The Next-Gen Beard Technology of MLB 14: The Show

Take me out to the ballgame.

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Sony's flagship baseball franchise will make its next-gen debut this spring when MLB 14: The Show launches on PlayStation 4. Such news naturally leads to a few questions: How next-gen is this version of the game going to be? Also, what is a baseball?

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Well, I'm afraid I can't help you with that second question. Professional baseball is a strange, almost mythological sport that defies all explanation. Nine adult men put on pajamas and run through patches of dirt. Wooden bats are swung at tiny projectiles. Occasionally the infield fly rule is called.

But the question of how MLB 14 is taking advantage of PS4 hardware is a little easier to explain. Feature-wise, it's the same as this year's PS3 version, including a new "quick counts" setting that lets you speed up the game by beginning each at-bat with a partial pitch count. Indeed, Sony wants to ensure that this year's PS4 version (which arrives one month later than its PS3 counterpart) will feature all the same game modes and content.

Visually, however, it's a different story. Sony is aiming to expand The Show's presentation on PS4 with a whole slew of small visual touches. Fans in the audience will now resemble human beings rather than the Lovecraftian gallery of ghouls and specters so often seen in sports games. Outfield grass will no longer be a flat surface, bending under the weight of a player's feet or fluttering into the air after a line drive. And then there's the new lighting model, which promises to make all those 1pm weekday start times at Wrigley Field even more bizarre and anachronistic.

But all of those details pale in comparison to the one enhancement so massive, so substantial that it leaves you wondering how we ever played baseball games before it. I am referring, of course, to next-gen beard technology.

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Look at that picture of Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. That is the face of a lumberjack who has just woken up from a two-week bender. That is a man who has just placed first, second, and third in an Ernest Hemingway lookalike competition. That, my friends, is a beard.

This feat is no coincidence. Sony has channeled the power of the PS4 in order to paint its hirsute portraits with over 40,000 hairs of virtual manliness. In fact, the development team is modeling every player's facial hair by hand--not even joking--to ensure that each beard is given the care and attention it deserves. Even if those beards belong to the Houston Astros.

Oh, sure, MLB 14: The Show will debut plenty of other features. Online franchises, year-to-year save importing, custom-built community challenges...all that stuff is in there. But you know what else is in there? Beards. Great, big, majestic beards. Is there anything more next-gen than that? Okay, yes. But those beards are still pretty cool.

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