Baseball is back for another year of home runs, intentional walks, and those rare-but-amazing no hitters; MLB 14: The Show for the PlayStation Vita is back as well, offering you a virtual field to test your skills on. The Show is developed by the trustworthy San Diego Studios, and this year they bring us another taste of what they can do with the Vita.
First off let’s get the obvious out of the way, MLB 14: The Show is a baseball simulation game that places players in the shoes of some of the top athletes. The MLB: The Show series has seen three games on the Vita so far including this one, and each year we want to see improvements.
One of the big things about sports games is getting the feel of gameplay just right, and in The Show they do quite well in that aspect. The ball reacts how you think it should – whether it’s curving down quick because you hit the top of the ball and gave it down spin, or hitting second base on a grounder and going flying in a different direction. MLB 14: The Show has that feeling of authenticity that puts you in the shoes of a pro baseball player.
No worries, MLB 14 the Show offers you quite a few game modes to get your baseball fix satisfied. Leaving a few things out that could of made this thee baseball game to have on the Vita. The things they do include are all quite polished and feel like a full console experience, but they removed online 1v1, and instead just have online Homerun Derby. Of the game modes MLB 14 has, my favorite has to be RTTS (Road to the Show) Mode, in which you play as your own person making their way to the big leagues. This mode is my favorite because it’s easy to play quick games instead of a full game which can take about an hour. Another important mode to have is Franchise Mode. In this mode you control a team of your choosing and can manage the team how you want – you can cut players, trade players, draft rookies, choose how the batting line-up will be, and much more. As always you can play the games and test your skills against the top MLB teams as you try and get your team to the World Series.
With all those things that were also in MLB 13 you may think what makes this different then 13? Well they’ve added a new feature called “quick counts.” With this feature, the game will automatically simulate games up to a certain count. For example the first batter will start with the count already at 1-2 or 3-1, and it’s your job to make the play from there. This makes full nine inning games only take about 20-30 minutes. The only downside to this mode is if you’re a trophy person, because most of the trophies become disabled. Another added feature to help speed up games is the Player Lock feature. With Player Lock imagine RTTS for all modes, this is where you lock onto one player and take control of them when something is happening whether it be a fly ball in their side of the field or it’s their at-bat. Player Lock is just another way to make games go by much quicker for us gamers.
Controlling your player however, can be a little troublesome when it comes to fielding. Moving my player to catch a fly ball has to be moved perfect, but if you move the analog stick just slightly the wrong direction your player will dart the wrong way and drop the easy out. If you don’t like fielding though, you can choose for the A.I. to take control and you will not have to deal with that problem anymore.
Pitching is another important part of baseball, and just like batting they give you a few options to try from. I used the Pulse mode, in which you pick your pitch then select an area either with the left analog stick or touchscreen. After that you will notice a pulsing circle around the center of your target – by hitting ‘x’ when the pulsing circle is smallest, the odds of the pitch being more accurate increase.
Batting, on the other hand, works quite well – with many different options to choose from. The mode I feel most comfortable playing is Zone. In this mode you control a contact zone where you use the left analog stick to swing in this area. If you move it in the right area and swing at the right time, odds are you will hit the ball.
With my time I noticed however that this version doesn’t come without some flaws. With frame rate issues (mainly during home run cut-scenes or fouls over the bench), running through a wall chasing a ball just on the other side to try and stop a home run, or when I got stuck on third base on a fly out the game wouldn’t let me run back to second before the force out, it’s clearly not perfect.
Speaking of not being perfect, if there was one thing I wish they had improved on from 13 to 14 that would be the graphics. Considering this is a handheld playing a really fleshed out baseball game, San Diego has done quite a good job – however I think they had a lot to improve on from last year’s graphics. Created players still look like they have lazy eyes in their profile pictures, the crowd is almost laughable, and the background looks like a prop from a high school theater.
Now that I’ve trashed it a bit let’s talk about the good. The official teams and their players look fantastic it’s clear they take their time with these guys. The MLB stadiums look just how they should – although I’ve only ever been to Safeco Field in real life, but it definitely looks just like the real thing. Hopefully next year they can get a little better with some of the things I’ve mentioned here, as that could make this game really stand out.
Audio is an important part of any sports game. Hearing the crowd roar over a home-run or grown over a strike out on their team. MLB The Show has tons of different sounds that really put you on the field. You can hear people cheering you on or telling the pitcher to strike this guy out. With all this going on however sometimes the commentators can become really repetitive, and that can be annoying. I have noticed that sometimes they are really slow to say what happens. I fouled the ball deep in left and the announcer said foul ball as I was getting my next pitch. Little things like that are not common so to me it wasn’t the biggest issue. If you really want to experience the best sound effects in MLB I would highly suggest playing RTTS mode, because if you get on base you get to sit on base and really hear everything that’s going on.
All in all MLB 14: the Show leaves me wanting a bigger upgrade from 13, instead of just taking out a mode out and adding some new features. These added features are actually quite nice and work well, but a lot of the issues that haunt this game leave me feeling that MLB 13 is still the better game. That said, MLB 14: The Show is still a fun baseball game, and with saves from this version carrying over to the future versions it’ll be a great way to keep your character or franchise with you as years go by.