Each year, San Diego Studios releases another outing of MLB The Show, and each year yields yet another step toward a perfection that the previous version was believed to have achieved. From inception, MLB 14 The Show was destined to reach the same deified heights, even with the lack of competition in gaming's baseball market. 2014 also marks the debut of the franchise on the PlayStation 4, but there’s still a wait until that releases. On home consoles, April's opening baseball season is carried by the PlayStation 3 version, but is there enough here to warrant buying The Show more than once in a year?
Visually, the game has improved. Considering that my review of MLB 13 The Show anticipated no significant visual change until the PS4, I was wholeheartedly surprised. The lighting is always phenomenal in The Show, but each year always seems to look better than the last. Animations are even cleaner, the framerate feels sheen, and even the fans in the stands have substantiality; sure, they’re obviously fans, but they’re 3D models, not cardboard cutouts.
There are many enhancements, additions, and changes to MLB 14 The Show, but the biggest difference between this year’s and last year’s games is pacing. While the traditional game presentation has been refined even further, a few options have shortened the time it takes to play complete games. Quick Counts removes all animations and sequences that take place between plays, and the game time is nearly cut in half. Another change is the ability to lock onto one player for a game, so Road to the Show (RttS) fans can get into franchise modes much easier by locking onto a player or position and play only when that chosen parameter is on the field or in play. These aren’t default changes, but they’re available for those who want faster games. For those intending to buy both console versions, the Universal Profile feature compiles all activities and stats generated from both the PS3 and the future PS4 version into one location, granting the player a better understanding of their own habits in order to keep their styles fresh and unpredictable for opponents.
Two other changes in MLB 14 The Show will be guaranteed crowd-pleasers. The first is what’s coined Year-to-Year Saves, which means that players can transfer progress from MLB 14 The Show and carry on said progress in MLB 15 The Show next year without having to start a franchise over or recreate RttS players and user-generated teams. The other significant addition is the bigger of the two: Online Franchise. Online aspects of MLB The Show have been trickling in over the last three or four annualizations, and Online Franchise mode is finally present for playing with friends. What’s even better is that online servers support an Online Franchise mode that feels like offline franchising. There’s no menu lag and no massive loading, as with other sports games like Madden and NHL.
Unfortunately, I experienced some games where there was a graphical drop with other players online, which is a major blemish to the beautiful presentation of the game as a whole. While most menus load quickly, interacting directly with other online players tends to slow the loading process as well.