The new baseball season is underway, and with this new season Sony has found itself in a new position: it's the only baseball game on the market. And with 2K sitting on the bench this year, you might think that takes some pressure off the team behind MLB 14: The Show, but according to Ramone Russell, designer at Sony San Diego, that's not the case at all.
"We're always out to improve," Russell said. "If you need competition to make a better game, you're making games for the wrong reason."
And really, Sony San Diego should be prepared to go hard. While though there's no competition this year, the development team behind The Show has always strived to top previous years' efforts. Still, at the very least, MLB 2K brought a different perspective on certain gameplay features, and managed to excel in some areas, despite the overall lack of quality.
"[MLB 2K's] presentation has always been better," Russell said. "We're getting to that level, and we get better every year."
To be clear, what MLB 2K had going for it was being the more stylish and personality-driven game. Better menus, better commentary, and even better music. If Sony can retool some of its presentation elements and inject some more life into the commentators and flavor text, then players might not even miss the 2K series next year.
In the interim, there's an opportunity to make some progress with the PlayStation 4 version of MLB 14: The Show, which I saw at a recent event. The PS4's HD commentary, crowds, and ambient noise are a good start--everything sounds really crisp--yet the real star right now is the visual improvements.
On the PlayStation 3, MLB 14 is one of the best-looking sports games around, but the PS4 version is notably superior. Completely redone textures and models on the stadiums bring it all to life. In fact, the PS4 crowd models are closer in polygon count to the ball players on the PS3, and consequently, look a lot more realistic. Additionally, for the first time, the stadium features children and batboys, which may not seem like a big deal, but these sorts of small details go a long way in adding authenticity. Indeed, after I fouled a few balls into the stands and knocked one substantial home run, it was obvious how much work has been put into elevating the presentation elements of The Show for the PS4.
“You can see the details up close,” Russell explained, zooming in to show me the individual blades of grass on the field at Petco Park, and the metal score cards hanging off the back wall at Fenway, neither of which are possible on the PS3. “Even your player's glove has improved texture. The lighting plays off it more realistically, and it actually looks like leather.”
As for other features, there's full parity between the PS3 and PS4 versions of MLB the Show, which combined with the cross-save features should make it easy for players to jump from one version to the other. Why didn't the PS4 get some new incentive? Sony didn't want to upset the 73 million PS3 owners out there, or the early PS4 adopters.
That isn't to say MLB 14 on PS4 is the same game. Thanks to PS4's hardware, The Show outshines its PS3 counterpart in numerous ways, and GameSpot will have more on those differences when the game hits store shelves on May 6.