Hands-on Report – MLB 14 The Show (PS4)

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Many have wondered what the first release of MLB 14 The Show on PS4 would be like. Some may remember that when the series hit the PS3 with MLB 06, it seemed more like a port from the PS2 than anything else. Some became worried when the PS4 version was delayed to a few weeks after release on PS3 and Vita, but I’m here to tell you that the wait was worth it. I flew to San Mateo for the first chance to actually play the PS4 version, which is only weeks away from being completed.

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The goal is to make the PS4 feature-complete with the PS3 version, and except for a small item it definitely is, even adding some things not possible on PS3. First, what hasn’t been moved to the PS4 version completely are most aspects of the “Sounds of the Show” feature. It’s still present in the game, but since the PS4′s OS still doesn’t support .mp3 files, the development team wasn’t able to make Sounds of the Show as diverse as it is on PS3. Instead, users are only allowed to work with music and sounds made available on the disc, and not allowed to create custom sounds or import their own music. This is completely due to the fact that the OS itself doesn’t allow them to do so yet. If/when support is added to the OS on the PS4, the team definitely plans to add these additional items back into the mode though.

All commentary found on PS3 is present in this version, but what’s been changed on PS4 is that all of the audio has been re-recorded in “HD”, and all is uncompressed when played-back on PS4. This includes sounds of the stadiums, crowd, gameplay and commentary. The content itself is essentially the same that we’ve heard in the past though, so the audio experience is similar, just at a much higher fidelity.

The biggest upgrade is obviously the visuals and presentation though, and it’s quite impressive. I started with AT&T Park, and the impact of the numerous upgrades was immediate. It’s an odd sensation though, since the PS3 version already runs at 60 frames. To some, it may actually take a few minutes to start noticing what has changed, especially since most of the animations have been moved over to the PS4 as well. It really does stand as a testament to how fantastic the game has been on PS3, but what you’ll find is what limits that system had, because now the huge increase in resources is being put to good use. Textures are much more detailed and colors are more accurate with a much higher amount of gradients. Sunglasses are now truly transparent, and you can even see the player’s eyes moving behind them.

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Lighting too has been completely overhauled. Light sources aren’t pre-rendered anymore, and everything is correctly (and beautifully) self-shadowed, right down to the blades of grass that hang over the infield dirt. Light sources are much more realistic as well, even adding a bloom effect on players and on the field during sunny days. The one thing that I didn’t have time to look at though was he overall shadowing based on time of day. In the past, they had different stages of shadowing on the field, but it wasn’t a “real time” progression. I’m curious to find out if this is still handled in the same way or if this progression will be smoother than it was on the PS3.

Night games bring sports games to a whole new level though. The building in right field at Camden Yards is lit just the way it is in real life, as are the structures outside of the other stadiums I was able to check out and unlike past games in the series, players are correctly shadowed depending on the actual stadium lights. I’ve always liked playing sports games at night if they’re lit well enough, and MLB 14 The Show on PS4 quickly became my favorite.

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Speaking of stadiums, I took a look at as many as I could, and every single one was so much more accurate. The PS4 and its abundant resources allow the developers to recreate them with even the smallest details such as ball marks on the pads at the warning tracks, the metal plates used for team names on the scoreboards beneath the Green Monster at Fenway all showing impact damage that’s been inflicted upon them over the years (and each shadowing correctly as well), and even the rust pouring down the wall from a metal grate. Each stadium has been completely rebuilt from scratch for the PS4 version, mainly because each is built from roughly 7-10 times more polygons than before (the biggest being built from around 1.2 million). Geometry has been tweaked, camera pits and dugouts look more natural, structures all the way around are more proportional, and now all of the objects such as scoreboards and clocks are fully built-out in three dimensions, instead of simply being flat as they have in the past. Even the flags fly in the correct direction that the wind is actually blowing. Also, an addition to the PS4 version is a new fly-in sequence at the beginning of games. One that made me smile immensely was in Kansas City. Since the stadium is pretty far outside of town, they actually showed downtown Kansas City, with Union Station in the foreground and an angle that would probably be shot from the Liberty Memorial. It looked fantastic and was a real surprise that almost made me homesick (by the way, Kauffman looks amazing!)

Player models are obviously built with an abundance of polygons as well and the clothing textures are all new. Pants and jerseys look like the real thing now and the gloves look they’re actually made from real leather. The attention to detail that was always there in the past pales in comparison to the intricacies in the PS4 version. Something that’s actually more impactful to the overall experience though is the variety and upgrades to the crowd at the stadiums. Each character in the crowd is actually made up of a similar number of polygons that an actual Baseball player in the PS3 version was comprised of. You may still see a duplicate if you really look, but this year they’ve upped the number of unique crowd models from 40 to around 300, with the capability to go up to a thousand. To mask duplicates though, they’ve even gone further by upping the amount of different shirts, hats, and eye ear that they may or may not be wearing. I was even seeing people wearing throwback gear and all detailed enough to look authentic in exacting precision. This change adds a ton of depth to the visual experience and really helped pull me into the game even more. The shots of players at the plate taking a practice swing looked almost like a real game on TV. What helps even further is the additional amount of actions that the crowd members perform. Everything mixed together in the total package makes for one of the most immersive sports game experiences that I’ve ever played, and this is just the beginning.

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The PS4 also allows even more additions to the presentation, including bat boy and ball boy animations, with the ball boys even being able to grab a foul ball hit down the line. Over 350 fielder and batter animations have been added, including the Japanese-style of going directly into a run while hitting, like Ichiro does on many occasions. It’s a style that they could never get working right on the PS3 because of the memory needed to blend the animations, but now it’s not only possible, it’s done correctly.

Not everything is present though. Retractable roofs like those at Miller Park or Chase Field still don’t open or close, but the plan is to add that function in MLB 15 The Show (hopefully) and though planned, crowd members won’t reach over the wall to grab a foul ball that’s rolling toward them. Also, not present in any version this year are call replays, but that will be in the game next year as well. No bat or ball girls yet either, but that’s also in the plans for next year.

Even after seeing a preview of the game on PS4 back in February, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the full game. I was lucky though because I got to play for quite a while, and I loved it. It’s the same great gameplay that we’re all used to, but now all of these small details that many of us fans have begged for over the years are finally being realized. Unlike having to wait for 3 or 4 years for the game to get good on the new console, we’re being spoiled by a fantastic game right out of the gate. Sure there’s room for improvement, there always is, but their first outing on the PS4 is a full-featured and fully fleshed-out experience, not simply an HD port.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • HustlinOwl

    Sounds perfect, now please get online right for PS4 and needing PS Plus to play our online franchises

  • Dion Abbott

    SO EXCITE!!

  • KosmoCrisis

    Looking good. You should probably just move out here so you don’t have to fly every time there is something PS wants to show off.

  • Erkuza

    MLB 06 never came out for the PS3 like you mentioned at the start of the article.

  • Finchy74

    Cannot wait for this game. First day buy.