Sony is back with another sturdy installment in their venerable baseball series with MLB 14: The Show for PlayStation 3. Longtime fans of the The Show will recognize all the hallmarks of the series, plus a raft of improvements and new features. Some of these are designed to help streamline the very concept of playing a baseball video game, with all its usual meticulous detail that translates to boredom for less-patient (or simply free time-compromised) players. For those of us who happen to like the snail’s pace of baseball, there is of course the option to continue playing in real-time. But new features like “Quick Counts” and “Player Lock” can be looked at as something of a godsend for those who can’t commit the time required to play every pitch of every at-bat.
First of all, MLB 14: The Show delivers extremely high quality visuals, really maxing out the capacity of the PS3. The level of detail captured in the various ballparks never fails to impress. Individual player’s facial animation is, at times, a bit dopey looking but for the most part the likenesses are reasonable. Basic gameplay in general will be familiar to those accustomed to the series from previous year’s editions. The famed “Road to the Show” mode, in which players create their own player and play through his career, building his skill set, has been tweaked in numerous subtle ways. In order to arrive at which round your created player goes into the MLB draft, he works through a three-game series called the “Topps Amateur Showcase.” Cumbersome, tedious advancement goals have been removed to further streamline the “Road to the Show” process.
But the addition of Quick Counts and Player Lock are more noteworthy breakthroughs. The former allows players to cruise through nine-inning games in as little as a half-hour or so. By beginning at-bats well into the count, players are not responsible for throwing every single pitch or deciding how to respond in kind. Again, this of course adds a considerable amount of automation that might be a turn -off for purists. But if you’re working crunched for time, it’s not a bad option. Player Lock is arguably an even better feature, giving players (in single-payer, offline mode only) the choice of playing from the perspective of any position only. The rest of the players are handled by the capable AI, a la the “Road to the Show” mode. If you don’t want to rely on fully simming games to advance through “Franchise” mode, you can leapfrog from player to player, choosing which one you want to have control over during any given game.
Personally, I could do without Quick Counts, but I can see where it will be beneficial to some players. As any baseball fan knows, sometimes batters pop out on the very first pitch at an at-bat. At other times, they crank the first one out of the park. Lots of outcomes can result directly from the first pitch. Beginning each at-bat with an already-established count, whether it’s even or one that favors either the batter or pitcher (apparently both the pitcher and batter’s recent stats are utilized to create the in-progress count), definitely reduces the realism a game like The Show has worked so hard to establish.
Season-to-season saves is another improvement made to the new edition of The Show. Rather than playing through the game and starting anew the following season, the ability to save your progress and apply it to next year’s edition of the game has been added. This is a new feature that have to wait a year to really prove itself, since we’ll have to see how well 2014 progress imports into the next edition. Online play is plagued by lag and is just buggy enough to be quite burdensome. Playing through “Franchise” mode online is a bit rough for this reason. More rewarding in terms of online play is “Community Challenges” a pretty fun experience, in which players can create very specific game situations and upload them for anyone to try. Get ready for an even further time-draining aspect as you explore what scenarios other players have come up with. It’s another new touch that makes MLB 14: The Show worth picking up.
MLB 14 The Show is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
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