aNewDomain.net — My pitch glides down the center. The details sing, from the seams on the ball to the view of the back of the park. That’s right — it’s the next epic edition of what’s been called the best sports franchise of today. It’s MLB 14 The Show.
My advice? Get in your car and go pick it up. Now. I was waiting to get the series, but after my friend said I had to play it, I took a look. And basically, it’s amazing. San Diego Studios (SDS) leads the development this time, instead of the fallen-from-grace EA Games. And SDS knocks it out of the park.
Road to the Show and Minor Leagues
One of the fundamental features of MLB 14 The Show is The Road to the Show game mode. Here you can create your very own character and lead him to a full-on career in the MLB. This is similar to the Road to Glory mode in the NCAA Football franchise.
The Road to the Show is an awesome feature because it shows the reality of making a career in baseball. Not just MLB, and not just in your prime. Your character starts out as a high school graduate in one of four regional teams — in the West, Central, East or International leagues. You play to impress the scouts of the MLB teams in the coming draft.
Play well enough, and you have the option of joining the pros immediately or taking 1-4 years away in college. Unlike Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball, you will have a second chance should you go to college. If drafted, you’re first sent to the team’s double-A affiliate in the minors. Unlike other professional sports, baseball’s baptism into the professional level doesn’t involve getting demolished by seasoned veterans.
The inclusion of the minor leagues is great for a few reasons. First, it gives the user a more-authentic experience of the MLB and its affiliates. It also greatly improves gameplay. In The Road to the Show mode you place your newly-created player, whose stats are noob at best, against players of their own level.
Most RPGs have a similar format where, as the game progresses, the player gradually fights harder and harder enemies as the player levels up. The baseball and RPG mash? New and intriguing in my book.
The minor leagues also introduce the advancement system, where players can advance through the double- and triple-A levels of the minors and later up to the majors. They can also be demoted. The game also removes goals as a means of advancement, and instead evaluates players’ performances with points on the Performance Evaluator scale.
The game also gets rid of achievement hunting. This makes gameplay far more enjoyable — I’m able to get into the spirit of the game, and it’s fun roleplaying my character. For The Road to the Show, San Diego Studios appeased fans that enjoy customization and character building and those who fantasize about a career in the MLB.
A final act of realism in The Road to the Show is one I haven’t ever seen in an EA Sports game. As you increase a player’s attributes the category gets ever closer to 99, but the higher you go, the more each point costs. Can someone say balanced? Balance is what propelled Starcraft II to its deity status among RTS games, and it’s what inflates the epic nature of The Road to the Show far above the career mode of other sports games.
In sports games it is typically very easy to max a player’s stats. No major challenge, and my players are almost too good. After that point the fun drops. The Road to the Show does it differently by allowing improvement through the player’s whole career, which makes me want to keep playing. Which is the whole point, after all.
Improved Classic Features
The 2014 edition of MLB The Show has improved upon existing features, especially in franchise and season modes. Right off the bat an MLB season is overwhelmingly long and too repetitive.
In terms of gameplay, that gets very boring and repetitive, but MLB 14 The Show introduces features like manager mode — where the player takes on the role of a manager and leads his or her team from the dugout, cutting down on field play. In case you’re as bad as the Astros were last year, you can always intervene in a game and play normally.
MLB 14 The Show also created an incredibly-unique feature called Player lock. The entire first-person experience is enhanced so the user only controls the user-created player. Or any particular player the gamer wants. This extends to that player in a single game, or in an entire franchise or season mode, or for an entire season.
I especially enjoy this mode when I’m playing as a team full of losers, but one star character compels me to lock on (‘fess up people, I know I’m not the only one). Both of these features allow the season to fly by faster, while avoiding the hard, painful ordeal of simulating games.
However, in all honesty I don’t blame them for making you play the whole season. I always have a compelling need, bordering on OCD, to control my team. What MLB 14 The Show does best is cut through that repetition and give the player faster and more-immersive gameplay.
The Small Stuff
Finally, The Show places emphasis on all the little details, which really improve gameplay. The physics are highly realistic — you get an option to select the stadium altitude, for instance. Stunning graphics display diving players, and flags are flapping in the wind seamlessly.
MLB 14 The Show has also honed in on the stadium details, bringing over a thousand character models (yes, a thousand) to make up the crowds. SDS captures the unique features of every stadium, such as the Coca-Cola sign in SPC Park, or the old classic scoreboard found in Wrigley.
Everything, even the players’ pre-bat warmups, are unique in this game. I saw a baseball land in a guy’s popcorn in the trailer. Now that takes commitment.
Overall, MLB 14 The Show has to get a rare 10/10 for me. It is simply the best sports game I’ve ever seen. The sheer amount of detail and unique features in the game are mesmerizing. It manages to cut down length of baseball games, which is a huge bonus when gameplay usually gets long and repetitive. MLB 14 The Show is a must-buy for any baseball fan out there. It will give you an extraordinary experience that’s worth your buck.
Until next time, this is Fegelein Puching Zhang for aNewDomain.net signing off.