While gameplay features and Cross-Save will help ensure a seamless baseball experience across all versions of MLB 14 The Show, there's one area where the PS4 version has its brothers handily beat: graphics.
Specifically, MLB 14 The Show on PS4 will have a brand-new lighting engine with subsurface scattering, alongside huge improvements to polygon counts, stadium design, and crowd variety.
The lighting was particularly stunning when I sat down for a demonstration at a Sony event earlier this week. With the PS4 and PS3 versions running side-by-side on identical TVs, the colors and sun-bleaching on PS4 looked remarkably brighter and more realistic. Yet even on a microscopic level, the engine impresses. The demonstrator, game designer Ramone Russell, zoomed in on the face of Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli for inspection of the way light diffuses between shadow and exposure.
"In our lighting engine on PlayStation 3, when there's a shadow, it basically goes from sunlight to shadow," Russell explained. "There's nothing else going on. On the PlayStation 4 version of our lighting engine . . . the light is actually going into the skin, it's bouncing back around, and it's coming back out." Light from the sun will also reflect differently depending on whether it's hitting skin, clothing, leather, wood, and other textures.
But the impressive lighting was overshadowed by the beard on Mike Napoli's face, hand-drawn with 40,000 individual hairs--the power of PS4 allows this many hairs to be placed on every player in the game. With similar detail, every blade of grass in all 30 different stadiums--which are built from scratch for PS4--is individually rendered. The proof came with both versions running side-by-side. Russell zoomed in on the feet of an outfielder in the PS4 version, and I could see that individual blades of grass were covering parts of his shoes. On PS3, the grass, like every texture in the game, is a flat normal map, with no actual depth to speak of.
The overhauled stadiums benefit from texture depth, as well. No longer are scoreboards and outfield walls part of flat stadium textures and skyboxes. Instead, these elements are rendered in exceedingly accurate, three-dimensional detail, with things like rust, wrinkled mats, and physical score numbers readily apparent on close inspection.
The stadium crowds are the icing. There are over 500 unique crowd signs based on actual fan signs from real baseball stadiums, and every single crowd model is drawn with 10,000 polygons--up from 1,600 on PS3, and the same number used to draw PS3's players.
Revel in our screenshots of MLB 14 The Show on PS4 (there's more in our game gallery!), and rest assured the game looks positively gorgeous in action. In fact, compare these shots to the PS3 trailer below, and sound off in the comments with your impressions of MLB 14's graphics. Then, read about this year's new features and DualShock 4 functionality.