Something needs to be mentioned upfront and right out of the gate regarding not just the PlayStation 4, but this modern generation of gaming consoles as an entity. We were promised a substantial upgrade in graphics, and admittedly have received it with some mind-blowing environments and character models in games such as Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and inFAMOUS: Second Son. However, for every inFAMOUS, there has been a stinker, such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2; a dated graphical experience that doesn’t belong in this new generation.
Unfortunately, during the early part of this generation we have more often than not ended up receiving games that just don’t scream next-generation in terms of their graphical fidelity. Thankfully, nobody can make that statement with a straight face in regard to MLB 14: The Show, for it might just be the most graphically impressive game ever seen on consoles. It’s also another stunningly realistic and highly immersive entry in the greatest franchise that baseball gaming has ever seen.
The Show has always felt like an overlooked and underrated commodity in terms of Sony’s robust lineup of first party exclusives; even on the PlayStation 3 it could be argued that the games were outputting power on another level compared to the hundreds of other titles available. That’s an outlook that could perhaps shift as there really isn’t a better way to show off the power of the PlayStation 4 than the photorealistic nature of watching a baserunner and catcher collide at home plate in the series’ latest iteration. Everything from the weather effects – playing baseball in the rain, while often dangerous in real life, is nothing short of awesome here – to the multi-layered lighting effects accurately projecting shadows and displaying reflections off of players’ faces, combines to create fantastic detail. As such, there’s almost no reason to even turn on the real thing anymore.
It’s also worth noting that, while many of the animations are familiar, yet refined, there are plenty of new ones to be found within MLB 14: The Show. Perhaps even more shocking than the assortment of animations is just how customizable each player is. It’s something that anyone who boots up Road to the Show mode will immediately notice as, if they actually go through with customizing every little facial feature and piece of player apparel, they’re looking at around thirty minutes of character creation. It’s absolutely insane and just one of the many reasons as to why taking a young rookie from the minor leagues to the Major Leagues continues to be such an exciting experience.
In typical career mode fashion, the games go by quickly as you only control one person. As a result, the average time for one game is anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, meaning that players dedicated to the thrill of cementing their legacy as an all-time great will assuredly fly through seasons while sweeping out many accolades. Let’s say you eventually get burned out on the mode however, and MLB 15 is around the corner. Usually, you would just have to suck it up and begin your career anew, but that’s not the case this time around. This year’s instalment introduces a new feature that allows you to import your progress from one game to the next. Granted, while it’s obviously something we can’t test out at this point in time, it’s certainly a brilliant idea.
As far as Road to the Show mode goes, it’s just as entertaining as ever, although it is lacking in some areas. Coming off of the career mode in NBA 2K14, I can’t help but wish that MLB 14 offered more interaction, dialogue choices, random cut-scenes – even if they are horribly acted, they definitely add an extra layer of interaction to things – and more shenanigans, in order to keep itself from treading into stale territory. Maybe we’ll get some enhancements in next year’s game, though.
Accompanying the centerpiece that is Road to the Show are your standard sports game modes. Franchise mode is one, and it’s basically what you’d expect it to be. Its only new feature is a function that allows you to pick a player and control their career exclusively, which is, of course, similar to what you do in Road to the Show. It’s also unfortunate that the AI of computer-controlled teams is still awful, allowing for business decisions that lack any logic whatsoever. Still, the mode itself is an entertaining diversion.
Past that, there’s another new feature that allows the title to randomly generate pitch counts and situations throughout a game. It’s supposed to shorten the length of games and be a helpful ally, but it ends up sucking the fun out of the experience. For that reason, it ended up being something I only toyed with a few times, and will never bother with again. Still, it may serve a worthwhile purpose for the sport’s more casual and less devoted fans.
As usual, you can always take the game online against friends and strangers. The only problem is that the servers are generally unstable, causing attempts at joining games to become pretty frustrating. This isn’t really anything new, as the franchise has never featured great online play, but it’s definitely disappointing that the problems persist even on a brand-new console that hadn’t given me any connection problems prior to this point.
The rest of MLB 14: The Show‘s modes and options make up for its online instability, and, simply put, playing a game of baseball has never felt this lifelike before. The one core problem with this title, though, is that outside of its graphics, everything here feels like the PlayStation 3 version. This isn’t a big blow, however, considering that most sports games don’t advance much when they debut on advanced hardware, and in some cases actually end up taking steps backwards with regards to functionality. With that said, next year’s instalment needs to capitalize on the power of the PlayStation 4 in other ways if it truly wants to stand out.
For now though, baseball fans should be more than pleased with what’s being offered in MLB 14: The Show.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Sony provided us a copy for review purposes.