Major League Baseball 2K12 Review
Every year, sports fans ask the same question when a new franchise entry arrives: “How is it different from last year’s title?” Sometimes, the differences are significant and appreciated, and the series takes another positive step in the right direction. Other times, the progression isn’t as pronounced, making it hard for critics to recommend another $60 purchase. Unfortunately, although the game is still good, Major League Baseball 2K12 falls into the latter category.
Depending on your point of view, the graphical update is worth a look. On the one hand, most all the advances are either subtle or minor but on the other hand, there are enough improvements to enhance the entire presentation. This year’s installment is cleaner, seemingly brighter, and even character detail is better. Animations are solid and when you step onto the field, you likely won’t be disappointed. However, off the field, it looks and feels like MLB 2K11, as the general style is basically the same.
In terms of audio, the soundtrack is diverse and even energetic at times but of course, the emphasis is on the effects. Those effects ring true, from the ball smacking a mitt to the roar of the crowd, and one has to appreciate the all-too-essential ambient sounds that make a baseball stadium come alive. That said, the commentators are the highlight; they rarely repeat themselves and their statements are typically spot on. All in all, I’d say the audio is the best aspect of this new production, as it’s one cohesive, attractive package.
Baseball is a game of inches. It’s a game where skill and strategy are equally necessary. It’s a game that has a huge amount of depth, and that depth should be reflected in any virtual incarnation. Thankfully, MLB 2K12 is an effective and mostly reliable simulator, with plenty to learn, lots of content and great rewards. The only problem is obvious: it just doesn’t build on the promising foundation constructed by previous entries, thereby leaving us with a somewhat underwhelming “new” experience.
For whatever reason I can’t remember now, pitching in baseball video games has always intimidated me. Therefore, I always start with the hitting when checking out a new title— For the most part, I’m satisfied with the batting mechanic in this game, as it’s appropriately difficult and offers the player at least a semi-realistic feeling of being in the box. Remember, part of hitting is a guessing game and if you don’t guess right, chances are, you won’t do well. I really love this part because to me, this is what makes a baseball game a “simulator.”
However, I have to say that sometimes, it just felt a little too unforgiving, and you can’t expect the opposing AI to make many mistakes. On the flip side, you really have to pay close attention when playing defense, as one of this year’s new additions is a throw meter that is affected depending on your position. So in other words, if you’re drawn out wide and have to make a long, awkward throw, the sweet spot (denoted by a green zone on the meter) shrinks. This mechanic works well but at first, it’s a little disconcerting. Just gotta practice.
So eventually, yes, I got to the pitching. And I’m glad I did. It’s really the only aspect of this year’s entry that seems to have enjoyed a noticeable upgrade. Everything feels more dynamic and more intelligent; the hitters won’t let you get away with much, and your catcher isn’t stupid, either…so you might want to heed his recommendations. If you get stuck in a rut, thinking you can overpower the other team with your two best pitches and little else, you will – eventually – suffer the consequences. Furthermore, the game will tell you when you’re using the same pitch too many times.
In regards to modes, there’s the returning Franchise mode, which is always the meat-and-potatoes of most any simulated sports game, and the popular My Player mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. Still, as far as I can tell, both modes are basically the same as last year. There is one new mode, though: MLB Today Season, where you pick your favorite team and play alongside them during the season. It’s a good idea but of course, this mode disappears when the baseball season ends, so that has to be taken into consideration.
Still, it’s a good way to link up the game with reality. As for online play, it works well enough but there is some lag, and the gameplay experience changes a bit. For instance, no matter how simulated the computer is programmed to be, humans aren’t so meticulous…and thus, a lot of online games might result in some seriously high scores. But I imagine the hardcore will want to play correctly and really attempt to be faithful to the sport. It’s just a matter of finding the right person to play with, as is typically the case with any online multiplayer.
Major League Baseball 2K12 is a fine game that features excellent commentators, a cleaner, slightly more detailed on-the-field presentation, and a challenging yet rewarding pitching mechanic. The hitting and fielding is good, too, but it isn’t quite as robust as the pitching, and there are a few remaining production issues. Clipping is obvious, for example, and the camera isn’t always your best friend (although this is usually during foul balls). It’s just a little too much “been there, done that,” despite the positives. And I grow weary of that analysis.
The Good: Refined visuals. Commentating is top-notch. Upgraded pitching system is great. Plenty of available content. Overall, still a challenging and mostly authentic experience.
The Bad: Clipping and minor technical flaws. Presentation doesn’t differ enough from last year’s title. The batting can seem unforgiving. Kinda “old hat.”
The Ugly: “So…my foul ball dove through the concrete of the bleachers? …odd.”
3/8/2012 Ben Dutka