Making the series' third appearance on Sony’s handheld, MLB 14 The Show had an opportunity to be the ultimate baseball simulator on the go. The benefits of a portable version of any game are often outweighed by the limited hardware, but San Diego Studios has a knack for making the best of what it's given. Does the team have the sais-quoi needed to make the PlayStation Vita version unique, or is that still a year or so away?
In terms of gameplay, the PS Vita version holds up relatively well, but the game still has noticeable issues. Right away, the graphical side of this version is underwhelming compared to the PlayStation 3 game. Certainly, this makes sense, but the portable version doesn’t even hold a candle to the PS3; this is a considerably wider visual gap than is found between most ports. Character models grow increasingly jagged as the camera zooms out, and the fans in stands look like snowflake cut-outs. On top of that, when the outfield becomes the focal point and a lot of movement takes place on screen, the frame rate drops significantly. Meanwhile, the console version of The Show has always provided an install to lessen load times; the portable game could benefit greatly from a similar requirement in order to smooth out loading as well as graphical and performance issues. After all, the PlayStation Portable had plenty of games that installed data on memory cards, and all PS Vita owners are essentially required to get a decent-sized memory card anyway.
Nonetheless, after overlooking all those visual discrepancies, the game itself feels exactly as a MLB The Show game should: animations are vivid and specific, the commentary is still the best of any sports game out there, and the astounding gameplay customization is pervasive across the board. Players have access to all pitching and hitting styles such as Pure Analog, Zone, and Classic, so the options are almost limitless. I say “almost” because I believe the touch screen could have been implemented rather uniquely for things like pitching, specifically Pure Analog. The joysticks are rather finicky, and executing with any long-term consistency takes a much higher level of physical discipline than with a DualShock 3 controller, so mistakes are easier and more frequent. Ultimately, this version favors more button-centric modes like Classic, since the joysticks are a little touchy. Each style still works, but hopping between multiple console versions will cause some frustration and undeserved mistakes.
There are no online modes for the PS Vita version of MLB 14 The Show. This may not be a negative for some, since having access to internet at all times on a portable device isn’t always possible. However, the loss of game modes makes this version feel wrung out to dry. It’s missing Community Challenges, Online Franchise (though offline Franchise remains), and Diamond Dynasty. At the same time, Quick Counts, which hastens game time, and the streamlined progression system in Road to the Show are very welcome changes that accentuate the portable platform perfectly. But it still feels like an island far away from the console game as the brand new Universal Profile, which tracks player’s gameplay tendencies and playing styles across the console games, is entirely absent, leaving anything done on the PS Vita completely separate from the universe that MLB 14 The Show is pushing to create.
The PS Vita version has a lot of negatives, but it shows a great deal of promise. Even the Windows 8-esque menus are appealing in the touchscreen realm of the PS Vita. Simultaneously, having a baseball simulator with amazing gameplay in the palm of one's hand can’t help but generate excitement. It boasts amazing presentation, the commentary is impeccable, and the soundtrack fits baseball atmosphere perfectly. All this version needed was more tender care, a broader feature set, and cleaner execution. Without this polish, or until it's added in a future update, this title is caught in a limbo meant only for the incredibly devoted and offline enthusiasts.
Be sure to check out our review for the MLB 14 The Show PlayStation 3 counterpart right here.
-The Final Word-
Missing features and lackluster visuals diminish the excellent gameplay and consistent presentation of MLB 14 The Show on PS Vita. Even if the core concept of the game is still incredibly solid, performance issues and ill use of hardware keep this from being a must-buy.