If there is a sports video game series that has nailed its sport better than MLB The Show, I haven’t seen it. NBA 2K has been awesome, as has been NHL and FIFA, but the The Show series has been just a notch above from an overall consistency standpoint.
With the PlayStation 4 releasing in Nov. 2013, the anticipation for the next-generation version of the game began almost immediately. That version is set to release on May 6, but Sony hasn’t left its PS3 users high and dry. The current-gen version (how long do we keep calling it that?) comes out April 1.
Detroit Tigers mega star—and recipient of a sick contract extension—Miguel Cabrera will grace the cover of both the PS3 and PS4 versions. Here’s a look at the cover image.
Cabrera is the biggest name involved with the game, but other stars such as the San Francisco Giants Buster Posey, Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen and Cincinnati Reds Brandon Phillips are also involved in the promotion of the game.
I spoke to Phillips about being in the game and a host of other things in the interview below.
After playing both the PS3 and PS4 versions—though not enough to dish a full review—I can share impressions from the gameplay, presentation and visual appeal of the PS3 version.
Here’s a breakdown of the new, the old and the in between.
The Oldies, But Goodies
Gameplay and Graphics
Quite honestly, the PS3 was maxed out from a graphical standpoint as it relates to MLB The Show—and quite possibly most other titles. The community manager for The Show, Ramone Russell, told me as much during a conversation we had at a preview event in Scottsdale, Ariz.
We talk about that as well as several other details about both the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game in the video below.
From a visual standpoint, I didn’t see much difference between MLB 13 The Show and MLB 14 The Show. Both look really solid, but very similar—if not identical. This should be expected considering where we are in the evolution of consoles.
The same could be said for the gameplay as well, with the exception of a few new animations.
Not everyone agreed with my assessment about the graphics. Jacob Siegal of BGR.com wrote this after seeing the PS3 version:
"Even on the PlayStation 3, MLB 14 looks vastly improved from the last year’s title. Crowds are more well-defined, players look more realistic..."
You can watch the release trailer and preliminarily be a judge for yourself.
Similarities to last year's version could be a downer for some fans, but if you liked the visuals and gameplay as much as I have for the last five years or so, it may not be that big of a deal to you.
At some point, if fans want a huge increase in visuals, they’re going to have to upgrade their hardware. That’s the case with any technological industry.
When it comes to gameplay, I’m a big proponent of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For the most part, there wasn’t any thing broken with The Show’s gameplay. Thus, the minor tweaks will probably be fine for most fans of the series.
The New Stuff
There are a good number of smaller changes that I'll delve into with the full review, but here are the biggest ones.
I feel like I should have been a part of a WWE crowd when this feature was announced. I wanted to chant “this is awesome!” For the first time in sports video game history a franchise is allowing you to carry your saves over from one version to the next.
Unless you’re a hardcore sports gamer, you don’t understand how great that is. For years, sports gamers have been playing through one or two seasons, building a little sports universe of their own, only to wipe the slate when the new version comes out.
It can be quite traumatic.
No more—at least not with MLB The Show. You can now take your season from MLB 14 The Show, and import it into MLB 15 The Show next year. The feature doesn’t kick in until next year, but it's still very cool.
Essentially, this feature allows you to play any mode as if it were Road to the Show. For those who aren’t aware what RTTS is, it’s the single-player experience that lets gamers play as one player throughout an entire career.
Player lock gives you control over one player for the entire game you’re playing. You can even switch the player you’re controlling during the game.
Baseball games take a long time. This feature allows you to play a game in about 1/3 the time it would take you normally. By generating a count before each at bat, the game is sped up dramatically. We played this extensively in Arizona. It’s pretty cool, but it takes some getting used to.
You have to pay close attention to every pitch. Because you may only get one per at bat.
This functions as a gameplay identity of sorts for each gamer. It tracks your tendencies and can give a virtual scouting report of your game to potential online opponents.
The old create-a-scenario mode is reborn here. Gamers will be allowed to set up historic, fantasy or predictive situations to conquer in the game.
Russell told me you’ll be able to alter every detail of the situation. It’ll go beyond just setting up the players, the count and the basic details.
The gamer setting up the scenario will even be able to alter ball placement on pitches, fly balls, line drives, etc. Moreover, once the challenging situations have been created, they can be shared with the community.
Franchise mode on The Show has always been pretty deep, but now it can be enjoyed online with friends. It appears Sony didn’t hold back with the features as many games do when franchise-like modes are taken online.
Gamers will be able to scout, go through an amateur draft, sign free agents and trade with human opponents as well as CPU-controlled teams.
Just about every sports gaming franchise has some sort of virtual currency system nowadays. The Show follows suit with this implementation of Stubs. You’ll get rewards for completing community challenges, succeeding in RTTS and other modes within the game.
Diamond Dynasty Extra Innings
The collector-fantasy sports hybrid game modes have become all the rage within the genre. MLB The Show’s version—which is called Diamond Dynasty—is getting a little bit of a boost. We didn’t get a chance to see this in action, but it sounds weird and a bit convoluted.
To be sure that I don’t botch the description of the game, I’ll simply let the official product details explain it:
In this mode, a player's team is always looking for opportunities to challenge other users in an offline setting, which allows the user to earn bonus rewards the next time they log in.
When online, the player has the opportunity to challenge other user-created teams in an offline game where the CPU controls their team. Players can only benefit positively in this mode even if their team does not perform up to their normal standards.
Does everyone understand that? I sure don’t, but I suppose I will once I get an opportunity to give it a spin.
One gripe I’ve heard from some fans of the series centers around the game’s commentary. While I don’t believe I shared quite as big of a distaste for that aspect of the series, I totally recognize the commentary has fallen behind the curve a bit.
The area was loud at times in Arizona, and there wasn’t a ton of volume on any of the televisions, but I did hear an increased amount of conversational value in the audio. I wouldn’t say it was a drastic improvement, but there was a difference.
Obviously, we’ll be able to make a full judgement on this and everything else come April 1.
I’m expecting to put in some serious time with the PS3 version in the next few days. Be on the lookout for the full review of that version on April 1 and more details on the PS4 version as we move closer to May.
It’s time for baseball.
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