|System: PS Vita, PS3*, PS4|
|Dev: SCE Studios San Diego|
|Release: April 1, 2014|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Welcome to another year of MLB The Show, America’s favorite simulation of America’s favorite pastime: baseball… even though Football has higher TV ratings and studies show that more people play casual amateur Basketball than any other sport. As always games like these are usually more updates than fully new experiences. The controls stay the same, the modes mostly stay the same with a couple new additions, and if you weren’t specifically looking for the differences between versions you could probably be forgiven if you mistook MLB 14: The Show for its predecessor, MLB 13: The Show . However, MLB 14: The Show makes a few very important changes to how virtual baseball is played, aside from giving us the usual graphical updates, roster updates and the like.
Perhaps the most advertised new feature in the game is “quick counts.” Until now, if you wanted to play an entire season in a baseball video game, you had to play every pitch of every game on both sides. This would reduce the single-player mode to nothing more than a slog as you swing and pitch, swing and pitch, swing and pitch. While the first few games are fun, by the time you hit games later in the season, the gameplay gets repetitive. Each game itself can take over an hour to complete, which can lead to a season lasting quite literally days.
Quick Counts streamlines all of that. Instead of having you play out every single pitch in the game, batters will step up to the plate with a count already decided for them. The does some background calculation based on the state of the game and a player’s stats to determine how many strikes and balls he has. Essentially, the game fast forwards to the “highlights” of every pitch.
This is kind of a double edged sword. On one hand, games absolutely fly by when quick counts are turned on. Every single pitch feels like the game rides on it, which it what you want the game to feel like. Game time is cut down by more than half which allows you to get through seasons much less painfully. They also immediately alter the way you play the game. If the quick count gives you three balls, then screw it, swing for the fences. If you get up and you are dished out two strikes, think about playing more conservatively. Unfortunately, on the other hand, there is nothing more frustrating than having a quick count stacked against you. Two strikes? Screw you game! In fact, it’s even worse when the game rides on it. Getting a crappy quick count in, say, the bottom of the ninth when it’s all tied up is infuriating, and it feels like the game has been unfairly stolen from you if you lose. Similarly, starting a bat with a 3-2 count isn’t nearly as hype as building up to that 3-2 count. It makes the hype feel a little bit artificial. In addition, I’ve yet to see a 0-0 count come up with quick counts turned on, which means no hits on the first pitch. For the good and bad, quick counts are a welcome addition for people who simply want to spend a little less time at bat or on the mound.
Most of the game’s hyped up new options come in the form of time savers. For example, the new “fast play” mode gets rid of all of the glitz and glamor that comes with a major league baseball showcase. Players are quickly ferried to the plate to take their at bats without any ceremony or commentary. It feels a lot like the old baseball games of the NES and SNES days.
Player Lock is another time saving option that allows you to play as one player on a team, instead of the whole team at once. By selecting a player in the line-up screen, you will control that player on the field and at bat, while every other player is controlled by the computer and, more importantly, fast forwarded through. Playing like this can make a game last only 10 minutes, which will easily let you fly through a season. Don’t worry, if your team starts lagging behind, you can switch the player you control or take control of the entire team again whenever you like.
Player creation in Road to the Show has also been streamlined, although I guess a better way to describe it is just “re-organized.” It’s a lot easier to make a player this time around and the menus are a lot less fiddly. A pre-draft showcase has been integrated into the game as well, which basically allows you to show off for talent scouts. It’s kind of cool, giving a bit of a realistic twist to making your own player and starting a career, but it’s really just kind of a diversion, and die-hard fans will likely want to control their favorite teams rather than leaving it up to talent scouts.