It's baseball time again, and I have a long-standing affinity baseball video games. Sony's MLB The Show series has been my baseball game of choice for years, and I was excited to have it show up on my PS4 a little late on Tuesday. I've played about a dozen games so far and wanted to share my initial impressions.
Is this a "next gen" sports game?
Not really. While Sony has been extolling the benefits new hardware has brought to the game, this is basically the PS3 game from a month ago with a fresh coat of paint. The game looks good, very good actually. The stadiums in particular look really nice with tons of details that add a lot of ambiance to every moment.
However, everything else is lifted straight from the older game. Even some of the commentary is lifted from the 2012 edition of the game (the last one I owned). While all of their efforts seem to have gone to making the game look great, I hope that their energy for next year goes towards making the game play better. More and better animations are at the top of my list right now.
As much as I enjoy baseball video games, I'm not very good at them. I tend to switch between a difficulty level that is way too easy and one that kicks my ass all day. It's a headache.
This year they have introduced a dynamic difficulty level that scales the challenge as you play. These changes happen in real time, so if you have a terrible first few innings, the game will knock the difficulty down a notch to try and help you get your footing. Purists will probably want to turn this off, but I like that it makes it more likely for each game to be competitive to the end.
This is a new feature designed to make games play out quicker. Instead of playing every single pitch of a game, you start each at bat a few pitches in. I don't love when I start a batter at 3-2 and have a ton of pressure to hit on this pitch, but it does speed up the game considerably. Games used to take me 45 minutes to an hour and now they take around 30 minutes. When Franchise mode makes you play 162 game seasons, anything that helps get you through those games faster is a plus.
Modes, modes, modes, lots of modes
There are a ton of ways to play MLB 14 The Show. If managing a franchise is too much for you, you can play a season, or just a single game. You can build up your "Diamond Dynasty" team and have it complete with other players online when you're away from your PS4. You can play Road to the Show where you design a player and take them up from the minors to the hall of fame. And most of these modes can be played online as well. There are almost too many things to do, which is high praise for the first of any sports game on new hardware (see Madden 06 on the Xbox 360 for the opposite).
I have enjoyed my time with this year's The Show. The game is not a drastic leap in any new direction, but it has refined many of the frustrations I have had with previous entries without sacrificing any features. It's the only game in town this year, so if you are a baseball fan and have a PlyStation 4, this is a very good game. Just don't expect it to be unlike anything you have played before.