In order for fans to enjoy 'MLB 14: The Show' they have to believe in the on field simulation. Fortunately the developers have hit this out of the park. The game feels tighter than ever and it offers a realistic approach to simulated baseball.
'MLB 14: The Show' came to the PlayStation 4 back in May of 2014. The game was developed by SCE San Diego and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. We put on our batting helmet to take the game for a spin and we were pleased when the home runs started to fly.
Yearly entries into sport franchises begin to feel like a chore when they fail to substantially improve upon prior releases. We always feel like we sort of got 'tricked' by developers when we realize that our gaming shelf has three or four years of different sports titles. With Major League Baseball being one of the biggest sports in the world, is it fair to ask for the latest game to be revolutionary? We think so.
Stepping up to the plate...
As we touched on above, it is hard to get excited about the annual release for some of these major sport franchises. Typically these games end up just becoming expensive roster updates with a new coat of paint over the top. Is 'MLB 14' a victim of this almost cynical description? It comes close, but the game does enough good things to keep us interested throughout.
The graphics in this years release look as good as they have ever looked. Now this is a ported upgrade of the same PlayStation 3 game but the differences between the two are astounding. On the PS3 the hardware struggled to keep up with the gorgeous animations and depths of graphical experiences. On the PS4 these problems no longer exist. We no longer see dropped frames or choppy animations. In fact, this is probably the best that any baseball game has ever looked comparative to the era that it was released. All of the players look like digital versions of the real person and this comes down to the smallest of details. You'll see the smears of pine tar in the right spot along with all of the signature accessories that some players rep while they are on the field.
At the plate you'll get pulled in by the smallest of details. From the way that Derek Jeter holds his bat to the unique wind up of the left handed 'loogey' pitchers. We get to see every little detail. Bats break in HD across our big screen. Sweat pours down the face of a pitcher pushing the 8th inning. Dirt accumulates on guys like Melky Cabrera who run and dive and then do it all over again.
The game looks gorgeous and it doesn't just extend to the players. Stadiums are as good as they have ever looked, even if the crowd animations are subpar. Digital Wrigley Field looks better than the real thing and going into Yankee Stadium can give chills if it catches you in the right mood. It's hard to say, but a decade ago we wouldn't have believed that games could look as good as they do now. But that is all besides the point. For a realistic baseball simulation we need to see the on the diamond product play.
Gameplay for 'MLB 14: The Show' is sharp and consistent with how the rest of the series has been so far. Not since 'MVP Baseball 2005' have we been so thoroughly impressed by how our sluggers and fielders handled. Great defenders move fluidly in the field. Diving for the ground ball or pop fly has become one of our favorite aspects of the game, not unlike how we played as little kids outside with our friends. At the plate we felt smooth and powerful with better hitters while lesser bats struggled to make contact. The parity between the skill levels of the players felt right and it was always one of the biggest issues for us. We wouldn't want a real life, career .220 hitter to be able to slug like Miguel Cabrera in his prime. There is a balance here and it works well. The same goes for the pitching. Control feels relevant to how good your pitchers command of the strike zone is.
Most fans of the franchise will load up the game and head straight to the 'Road to the Show' mode. This signature game mode still exists in all of its glory, albeit with a few minor upgrades. Very similar in presentation to the '2K' series of 'MyPlayer', 'Road to the Show' continues to win over our hearts. You start off the game mode by creating a player and assigning him to a specific position on the diamond. Depending on where you put your player the ensuing experience will change. If you create an infielder than you will only play his at bats and defensive plays. You only have so many chances to shine so every time you take the field feels like the beginning of the World Series. Playing well rewards you with experience that allows you to upgrade your player and fight for more playing time. This is an almost RPG like take on the MLB and we really enjoyed how difficult it was to work our way through the draft, the minors, and into the Big Leagues.
As far as new experiences go you can spend some time with the 'Community Challenges' mode. Here you can find user created scenarios to partake in or create one yourself for friends to play with. Download special scenarios off of the PSN in order to test your skills in an entirely new way. It's a fun mode and it is something that we bet will catch on with other franchises here in the next couple of years.
More than any other sport in the world, baseball relies on getting the fundamentals right. In order for fans to enjoy 'MLB 14: The Show' they have to believe in the on field simulation. Fortunately the developers have hit this out of the park. The game feels tighter than ever and it offers a realistic approach to simulated baseball. The graphics look gorgeous and the experience is deep and rewarding.