“MLB 14 The Show” is a baseball lover's dream. It is an incredibly deep, fun sports simulator. It is also glitchy, weird, frustrating, and nearly identical to last year’s team. There are moments of greatness inherently built into the foundation of this incredible franchise but, comparatively, this is a lackluster entry that offers nothing as valuable as a roster update as we wait for the PS4 version to hit on May 6, 2014. I can’t wait to see how that plays. Until then, as much as this loyal fan of the “Show” series hates to say it, you’re better off sitting on the bench. Despite some new modes, overall, when the 2014 iteration of the best baseball series of all time wasn’t driving me nearly crazy with inconsistent input times, it felt nearly identical to “MLB 13 The Show”. Trust me. I played that game for days of my life, working through most of an entire season for the Detroit Tigers. I know it by heart. And I can barely tell the difference between that season and this one.
As with most sports franchises, the question is “What’s New?” To be fair, while the animations and gameplay feel more identical to the previous edition than ever before (and that's where you spend most of your time), there are some tweaks to presentation and even a new mode. The most notable is the controversial “Quick Counts” which allows you to enter all at-bats mid-count, making a full game playable in about half an hour. I like it and I hate it. The purist in me loathes it. It’s not real baseball. And it drastically affects your pitchers if you’re working a whole season because there’s literally no such thing as a one-pitch out. You’ll enter every at-bat with multiple pitches (and, therefore, lowered energy), which means your pitchers hit 100 pitches in about inning 6 or 7 every time. I would wager it’s physically impossible to pitch a complete game on “Quick Counts”. However, it is nice to be able to breeze through a game, especially for nuts like me to who try to play/manage a whole season.
Other new features this year include “Year-to-Year Saves,” which allows work done on franchises, seasons, or The Show modes to move to next year’s version of the game; “Online Franchise,” which allows you to share your skills with others; and “Universal Profile,” which boasts more intuitive and adjustable skill sets for more balanced online play.
How does it look? Did you play '13? Then you know. I can’t wait to see what “MLB 14 The Show” looks like with the PS4 graphics engine but this version is almost exactly the same as last year (ditto the Vita version, which Sony was kind enough to include as well and still allows for seasons and franchises to be played on both console and handheld). Audio is strong throughout, players look right, and the stadium designs are remarkable. Even if it looks like last year, “MLB 14 The Show” visually rocks on PS3; making my desire to see how it makes the jump to PS4 even more pronounced.
More glitches seemed to abound in the first week of “MLB 14 The Show” than my experience last year. My Detroit Tigers may have real-life issues defensively but there hasn’t been a game where they didn’t commit an error. Go ahead. Blame the user. But this is a user who knows this series WELL and so I have to presume a little bit of input lag and simply wonky controls. My outfielders regularly overran the ball and there’s a lack of intuition in infield play that’s baffling. More than once on a hard throw to a close play at the bag the infielder catching it didn’t bend down to tag the sliding runner. That’s just odd. These little oddities abound and may be corrected with patches but have hampered my enjoyment of the first week of “MLB 14 The Show”.
Honestly, I’m being hard on a franchise I love. There’s still SO much to adore here. It’s as deep a sports game as you’ll ever play, second only to “NBA 2K” on the chart of best sports games (and ahead of beloved EA series like “Madden” and “NCAA”, in my opinion). We’re always toughest on the games we love the most. Especially when it feels like we already own them.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.