'MLB 14 The Show'

From: SCEA

Rated: E

Who's it for: Baseball fans looking for the best baseball simulation out there

Consoles: PlayStation 4, PS3, PS Vita

Grade: B

Baseball always has translated well to the virtual realm. From the multi-button masterpiece that was "Major League Baseball" for Intellivision to "Baseball Stars" on the NES to "Tommy Lasorda Baseball" for Sega's Genesis, it has been possible to find a great ballgame for virtually any console generation.

Since about 2007, Sony's "MLB The Show" has dominated the field. This annual outing (which actually dates all the way back to 1997) has consistently provided refined gameplay and a plethora of features designed to keep fans happy throughout the lengthy season.

"MLB 14 The Show" brings the series to the PlayStation 4 with mostly positive results, though it's not quite a home run.

One major problem when a game appears on a new generation of consoles is lost features. Thankfully, that isn't a problem here. Everything that appears in the PS3 version of the game (which released last month) remains intact on the PS4.

The superb pitching, hitting and fielding that provide the game's foundation are unchanged. Undoubtedly the most important part of the experience, these basics feature player animations that take things to the next level.

When stepping up to the plate, batters look like their real-life counterparts. Their stances, their swings and their reactions when they strike out are nearly photo-realistic.

So, too, are the fielders. An opponent's line drive to third resulted in my teammate, Nolan Arenado snagging the ball on a dive, spinning around and snapping the ball to first, where my created character, Marc Helton, made an easy catch for the out.

The big difference between the PS3 and PS4 versions are the graphics.

"MLB The Show" has always been a great-looking series. For its first PS4 iteration, everything from the players to the stadiums were remodeled in a higher resolution.

Most things look fantastic, and little touches such as how the fabric on the uniforms moves, or the way the crowd reacts in the stands, really add to the overall ambiance.

All these things add up to make for a very enjoyable base game, but where sports simulations really take off are the variety of modes from which players can choose. Here, "MLB 14 The Show" is a mixed bag.

The heart of the game has always been the Road to the Show mode. This allows you to create a character and take him from the minor leagues to the majors, experiencing his career as it happens.

Along with the fun of developing and progressing your own player, Road to the Show makes for perfect, bite-size chunks of gameplay. Since you have to play through only your character's at-bats and the fielding plays he's directly involved in, games fly by in about five minutes. (They go a little longer if you play first base, as I did.)

Full games are still there if you want them, but this provides a great choice for those who don't have time to sit for an hour or more each time they play.

Unfortunately, the developer's newest attempt to make the game go faster doesn't work nearly as well.

The new Quick Counts mode randomly assigns a number of balls and strikes to each at-bat. It feels bizarre to step up to the plate with a 2-2 count, and then, once that sneaky slider spins past your bat, you inevitably wish you had more than one swing.

As a baseball fan I cannot imagine why anyone would want to use this feature. Yes, it does speed things up, but it skews the game in such a way that luck plays too large a role.

Winning or losing can be the difference between getting a 3-0 count or a 1-2 count at the right, or wrong, time.

Although the franchise mode is finally playable online, I noticed frequent lag, which tarnished the experience and made me want to keep playing locally instead of reaching out to friends. There's still some work to be done here.

"MLB 14 The Show" makes you feel as if you’re actually in a major league stadium.
"MLB 14 The Show" makes you feel as if you're actually in a major league stadium. (Courtesy image)

Finally, I must note that the PS4 suffers from both ridiculous loading times (not that the PS3 is much better) and occasional frame-rate problems. You can likely attribute these to growing pains, and there is every chance they will be patched in the future, but they still are occasionally bothersome.

Ultimately, "MLB 14 The Show" remains in a class of its own. It's easy to nitpick little problems here or there, but from a pure gameplay standpoint, it has no equal. If you want a baseball game, draft this one first.