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Meet the New Boss....same as the Old Boss.
on May 2, 2014
This review will concern only those who have been playing The Show series over the years, and are wondering if this last version (for the PS3) is "worth it."
I've been playing this game ever since it's inception many years ago, and up to and including this year (somewhat regrettably) I've just bought the new game version, sight unseen- as I am a hard-core baseball fan, and every year enjoy the experience of controlling one team through an entire season of play, Spring Training through the playoffs. I am rarely interested in the various available game modes other than the franchise mode (ie: Road To The Show, homerun derby, etc), and so this review will concentrate only on that- and more importantly, whether or not this year's game has improved in any of the ways that it NEEDED to (refer to any of my reviews of this game for the last 2-3 years for what that means, though it should be a tip-off that my complaints have been much the same for several years now).
It seems that every year for the last several years, the changes made to The Show series were relatively minor, and in areas that frankly didn't need changing to begin with. The main one of those being the graphics- this year again positively stellar, even on the PS3 (the PS4 version destined to be more amazing yet graphically), but I'd argue that the graphics did NOT need any upgrade.
Lots of elements of the gameplay DID, though, and I'm afraid my verdict for that this year is: sadly, nothing has changed. The following is just a short list to elaborate- I'm sure all these things will be more familiar to those who, like me, play a LOT of games each year on The Show, and much less-so to the occaissional gamer.
1-Announcing: IMO, always the weakest aspect of this game series, and positively aggravating (not to mention BORING) to see that almost no effort has been put into improving that again this year. Not just the same announcers- that would be OK- IF, however, they actually varied the lines of announcing, AT ALL. But what you'll find this year is the SAME lines of dialogue as for maybe the last 4-5 years, and the SAME unbelievable repetitiveness of those lines within any single game: OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Gameplay announcing, of a varied, informative, and emotionally exciting kind COULD add so much to this game, but once again, it's a TOTAL dud. Clearly, almost NO effort by the game developers to even remotely address this glaring deficiency. Just plain LAZY on their part, folks.
2-Gameplay deficiencies, all the more aggravating because these have ALL been there before, are not in any way MLB realistic (as the developers are always hyping, ie: "So real, it's UNreal", etc, etc....), and also, not infrequently seriously affects gameplay results (ie: a lot of the following dumb things can lose you plenty of close games).
- Slow reactions in your outfielders picking up a ball to get back in to the cutoff man, or to a base. This wasn't so bad last year, but now your OFer will stroll over to the ball, take his time picking it up, and then take a few hops steps, and THEN slowly wind-up, all before even letting go of a throw- and what's worse, there is NOTHING the human player can do with the gamepad to speed that up even a little. Absolutely ridiculous, and it costs you runs, too.
- Continued ridiculous wild pickoff throws by human-controlled pitchers, where the guy sails the ball either down the right field line throwing to first, or into the stands- something that I have personally NEVER seen in a real MLB game, after 50+ years of watching games. And what's worse is how OFTEN this happens: in my first 30 games so far this year, I've had this happen to me 14 times. Yeah, right.......Perhaps worst of all: the same thing has been present in this game for several years now- again, clearly NO effort to fix this.
- Depictions of tags at bases are rarely what the umpire's call turns out to be- these aren't just "bad calls", they seem to be graphical errors- as your guy's entire body is halfway across a base sliding, gets tagged on his leg, and is called.....out. One thing I haven't seen, oddly enough, is the opposite: if I guy is clearly tagged out, he's always called out. For what little that is worth.
- A related issue to the above: there is NO "manager challenge" feature, as is the case this year in the real Show. Why not?
- Fielding errors, even with fairly radical slider adjustments, are still way too frequent, besides how DUMB most of them are. Not just a throw a little in the dirt, mind you, but a guy simply dropping a chest-high throw, or a guy heaving a casual throw to a base into the stands. And then little bobbles by an outfielder on a basehit, that affects gameplay NOT AT ALL- what's even the point of that? Gets the announcer excited anyway....OVER AND OVER AGAIN, as one would expect.
- Base-stealing, which could be a great "cat-and-mouse" mechanic in a videogame, is awful again: not only is there a ridiculously high percentage of guys getting picked off, but most CPU catchers (regardless of their throwing ratings, btw) turn out to suddenly have totally accurate, cannon-like arms when you are trying to steal a base. Part of the problem is, of course, that you can't really push taking a bigger lead, or breaking early much, because of the high rate of pickoffs- and again, there is NOTHING you do with your gamepad that can prevent these random, though frequent, pickoffs. Regardless of the basestealing skill rating of your baserunner, he will just randomly freeze and get picked off, even if you hit the "return to base" button immediately. It's just not under your control.
-Analog bunting, for some reason, has disappeared, and there is no option to select that as your preferred bunting method. Why?
- A noticably new way the CPU manages to control game outcomes this year is at the dish, when you are hitting. This time around, if it's not in the program for you to win any given game, instead of something realistic that I could accept, like a CPU pitcher just having great stuff, and hitting all his spots with his pitches, mixing pitch types and speeds, etc, the game just has center-cut, fat CPU pitches, that you time perfectly, just go for routine outs. All you have to do is stop during any game and review your hit chart to see this: just last night, of the first 12 outs my team made hitting, 9 of them were on CPU pitches that were in the exact center of the strike zone, that I had timed perfectly. Other games, those SAME pitches might go for hits- but either way, you're left with a strong sense that it's not really all that much up to you. And that not only gets old pretty fast, it's just not much FUN.
- The playing field isn't too level, either. Though this is nothing new to this series, you'll find that about 90% of shots that you line back through the box that hit the pitcher are turned into outs by another CPU fielder, whereas about 90% of the shots the CPU hits off YOUR pitcher go for hits.The same goes for diving catches by outfielders: the CPU guys get to almost everything YOU hit, but good luck when YOU are in the field.
There's a lot more stuff that has always fallen under the category of "CPU control" in this game- I've harped on it every year in my past reviews, and it's clearly necessary to SOME extent, in order to wind-up with realistic individual player stats, team records, etc. BUT, I'd say this year it's just WAY too obvious, especially if you play this game frequently, and the end result is a lot of frustration for the human player. We've all seen this before, many, many times- and at least for me, it has finally gotten old enough to be more than just a nuissance.
As I have done with all my previous yearly reviews of The Show, I'll add on a few more things in the comments section of this review, as I play through my season (I've played a total of about 70 games so far, hitting on Hall of Fame level, and pitching on legend level, controlling my home-town Chicago White Sox, playing through an entire season against the CPU)..
But for those who are wanting to know if MLB The Show 2014 for the PS3 is worth buying, I'd offer the following:
If you already own last year's game, and are OK to invest the time in updating the rosters, the new game does not offer anything that makes buying it worth your while. The graphics have always been great, and so did not need any upgrade. The gameplay, however, has needed a major upgrade, for quite a few years now, and you just won't find any useful evidence of that in the new game.
Pity, as always, because with just a few simple gameplay tweaks, this could be a timeless classic.