Babe Ruth once said “Baseball is the greatest game in the world, and it deserves the best you can give it.” Over the years, the development group at SCEA San Diego has found a way to do just that. The MLB The Show franchise from SCEA San Diego has widely been recognized as one of the best sports series going, and rightfully so. This year the development team finds themselves for the second time, in a transition period. The team was faced with the task of trying to keep the ball rolling on the PS3 and Vita, and start it on the PS4. The question now is, should you bother grabbing the PS3 version, if you have a PS4 system that is eagerly awaiting the date of May 6th?
For years the MLB series has been known for its immersive and authentic gameplay, and that hasn’t changed in 2014. While the core gameplay mechanics feel the same, the team has added some subtle, and some not so subtle changes to the overall experience. While some will feel that the changes are minor and have little effect on the game, to most they are welcome additions with a new-found freshness to the overall experience.
The biggest change you will notice is the newly added dynamic hitting and fielding camera; It's basically replicates an improved version of the Road to the Show (RttS) camera. It keeps the ball in the players view at almost all times, and really adds a very cool and new perspective for the user. This new camera view will take some getting used to for most, but as always, the game has plenty of options if you find yourself not enjoying the perspective.
Another huge change that is a much welcomed addition is the added ability to use quick counts. This option allows for the user to start an at-bat with a statistically random generated count, in lieu of the standard clean slate. This allows the user to employ different types of strategies, and severely cuts down on the average time it takes to play an average game. Of course if generated counts are not your thing, than the option to play a standard game is still there.
The core gameplay itself remains basically the same, but then again, when you have something as dialed in as the group over at SCEA SD does, making dramatic changes is not a necessity. The game still offers a wide variety of pitching and hitting mechanics for the user to choose from, and each one offers up a different type of challenge. There have also new animations to both hitting and fielding.
As far as difficulty goes, all the previous options are still there, but this year they added a new twist in The Show. Much like EA did with Madden a few years back, SCEA SD has added a difficulty level titled "Dynamic." Basically the game starts you out at Rookie-plus difficulty for both hitting and pitching, and updates and readjusts the difficulty every half inning, based on how you are playing. The goal is ultimately to adjust the CPU ability to where the user has a challenging, but fair experience, based on their abilities. In the time we spent trying it out, it seemed to work pretty well, and is a welcomed addition for the people that go slider crazy every year about this time.
SCEA SD has always done a fantastic job of recreating an authentic Major League experience from the broadcast replication, to the core game itself. When you fire up MLB 14 The Show, you feel like part of an experience and not just playing a baseball game with the proper licenses. The Show 14 is drenched in detail,just as baseball is meant to be.
From beautiful stadiums, to player animations, players warming up pre-game, and high fives after a victory, the true essence and emotion is captured in this year’s game. Crowds react better in the right situation, the stadiums feel more alive, and the commentary has been improved a bit. If you can find a sports game that is better represented on and off the field, please let us know.
We also have to mention again what an amazing improvement that the dynamic hitting and fielding camera adds to the overall value of the game. The dynamic camera puts you right in the thick of the action, and allows the user to see the action unfold as if he was on the field.
The one area that could use a real over-haul is the commentary, as usual. It’s not that the three-man booth of Steve Lyons, Matt Vasgersian and Eric Karros do a bad job, because they don’t. In fact if MLB 14 The Show is the first title in the series that you have ever played, you will be amazed at how good it sounds. The problem is that veterans of the series have heard the lines so often, they simply have become white noise for most, and add little enhancement to game anymore.
From my somewhat limited experience with the title so far, simulation stats seemed to have improved this year. While most of the stats I witnessed from simming multiple game ahead, looked solid, I have one pretty big area of concern that still falls somewhat indirectly underneath the sim category. As much as I love the generated count option, I started noticing a trend of pitchers having way too high of a pitch count, and I have been getting messages as early as the 3rd and 4th inning, stating that the pitcher is getting tired? While this is something that I have seen in real life, it definitely does not happen as often as I am seeing in the game. This is not a game killer by any means, but it absolutely deserves the attention of the development group.
Offline Game Modes
In MLB 14 The Show, there are plenty of choices for the offline gamer. One can choose to run a full franchise of their team of choice, play as their created player in the ultra-popular Road to the Show, single season mode, post-season, practice, and home run derby. As you can see there are plenty of options for one to choose from, and each one offers a completely different experience. While most of the modes are pretty self explanatory, we want to focus in on a couple of them, and those would be Road to the Show and franchise.
If you have played this mode in the past, than you most certainly are aware of how it works. You create a player of choice and start out on the minor leagues to embark on a journey of working your way to the big league ball club. While the premise of the mode has remained intact, the ancillary features are quite different. In years past you could enter the draft or pick your favorite team to start out. In MLB 14 The Show you start by participating in the Topps Amateur Series.
The Topps Amateur Series allows you to play three games with other prospects to give you the opportunity to showcase your talents and make a name for yourself. Once completed, you than have the option to do a live draft or just a pick a team. This year though, if you choose the live MLB draft, and find yourself not happy your current draft scenario, you can choose to go back to college and hone your skills.
Once you have been selected and have started playing with the club that selected you, you will notice some differences. Instead of having a set list of goals to achieve to make the organization happy, the game allows you to allocate your training points as you see fit. Gone are the days of your digital coach giving you praise or scolding you for not completing the set task list laid out in front of you. It is true that it is seemingly more difficult to improve your player with training points, but I like the changes a lot more. Seriously, how realistic was it for your coach to come down on you because you didn’t hit 10 home-runs over a five series set? Overall the mode plays about the same, but the subtle changes have made RttS even better, and less of a grind.
Offline franchise allows you take your favorite club and run them as if you were the owner, president, and coach wrapped up into one nice package. You can choose to maintain status quo, or shake things up with a blockbuster tradel. This year the game has a notification system that acts an assistant GM. It informs of you of important information such as minor league players doing really well, players needing to be assigned for training, players that have been placed on waivers. The option is done pretty well and not too intrusive on the overall experience itself. Franchise mode also allows you to fire managers mid-season, and offer new contracts or arbitration to arbitration eligible players in the off-season. This year the good folks at SCEA SD have also given the user the ability to search for specific players with specific attributes they desire, and you also have the ability to edit player potential, which is a much welcomed option.
This mode may not be for everyone, as you truly do run the front office as well as take care of business on the field, and it can be daunting to someone who just wants to hit field and play some ball. The good news is that almost every responsibility can be turned over to the computer, if one chooses to do so. Some of the other improvements for this mode in 2014 have been tweaks to free agent contracts to make them more realistic, and player progression and regression. I for one, love this mode and fully embrace the idea of helping shape your club currently and for the foreseeable future.
The robust online options that SCEA SD delivers every year just got even deeper with the inclusion of Online Franchise. A mode that fans have been asking for, and now they finally have it. This mode now sits amongst other options such as online exhibition (ranked or not ranked), Homerun Derby, Challenge of the Week, Diamond Dynasty, and the new Community Challenges. This is a mode that allows users to create a scenario and upload it online for others to try out. Let’s get back to Online Franchise because it is a pretty awesome mode, and is actually deeper than what offline users will get .
Basically online franchise allows a user to create a franchise online, and invite up to 29 other players. And enjoy all the perks and options of offline, plus more. The quick counts option that we spoke about is there, the ability to trade, retire, be voted into the hall of fame. The mode also gives the league GM the ability to drop or add new users at the click of the button, and advance the league when necessary. The GM can also choose to length of the season, playoffs, and World Series. SCEA SD also allowed the GM the option to just follow the actual 162 game regular season, or they can set up their own custom schedule.
So people who plan to spend their time online have a large set of options to choose from. You can dabble in the Diamond Dynasty if ultimate team is your thing, join or create an online franchise, or grab a friend or random player to just play an online exhibition. The one caveat to all of this is the ability to get online and stay connected with a good connection. At the time of this review I was able to get on and test online most of the online modes, but with dismal results. In the five online games I played, I was not able to finish a single one of them. Now the results will vary for each person, but this is something that this series has consistently struggled with. It’s pretty apparent that the inconsistent nature of this series’ online ability is not going to get any better – at least on the PS3 version. It’s a shame that with such a feature rich online set-up that SCEA SD could not create a consistent online environment to match that of the options they have available to partake in.
I would also be remiss If I didn’t mention the awesome vault feature. SCEA SD once again provides an online vault for users to upload and download created players, rosters, sliders and logos. This option is such a valuable asset, and it has become an incredible tool for The Show's community – including our very own here on Operation Sports. I am also happy to mention that this year’s title requires no inputting of any type of online code to have access to all these features.
It would have been easy for SCEA SD to relax their standards and focus, as they make the transition over to the infinitely more powerful PS4, but they didn’t, and that is no surprise. From streamlined menus, to a retooled RttS mode, inclusion of online franchise, and a more robust roster editor, there is simply just a lot to love this year in MLB 14 The Show.
Overall the game is a true representation of the sport, and I consider it a must buy, even for the fringe MLB fan. The biggest gripe again, is the online portion, and if it was secluded to just playing exhibitions, it might not be such a huge deal. The problem is that is also affects the highly promoted online franchise and Diamond Dynasty players. When you add a deep element such as online franchise, the infrastructure needs to be there to support it, and sadly in my experiences there are still too many issues with trying to play online.
Learning Curve – This year it is a bit steeper than most, assuming you try out the new options that SCEA SD has provided.
Control Scheme - As always, there a number of different user options provided, now you just need to find the one(s) that work for you.
Audio – The true sound of baseball is represented quite well, but if you’re a vet of the series the sounds from the booth are mostly repetitive and stale.
Visuals – Although this is last year in which the PS3 version is console of focus, the game still looks aesthetically beautiful, and even more so in motion.
Online – unfortunately as always, online for MLB the Show is truly hit or miss. At times it works wonderfully, other times it feels like you are connected through dial up.
Lasting appeal – The game is once again crammed with different user modes, and any user should find something that will hold their interest for months on end.
Score: 8.0 (Great)