Thursday, May 15, 2014

MLB 14: The Show

I was going to write this post about playing MLB 14: The Show, which I've been looking forward to for months as a great way to get some use out of my PS4 (which hasn't been turned on in months).

Instead, I guess I'm writing about installing, because I started twenty minutes ago and it's nowhere near complete.

Turn on the PS4. Install the mandatory PS4 update. Put in The Show. Have it installing something, then it looks ready to play. Go into the game. Still installing. Try to play an exhibition game. Still installing.

Fifteen minutes after I first loaded the game, I'm at 19%.

This gives me too much time to stare at the screen and see things that annoy me, like the news ticker running along the bottom of the screen. I don't want to see the real MLB news ticker. I want to see NOTHING about the real baseball world when I'm in a pretend baseball world. I can't turn it off, though, so it's going to get shoved in my face every time I play.

This is a problem.

I think the lineage of great baseball games (not including text sims) goes this way:
Earl Weaver Baseball (1987, Amiga)
Front Page Sports Baseball Pro '98 (1997, PC)
World Series Baseball '98 (Sega Saturn, 1997)
MLB: The Show

That's it, and I know, because I've played them all. Literally.

Ah, I just heard something in the living room. The exhibition game must have finally started.

Yeah, that was a poor first impression, but it was a poor impression of the install process, not the game itself. What you most need to know about The Show--the game--is that it's crafted. You can feel the care that went into the making of the game.

When a first baseman makes a catch, there isn't one animation--there are dozens. There must be thousands of animations in the game, because I've played for 6+ hours and never seen an awkward moment. By way of comparison, the NBA2K series--even though it's very good--still has all kinds of awkward animations and transitions. So the animation in this game is nothing short of a marvel, and there's so much detail that it still consistently surprises me.

When I first started playing the game in Road To The Show (single player career), third baseman Enormous Bottoms was faced with something like this when he came to bat:

(screenshot courtesy of one of those websites that rips off other websites and makes web pages out of their content, so I'm not mentioning them by name)

Whoa. There's so much crap on the scene it looks like CNBC--or Sportscenter. Plus, even though you start out in the minor leagues, the full three-man broadcast team is commenting on your game, which makes no sense.

So I want a clean screen and no commentary, just stadium sounds. Here's what I was able to do:

The broadcast team? Silenced. I could have even silenced individual announcers if I wanted to hear play-by-play and didn't want to hear color.

That is very, very nice. And it's the kind of thing that the Madden series, for example, absolutely refuses to do. Madden has a limited presentation, and they'll hold you down and punch you in the face until you like it (you never will).

The Show, though, lets you tailor the game to what you want to see (and hear). And it looks great. This is the best-looking game I've seen on the PS4, and the best looking sports game I've ever seen. It's buttery smooth, incredibly detailed, and entirely brilliant. This is absolutely next level stuff.

I don't even watch baseball anymore and I'm still enjoying myself. Eli's started a career as well, and shortstop Eli Random is tearing up AA even as I write this. So if you have a PS4 and have any interest in sports whatsoever, this is a must-buy.

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