MLB 12: The Show Review
For the past several years, the best baseball game on store shelves – and in some cases, the very best overall sports title available – has been Sony’s The Show. And in 2012, the trend continues. Although a couple of the new additions need a few extra tweaks and some aspects of the production are starting to show its age, MLB 12: The Show is indeed the best option for baseball fanatics. MLB 2K12 is a solid game but it just doesn’t have the level of refinement and authenticity on display here.
This fresh iteration of the award-winning franchise looks great. The character detail is good, the animations (apparently amped-up this year) are fantastic, and the designers definitely capture the general feel and flow of our national pastime. That being said, it’s about time the team looks into adding some extra flash and flair in regards to the stadiums and ambient effects. It’s just starting to feel a little stale. Other than that, the visuals are more than competent and in many ways, downright impressive.
If there’s one element of this production that gets a thorough beating when compared to 2K’s effort, it’s the commentating. MLB 2K12 may feature the best announcers in the history of sports video games, and that’s hardly an exaggeration. Those color men are fine in The Show, but they sorta pale in direct comparison. I like everything else better, though, and that includes the on-field audio effects and soundtrack. The bottom line is that SCEA San Diego sets out to generate a realistic technological presentation, and they always achieve that.
I mentioned in my MLB 2K12 review that I almost always leave the pitching mechanic to last during my analysis. But it turned out so well in 2K’s game that I decided to start with the pitching system in The Show. And once again, I found something new— It’s called “pulse pitching” so instead of the familiar meter, you get a pulsing circle that shrinks in the batting box. You have to make your pitch when that circle is as small as it can be; this will increase your speed and accuracy.
I like it but in some ways, I almost prefer the meter. Thing is, the “pulse” feature reminds me a little of the new swing mechanic in Hot Shots Golf and again, I definitely prefer the old-fashioned meter. Still, the pulse pitching in The Show works very well and doesn’t feel gimmicky; you still have to nail down your timing, and it offers a rewarding challenge. Therefore, I can’t say the meter was qualitatively better; it’ll probably come down to personal preference for baseball aficionados.
But this leads me to another new feature that isn’t quite ready for primetime, in my view. It involves the new ball rotation physics, which is supposed to add a dynamic realism to how a ball travels across the field of play. So now, the path of the struck ball isn’t so predictable, as ball height and direction can change based on various factors, and it can even hit bases and go caroming off (as occasionally happens in real life). It’s something the game dearly needs for the sake of added authenticity, but this tech needs more refining and polish.
The problem is that the ball will do things too often that aren’t realistic, simply for the sake of showing off these fancy new physics. The more you play, the more obvious this becomes. Hopefully, the team will make the appropriate changes for next year’s entry; I fully expect they will, and understand the need to experiment a bit. Plus, it really is an appreciated new feature that, when perfectly implemented, will enhance the realism. And of course, that’s always the goal when it comes to The Show, as fans well know. ...yes, that rhymes.
As for the rest of the production, it’s exactly what the baseball fans are looking for. It has the precise and responsive control of past entries, along with all the insane depth for the hardcore followers. You can dive into Road to the Show and Franchise modes with glorious gusto, knowing full well your enthusiasm and meticulously managerial nature will be rewarded. There’s even the new Diamond Dynasty mode that lets you create a team using custom players you obtain via trading card packs.
Honestly, being an old-school baseball card collector, this virtual version of card-trading is wicked cool. You go online and trade or sell cards with other players and try to build the best team possible; I just so wish they would add a Legends pack or something! You know, get a chance to put Joltin’ Joe and Hammerin’ Hank on the same team. And of course, through it all, you always have the option of 3D and Move, and the best part is that Move can be used for just about everything this game has to offer (not just the Home Run Derby, like last year).
The Move functionality is decent but it’s still not quite like throwing or hitting in reality. It’s close but hey, there’s a reason why it’s not 100% realistic. That’d be borderline impossible, for one thing and for another…nobody would be able to play it. A quote from Tom Hanks’ character in “A League of Their Own:” “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” At the very least, using the Move will get you some exercise, right?
MLB 12: The Show is yet again the victor. More than anything, it just feels like baseball. That being said, the new gameplay features aren’t 100% on-point and it’s probably time to issue a visual update for the stadiums. Oh, and don’t forget that you can take this game on the go with PlayStation Vita; transfer your game save and just keep playin’. You’ve probably seen the commercial, yes?
The Good: Top-notch design and animations. Solid sound effects and a good soundtrack. Precise, reliable control. Huge amount of content and depth. Physics are just about right. New features, despite being a little rough, are appreciated.
The Bad: Might need to take the next graphical step. Refinement needed for those new ball physics. Move functionality is decent, but not great.
The Ugly: “Okay, that ball is doing weird things a little too often.”
3/13/2012 Ben Dutka