MLB 14: The Show on the PlayStation 3 didn’t end up being the complete product that was MLB 13. Not surprisingly the game received less than the typical publicity at the time since many were waiting on the PS4 version for this year with higher hopes considering the capabilities of the new system. While it has retained all the same features, promises were really never made that it would do anything more than improve on the graphics of the earlier version.
In that regard the game has succeeded and it’s easy to recommend for those who didn’t already buy the PS3 version or who haven’t played the series in a number of years. However it also carries with it the same issues and deficiencies plus considerably longer load times. Continue on for a look at where MLB 14: The Show on the PS4 has succeeded and where it has 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 – on the PS4 the strikezone may be misaligned, SCEA did not implement rules changes like the reviews and manager challenges, and the commentary desperately needs to be redone – but otherwise it’s an exceptionally realistic experience to play. The Dynamic Camera adds some suspense and satisfaction to hitting and the new Dynamic Difficulty is worth considering and growing with. Touches like occasionally seen new animations, ball boys, and the crowd are somewhat notable in differentiating from the PS3.
Essentially the only major positive difference in moving up from the PS3 version of MLB 14 comes with the visuals. Everything is sharper and richly defined, the daytime lighting is significantly enhanced, and the crowd plays a bigger role with greater diversity. Player models do need more variety, there continues to be a lack of collision detection, the lighting at night has an issue with pitch dark backdrops outside the stadium, and some framerate drops occur during scenes. Still it’s a fantastic looking game as a whole and has to be considered along with NBA 2K14 as the best sports games graphically in their first attempts with the new generation of systems.
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 that adds even more of an addictive nature to them. It’s a neat experience to go through and play but the loading times between each attempt again stand out and are amplified considerably on the PS4.
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 yet MLB 14 on the PS3 was nothing short of a disaster. There disconnects and lag have been prevalent in online games and visual oddities have not only taken away from enjoyment but made 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.
The online for the PS4 version is better but still far from being adequate. Games are at least being completed, and the lag isn’t cripping, so there is some level of satisfaction. It’s an awfully low bar being cleared here though. Batting averages are anemic and strikeouts abnormally high. That can be primarily attributed to the visual inconsistencies and Quick Counts being used by some.
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 may not be 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. Fantasy Drafts are the same way – hours are being spent on those only for them to never advance successfully. It’s too much of a risk for anyone to attempt investing time in the mode and those that do will justifiably avoid it after getting burned once or twice.
As shown in the earlier testing, not only has the anticipated reduction in loading times not been realized, but they are much worse than the already lethargic PS3 version. In some cases it takes three to four times as long to load into a game. Server slowdown also hampers modes like Online Franchise and Diamond Dynasty causing simple actions to drag considerably.
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 and situational decision-making 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.
Isolated on its own, MLB 14: The Show on PS4 is best evaluated as an excellent offline game that delivers on what the series has always been known for. The online play, and heavily promoted online-related features that essentially don’t function, remain a concern for those who place value in it while the presentation package and commentary in particular desperately need new life.
Consumers that own the PS3 version will find little reason to upgrade, and for anyone uncertain about having the desire to play a baseball game this might not be the best entry point. There are so many features and options that even the grizzled veterans of the series struggle to know where they all are or how they work.
Everyone else will again find an excellent representation of baseball that is rich in content from Road to the Show, to Franchise, to the various mini-games all benefiting from the improved graphics. And while it might not seem to matter now, next year the progress being made with MLB 14 won’t have to be all thrown away due to the ability to migrate saves to future editions.