When it comes to playing franchise/dynasty modes on sports video games, I’m not a fan of simulating. If I start a franchise/dynasty in a game, I want to play every game – no matter the sport. But the problem with baseball video games over the years is that the games take too long to play, typically hovering around the 1-hour mark, and baseball’s 162-game season is the longest of the four major North American sports. As a result, I haven’t come close to finishing a complete season in a baseball video game, let alone reach year two or three in a franchise/dynasty mode. MLB 14: The Show is helping to speed up the process this year with two new features: Quick Counts and Player Lock.
Quick Counts in MLB 14: The Show will automatically generate a pitch count for every at-bat in the game. So instead of starting an at-bat with no balls and no strikes, you’ll start with a count of 2-1, 3-2, 3-1, etc. Quick Counts, combined with using Fast Play presentation over Broadcast, can cut the time of a nine-inning game in half. I’ve finished a few games in less than 30 minutes. After you select your starting pitcher and set your batting order, you’ll see the option to turn Quick Counts on. Once you select the option, you’ll have to use it for the entire game. There’s no switching back and forth mid-game. The only downside I have experienced with Quick Counts is not being able to get a pitcher’s best friend: a one-pitch out. As a result, your starter’s pitch count can rise pretty quickly. If you’re not careful, you may see your pitch count approaching 100 in the fifth inning. And it sounds simple enough, but you have to get in the habit of checking that pitch count before you pitch. The game will flash the pitch count on the screen at the start of the at-bat, but sometimes I just miss it and will throw a crazy breaking pitch on 3-1 thinking I’m playing the traditional way. It will take a little getting used to. Quick Counts is a great way to get through a game in half the time. And it’s a way for the free-swinging types to actually generate a walk or two during the course of a game.
MLB 14: The Show now gives you the ability to lock on one player and play as just him for the entire game. Player Lock allows you to play Road to the Show-style in any other game mode. This is a great way to play through a game in 10-15 minutes, but still have an impact on the game. You can choose just to play as White Sox rookie first baseman Jose Abreu, play his at-bats and make the plays in the field that only involve him.
Player Lock and Quick Counts will allow me to play through a 162-game season for the first time. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of simulating games, so this enables me to be a part of every game during the season. And if you manage to play through a few seasons in MLB 14: The Show, the new Year-to-Year Saves feature allows you to play your saved files on future versions of MLB: The Show.
MLB 14: The Show introduces Online Franchise Mode into the series for the first time. Now you and your friends will be able to play through entire seasons together online while taking part in offline franchise features like scouting and the draft.
Online play still has its hiccups. In the handful of online games I’ve played so far, I’ve experienced severe lag that displays a result on my screen different from my opponent’s. In one game I had runners on first and second base with one out and I got a base hit. I sent the runner from second home and when my opponent threw the ball home, it skipped past the catcher and rolled towards the dugout. I sent the other runner home because nobody went after the ball. I thought I scored two runs and broke a 1-1 tie in the 8th inning. Instead, I scored no runs and ran into an inning-ending double play. Apparently, on my opponent’s end, the catcher caught the ball cleanly and the runner I sent from second base was nailed at home, followed by the runner that I sent all the way from first base. But I didn’t know because I saw something completely different on my end. I had another online running mishap in a game I played and you can see the clip in the video below – skip to :36. You actually see the runners cross each other on the base paths at :47. Hopefully this is something that will get fixed soon. On the positive side, I haven’t experienced much lag during pitching and batting, so that’s a good thing.
One change I would like to see is how stadiums are selected for Online Home Run Derby. Online Home Run Derby is one of my favorite modes to play on MLB: The Show, but they need to implement a better system for stadium selection. It’s completely random. A voting system similar to Call of Duty’s map selection for online play would be nice. At least there’s more variety this year, as opposed to last year when the Mets’ Citi Field was the Home Run Derby stadium choice 99% of the time because users didn’t know they could select a different stadium.
Gameplay wise, MLB 14: The Show still plays the same on the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4. You still have all the options to customize batting, fielding and pitching to your liking. Overall, the gameplay is solid, but one of my biggest pet peeves with the game is the lack of urgency by fielders on potential scoring plays. If a runner is rounding third base, far too often your outfielders will play the ball as if it were a routine single by the leadoff hitter. I’ve experienced the same issue when trying to turn double plays when the shortstop or second baseman will take his sweet time getting the ball over to second base to start the double play process.
Despite some flaws, the MLB: The Show franchise continues to be one of the best sports games on the market. The changes implemented to help speed up the game make for a more enjoyable and less time consuming experience.
Score: 8 out of 10