For the longest time, much like a long-standing rivalry in the sport that it represents, two game franchises went head to head. The MLB series from developers Sony Computer Entertainment and Major League Baseball by developers 2K Sports competed for the attention of baseball lovers for years.
But now, 2K has scrapped their baseball franchise, leaving MLB the only major contender in the baseball game franchise. In this scenario, MLB 14 has no competitor. In addition, it releases on a console that is on its way out. For a lesser franchise, this might sound like an opportunity to slack off and deliver an almost-there game that checks all the boxes but does nothing spectacular. Luckily, MLB 14: The Show is not that game.
What I Liked:
MLB 14 is singularly the best looking, realistic baseball simulation game that has ever been created. There’s a visceral quality to all of the action in the game, whether it’s the thump of a bat as it smacks a pitch into oblivion, or an outfielder who completes an athletic catch. MLB 14 makes you earn your glory, and it makes your successes in the game much more satisfying. On the flip side, you might have a match where you work hard only to be foiled in the final stretches, and these losses hurt. Whether you’re a batter, a pitcher, or an outfielder, The Show is consistently throwing situations your way which require you to make split-second decisions that might alter the entire course of the match.
The Game Play & Options:
Even at the default difficulty setting, The Show requires you to master the art of timing and reflexes before you can achieve any glory. For newer gamers, there is a whole host of settings that you can tweak around to make the game slightly easier for you. The sheer depth of the customization options is impressive. There are sliders for almost every identifiable aspect of the game, and you can play around with them to find a setting that isn’t too easy, but isn’t too difficult either.
As mentioned before, MLB 14 doesn’t just bring a new roster to the table. It has a lot of new features, although the number of innovations are lesser than those in previous iterations. MLB 13 had a fantastic difficult setting that adjusted itself according to your play style, and this mechanic is still present in MLB 14. There is, however, a completely new Franchise mode, a few subtle changes to the way you swing and some slight additions to how the game scales its difficulty level. These aren’t complete game-changers, but they do make MLB 14 feel fresh.
In addition, you can now use the new player lock system within The Show. What player lock means is that you basically pick a certain player and only play as him through the game, turning the career mode into a campaign mode of sorts. While other sports games have used this system for a while, it’s implemented a little differently within this game. Here, you can choose to turn the player lock on and off when you want to. If you want to play as the New York Yankees team for a while, and then switch midseason to play only as Derek Jeter, you are given the option to do so. This is a great improvement on the usually constricted player lock option from other games. Focusing on a specific player only in intense matches opens up a whole new world of gameplay and decision making that is challenging, and a lot of fun.
The commentary is thoroughly excellent, with nice touches of humor and dry wit thrown in. If you play the game long enough, you will eventually find some repetitive sections of commentary dialogue, but this is to be expected. The camera angles and the way the stadiums are lit during the game makes the whole gameplay feel like an actual live television broadcast. The player animations are incredibly realistic, smooth and actions move from one into the other fluidly, taking away any suspension of disbelief.
You have the option to create your own player, customize him and take him through the ranks to become a baseball superstar. If you’ve ever dreamt of playing for your favorite baseball team, here’s your chance to rub shoulders with your heroes and become one yourself. You start from the beginning, and prove yourself in the showcase games to increase the chances of being drafted by the team you want to play with.
There is a crucial flaw in most baseball games that is inherent to the sport itself – a single match takes a long, long time to finish. The average baseball match takes around 3 hours to finish, and some games can go on for longer. While this is fine if you’re enjoying the game in an actual stadium on the weekend with your buddies, as a gamer with limited time, this is a problem. If you play through the complete match every single time, a season can go on for an eternity. MLB 14 attempts to remedy this issue by introducing a feature called quick counts. This feature simulates a portion on the game based on the players’ abilities and then hands over the controls to you. This way, games get over quicker and you can start progressing further into the season, faster. You can play matches online too, but playing them in their entirety online can be a bit of a drag. The mini-games such as Home Run Derby and other multiplayer-only game modes are more fun to play.
While MLB 14 might not be the most revolutionary baseball game in terms of features, it is still a fantastic sim, with realistic mechanics and fantastic graphics. If you are looking to grab a baseball game and can’t wait for the PS4 version, give this game a try.