The Pastapadre Sports Game of the Year in 2013 was MLB 13: The Show and for the follow-up SCEA focused on areas of strength while also attempting to address the issue of length of games. Unfortunately the Achilles’ heel of the series has reappeared harming the product arguably even more than in the past.
The PS4 version, which is now just three weeks away, will be essentially the same exact game with the exception of advanced visuals and some other technical improvements so as a whole impressions from the PS3 will largely carry through to there. Continue on for a look at where MLB 14: The Show succeeded and where it faltered in this Hits and Misses review.
Gameplay and Authenticity
Every year these two areas top the merit list and that remains the case here. There are some lapses – meter fielding should be changed from immediately, they did not implement rules changes like the reviews/challenges, and the commentary desperately needs to be redone – but otherwise it’s an exceptionally realistic experience to play. The new Dynamic Difficulty is worth considering and growing with.
Somewhat overshadowed by another time-saving feature, Player Lock has proven to be a great addition to the series. Player Lock allows for taking control of a single player during a game and simulating the rest. It has proven most valuable for Franchise or Season modes where it provides some influence on the games while dramatically reducing the necessary time invested in them. That is much better than just simming through a chunk of the schedule.
The number of options is what makes Player Lock so great. Users can switch who they’re controlling at any point in a game – going from one player to another or even taking over the full team in the traditional manner. It’s a little confusing though how to take advantage of all the options and most people probably don’t even know they exist. Player Lock may not be a feature that would suit other sports games but it fits perfectly for baseball.
Road to the Show
The best pure Career mode in sports gaming has been improved upon again. Road to the Show is more enjoyable due to the removal of “goals” with production being what matters instead. The training games have also been adjusted to be more fair and elements like the ability to see standing within an organization are great to follow and assess.
Load times are still especially detrimental in RTTS. As a relief pitcher it seems often that more time is spent loading into games than actually playing them. The ability to migrate saves to MLB 15 will reap rewards next year, though that feature may create concern over whether a mode many are starting to find stale will ever be able to evolve properly because of it.
The new Community Challenges represent a fun and unique diversion from the other main modes in the game. Users create their own scenarios for others to attempt and complete. Many of them are just a single play which makes the feature something that can be messed around with when time is limited. There’s even a wagering aspect to it utilizing the “Stubs” currency. It’s a neat experience to go through and play but the loading times between each attempt again stand out.
Online Play/Online Franchise
The Show has always been among the worst online experiences in sports gaming. MLB 13 was far from perfect but it showed dramatic improvement which makes MLB 14 taking a huge step backwards even more disappointing. Disconnects and lag are prevalent in online games and visual oddities not only take away from enjoyment but make it even more difficult to make adjustments that may have been possible in the past. Online Co-Op was even removed without telling anyone prior to release. Unfortunately there’s no reason to expect things will be better with the PS4 version in online games or with Online Franchise.
Online Franchise was promoted as one of the big additions for the year but it’s best not even considered among the features of the game. Some good design decisions were made but it’s completely unreliable and ends up simply being a waste of time. Games against other users rarely if ever are completed and games against the CPU are often “not processed correctly” meaning the results are never reported and it’s as though the hour spent playing never happened. It’s too much of a risk for anyone to attempt investing time in the mode and anyone that does will justifiably avoid it after getting burned once or twice.
As opposed to Player Lock the new Quick Counts feature doesn’t deliver on its promises. Producing counts that more often than not seem to place two strikes on batters and three balls on pitchers, too much of the strategy inherent in baseball is removed and it teaches poor habits to those just learning how to play a simulation baseball game. The feature might still be worth considering if it saved a significant amount of time like it was promoted as doing. However it really doesn’t – taking what might be an hour played traditionally down an average of only 12 minutes after having completed multiple tests that featured comparable circumstances.
MLB 14: The Show is not the complete product that MLB 13 was. The online play is worse and the new features, while they are well designed and have good intentions, haven’t all proven to be rewarding. Regardless The Show is once again a product that consumers at least know what they’re getting when they buy. It’s a great offline game with enormous depth of content that is true to the sport and its surroundings.