MLB 14: The Show (2014)

 

By Brad Beneke

I’ve been a fan of The Show since it became a PlayStation exclusive a few years ago. I’ve seen the evolution of the game, and am very pleased with a lot of the progress from 13 to 14. Everything from the menu boxes to the player rating system has changed.

I won’t be using a lot of the features as I am not a “gamer” in the classic sense. I don’t want to play against you online. I don’t want to create my own version of myself, try and work my way from A ball to the majors, and become a star, MVP, CY, or HOF player. Therefore, I can only briefly touch on those aspects of the game by saying they are there. You can recreate a lot of your childhood heroes and past superstars, but they are not those players…so for instance, if I create a player named Kirby Puckett, it is not THE Kirby Puckett. I can grab an old baseball card of his and get his height and weight and all of that, I can find a stance that is close to mimicking his leg kick and everything in his stride, but it’s not him. If I place him on the Minnesota Twins and give him 34, he will not be the real Kirby Puckett, and the game will not let him be announced as Kirby Puckett unless those two names are in the computer generated lexicon.

The create-a-player mode is impressive, but it's the only way you can bring a favorite legend or childhood hero to life.

The create-a-player mode is impressive, but it’s the only way you can bring a favorite legend or childhood hero to life.

There are multiple grading systems used to try and create accurate player representations for the game. This is the area I’m truly impressed with in 2014’s version. Gone are the dozen A 99 level players, and 45 A level players to begin with that are in the 90’s automatically. In 2014 Miguel Cabrera (the cover boy), Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw are the only players rated at 99. And even those players are flawed. Miguel is a lousy base runner and a slightly below average fielder (just like real life). Kershaw’s pitches aren’t all 99 miles an hour with flawless command, and even though you could technically go in and change it, I don’t see the fun in that.

The more realistic player grading system means even someone like Miggy can have clear limitations.

The more realistic player grading system means even someone like Miggy can have clear limitations.

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE UPDATES:

I only bought 14 for the fact that it will upgrade to the PS4, and future versions of this game. I’ve wanted this feature since EA SPORTS was making their baseball games for PS and PS2.

The screens are clearer, the graphics are improved, the batting stances are even closer to perfect, and the fielding has become even more realistic with slides, dives, and throws (though not as advanced as the pitching and the hitting, which I suppose will always be the biggest draws).

The improvement in graphics is tremendous, as evidenced by the meticulous detail on Jayson Werth's Jeremiah Johnson beard here.

The improvement in graphics is tremendous, as evidenced by the meticulous detail on Jayson Werth’s Jeremiah Johnson beard here.

I love the much more realistic player ratings. Max Scherzer won the Cy Young Award last year and is an 89B, while fellow Tigers starter Justin Verlander is a 93A because he has better stuff and a much better track record. I am also impressed to see an overrated singles hitter like Joltless Joe Mauer be downgraded from 99A to an 81B. It’s also nice to see great young talent get the A level for upgradability, but lower numbers as starting points. For example, Manny Machado is an 82A, while in last year’s model he started at 85A, and upgraded to 99A by game 73 of the second season. I’m hoping personally that this happens again as he’s my 3rd baseman, but if they don’t progress that fast I’m actually ok with that as well because players should earn it.

While it might not seem like much of an upgrade to some novice players, but to those of us who’ve played the game (or at least to me) I think it’s fantastic that it now shows that Rickey Henderson is the all-time leader in steals and runs scored, instead of it saying Player Oakland Athletics 2002 or what have you for the year he retired.

I think it’s pretty cool how they quickened the pace for the sped up version of the game.

THINGS I DON’T LIKE:

I play this game almost every night to relax after a long day, and if I have to keep hearing the same songs they wear out fast. I went back to The Show 10, 11, 12 and 13 and while I cannot say I’m a fan of anything on the games, this is easily the worst of the lot musically.

The initial having to hit the Start button just to begin things seems redundant as I put the game in the PS3.

The game stalled 8 times in the middle of the draft. So while I know the draft is 90 rounds for 30 teams, 25% success rates seem about 74% lower than they should be. I have never had this problem with any of the PS2 versions, nor did I have this problem with MLB The Show 13, and I did roughly 6 drafts per game.

Speaking of the drafting aspect of the game, I don’t like the lack of an option to auto draft from any point in the draft. I’m a draft loving geek, but when I am at round 68 and have to choose between an A ball middle reliever and a AA backup catcher with C, D, or F ratings it becomes more tedious than fun.

The drafting mode is sufficient, but can grow tiresome after awhile.

The drafting mode is sufficient, but can grow tiresome after awhile.

The scouting change that was made in 2013 was terrible, and they didn’t scrap it or improve it for 14.

When at the plate hitting balls into the outfield there is a flare line that follows the ball that makes it look like the game was aimed at 6-year-olds on Nintendo. This can be turned off luckily, as can the terrible decision for viewing fly balls directly from home plate while on offense, but it was still a decision I was not pleased with.

It doesn’t really bother me currently that Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees are not part of the initial rosters for the initial draft because I know that throughout the season The Show updates its rosters for future drafts. That is how I was able to get Gerrit Cole, Yasiel Puig, Aaron Hicks, and Oswaldo Arcia on my roster on the 2013 version. Though the game was unable to say their names unless I programmed them in via the name generator feature (with the exceptions of Puig and Arcia where neither their first nor last names were available). However, I could see this being a problem for the average person purchasing this game and expecting it there.

THINGS I’M STILL UP IN THE AIR ABOUT:

Doing the draft is not for the faint of heart as I mentioned previously and will mention again for the Franchise mode. I had to go through hundreds of computer generated minor leaguers to fill positions based on arbitrary ratings that are pre-generated, and are craftily changed if you don’t save the roster as is before starting your draft (I learned this 5 failed drafts in). My example is Juan Jimenez RF (a computer generated fake player) in draft attempt 1 he was a 70/99 but rated a D. In version 2 he was a 70/99 but graded a B and in draft 5 he was a 70C. In version 9 when I got back to him he was a 70A and a top 50 prospect. This happened with EVERY computer generated player. Their numbers always stayed the same, but their ability to grow as players changed dramatically every time unless the roster was saved BEFORE THE DRAFT!

THINGS I’D LOVE TO SEE ADDED FOR FUTURE VERSIONS OF THE GAME:

I would like to be able to purchase the rights to veteran retired players and HOF players…the money could go directly to those players if need be.

I would like to be able to purchase old stadiums throughout the history of the game. I think it’s very cool that I can play in the Polo Grounds or in Old Yankees Stadium, but I think it would be very cool as a Minnesotan to be able to play in the old Met Stadium (like I could in the EA Sports 05 version), or to play in Ebbet’s Field, or for nostalgia sake the Astrodome and the cookie cutter ball parks in Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh to name a few.

The game would benefit tremendously from offering more historic players and ballparks, such as the original Yankee Stadium.

The game would benefit tremendously from offering more historic players and ballparks, such as the original Yankee Stadium.

I would like the rosters on the game expanded to the entire 40 man rosters added to the game before having to create computer generated players.

I would like to see current lifetime leader boards and all time leader boards so we could track how our players are doing on the all-time charts, not just seeing their name if and when they finally break a record. I believe that by being able to buy the retired players and the HOF players from the Online Store there would be a guarantee of names on the stats as well.

I would like full baseball card statisitics to show from year to year. It’s awesome I can see that Rickey Henderson is the all-time leader in steals, but unless I write it down on paper like I would circa 1983 Atari 5200 there is no way to know how many steals a current player has from his rookie season to his retirement from year to year. This is the same for doubles, triples, and several pitching categories like saves. Since I’m mentioning all of this I’m going to nitpick that I’d like to see outfield assists. Perhaps the makers of The Show can find a way to work with Baseball Reference, the players union, and retired players to make this happen?

Given the meticulous level of detail already, it'd be great to see future editions of the franchise offer stats such as those regarding fielding and assists.

Given the meticulous level of detail already, it’d be great to see future editions of the franchise offer stats such as those regarding fielding and assists.

In closing, I apologize for the other aspects of the game that I have not yet looked into. This game has so many aspects to it and different avenues to play that it might rival Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto 5 for its sandbox capabilities.

If you have the game and play any of the other aspects of The Show, please leave your opinions and views in the comments. It’s an amazing brand. The Show is a fantastic franchise and I’m hoping that Sony, Game Informer, and the incomparable Paul Charchian  of Video Games Weekly on KFAN 100.3 FM in Minnesota will see this and opine as well.

 

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About

Marshall Garvey is a graduate of UC Davis in history, and a gamer since third grade. He has many favorite games, among them “Batman: Arkham City,” “Zelda: Majora’s Mask,” “Resident Evil 4,” “All-Star Baseball 2001,” “Banjo Kazooie,” “Silent Hill 2,” “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” and “Fallout: New Vegas,” among many others. His other interests include baseball, football, boxing, politics, music, movies, jogging, playing trombone, and writing, and he is a devoted fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics. He recently finished two tenures at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, CA, the first being as an intern at the National Archives wing and the second as a staff writer for the Nixon Foundation. Right now, he’s working on two books for the Sacramento Historical Society, one about the history of baseball in the city and the other about the Governor’s Mansion. He is also the creator of his own trading cards franchise, the United States Presidents Baseball Club, which can be visited at: www.presidentsbaseball.com. You can also see his writing about baseball at: www.brushbackpitch.com

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