Review: MLB 12 The Show
Something very strange is going on around here. The calendar clearly says it’s 2012, and that’s obviously not Joe Mauer on the box cover - again, but I’d swear Kevin Butler snuck a copy of MLB 11 in my PS3 when I wasn’t looking. Alright, that’s not entirely true. Developer, SCE San Diego made it no secret that this year is all about emphasizing a more authentic major league broadcast presentation, perhaps the one aspect that 2K Sports has a leg up on, in addition to increased Vita and Move integration. While the changes are an improvement, MLB 12 The Show’s focus on Vita compatibility this year makes console refinements feel far more negligible.
After making a big to-do about their “Real-Time Presentation” system the past two years, Sony wiped the slate clean for 2012, with a revamped broadcast presentation that more closely resembles actual MLB telecasts. The new system does a surprisingly good job of replicating its real-life counterpart. The camera frequently pans the field, zooms in on players and commentators, Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros discuss topics relevant to the onscreen action. As a result, games feel a lot smoother, though I did have some awkward, uncanny valley moments.
Aside from the extra window dressings, The Show introduces new pitching and hitting mechanics. After the success of MLB 11’s analog controls, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher to see Sony supplant them with two new, thoroughly unremarkable button-based schemes.
Instead of a meter, “Pulse Pitching” utilizes a circle which expands and contracts. Select a pitch and the circle begins to pulsate. Press the button again when the circle is at its smallest to increase the pitch’s accuracy. The better your pitcher, the smaller the circle expands. For fans of EA’s MVP series, “Zone Batting” should feel familiar. You control the batter’s “eye” with the left thumbstick and hit with either the face buttons or the right thumbstick. The better a hitter is, the larger his plate coverage will be. Both control schemes are decent replacements for their earlier button brethren, but The Show’s analog controls provide a far more tactile option, in addition to simply being more entertaining.
Also new this year is Diamond Dynasty, a mode in which you create your very own major league team and face off against the computer or other players’ custom concoctions. The catch is that, instead of recruiting real-life players through a fantasy draft, you are given a roster of randomized created players. Rather than gaining experience points as you play, you get money in order to buy more Dynasty or MLB players, or train the ones on your current roster. Diamond Dynasty offers a nice change of pace from Franchise or Season, and the team builder is one the best in recent memory, however, the inclusion of micro-transactions removes some of the mode’s competitive nature.
Without a doubt, the one major flaw in MLB 12 The Show’s game is its online play. Since its PS3 debut in 2007, The Show has suffered from lag and connection issues. At its best, MLB 12’s online is choppy and disorienting, and downright unplayable at its worst. It’s unfathomable that, at this point in the current console generation, any game could be so consistently bad online that every time my opponent would pause the game, some part of me would secretly pray to the baseball gods that he’d save us both any further misery and quit.
By no means is MLB 12 The Show a bad game. If you’re looking for the best baseball experience on consoles, The Show really is your best choice. Sony should be commended for continuing to perfect its golden goose, rather that sit on its laurels. It’s just too bad that, in the year 2012, with every game under the sun possessing a decent online component, The Show continues to falter in that regard. Casual players will likely appreciate the party potential of playing an entire game with the Move, but series vets may find little motivation to drop $60 on marginal improvements and roster updates. It may not break the mold like last year’s iteration, but MLB 12 The Show still plays a might fine game of baseball.