MLB 12: The Show – Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This review was performed on the PlayStation 3, however, testing on the PlayStation Vita version was done for comparison.

Ah, Spring: the days are longer, the weather is getting warmer, and we can finally put that ice scraper away for good. Oh, and there’s America’s favorite past-time, baseball.  Every year around this season, we are treated to a new baseball videogame, specifically MLB: The Show, one of Sony’s famed franchises and the most consistent sports game series this generation in terms of gameplay and ratings.  Now with MLB 12: The Show out for the PS3, showcasing a slew of added features, does it hit a home run or or does it watch the ball go by like a house by the side of the road?

Right upon starting your first game in The Show, you will be awestruck.  Every year, the San Diego Studios team seems to squeeze even more visuals out of each installment, and this year they’ve touched up on the presentation with improved camera angles. It feels like I’m watching baseball, not a baseball videogame. Every player looks identical to their real-life counterpart and emotions run across their faces as they strike out or get caught stealing.  I found myself giving the same disgusted face when I struck out or grounded out, which was humorous yet scary given the realism in their facial expressions.

Dirt slowly builds up on the athletes’ equipment as the game progresses, and the sun will set as you reach the seventh inning stretch. The wrinkles in the uniforms flow with natural effects as players crouch down ready to steal a base or step to take a swing. While I could go on and on about the visual treat that is MLB 12: The Show, the best comment was from my wife who came across me playing the game and said, “I didn’t know Tigers are playing already” – that’s when you know the graphics are a strong point.

The sounds of any sports game is an important aspect that can be done wrong so easily. Luckily, MLB 12: The Show does not disappoint. Fans will cheer and boo in reaction to a single loud crack of the bat connecting with the ball.  Every year the soundtrack features some interesting choices in music, and this year has everything from indie artists to popular bands like The Black Keys. With baseball comes a lot of stats and menu navigating, so you’ll be listening to the ten tracks quite a bit and thankfully nothing is obnoxious or boring to the ears.  No baseball game can be played without the guys in the booth calling every play; Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros are back again to provide on-going commentary, and with hours of voice work recorded, there are no repeated one-liners or dialogue.

Adding custom fan shouts and music is easily done by importing files through MLB 12’s Sounds of the Show feature. Simply connecting a USB flash drive or external hard drive with audio files can help create your own one-of-a-kind experience. Want to heckle Manny Ramirez? Import your own voice recording and you’ll hear yourself in-game! Feel like entering the batter’s box with a favorite song, go ahead.  All of the menu music is customizable as well, so after tinkering with the settings you can experience MLB the way you want to.

If you wanted more realism in your baseball game, you’ve got it with The Show.  Now the physics take a significant upgrade with how the ball is hit and lands.  No more will balls soar in a straight shot to a waiting left fielder or grounders dribbling for an easy out time.  With the new True Ball Physics, the developers went back to the chalkboard and rewrote how the ball behaves.  No two hits are the same as the ball’s movement is altered by the spin off the bat, wind, and the rotations.  In years past, a ball up the middle of the infield was always an easy single but now with the new coding a ball’s spin is greatly affected by its landing and speed. So the shortstop has a chance at ending a rally early with MLB 12: The Show.

New to the game is Pulse Pitching, another method to throwing a heater.  Instead of the normal button control meter or last year’s analog pitching, pulse pitching is a lot faster.  A circle pans in and out of the baseball as you decide where to locate it around the strike zone. The idea is to press the button as the circle shrinks to its smallest radius; doing so will predict the outcome of the pitch. While this method of play speeds up the gameplay, it’s too inconsistent and frankly takes away from the importance of pitching. There was nothing wrong with the classic meter pitching and the pure analog controls still fresh off of last year’s installment is enough.  I welcome any new feature to a sports game as they hit shelves every year; but this pulse pitching is just not fun at all.

Another new feature is Zone Analog Batting to mix up and well…complicate batting. When playing with the right analog stick for your stride and swinging purposes, the left stick is used to aim the bat at a yellow marker that you place within the strike zone.  Placing the marker in the right spot with the pitch can increase your odds of getting a successful hit. I do like the idea of this mechanic and you are able to use the face buttons like X and square for power hits in conjunction with the zone analog batting. Spending more and more time with it will, like anything else, become second nature.

Now, you do not need to feel overwhelmed at all with the new control features offered in this year’s The Show. Tutorials are everywhere in an effort to help better understand what is going on and how to succeed. What’s even better is if you find you don’t like these new additions, by all means, go back! You can easily go to the game options and switch any of the pitching, fielding and hitting controls to your liking.  Something developers of any game franchise should take note on: allow your veteran fans to go back to the roots if they don’t feel adjusted to the new ideas thrown in the game.

The Season, Franchise, and famed Road to The Show modes are of course all here for a return – with a few adjustments to improve the overall experience.  Now your athlete won’t be grinding for months for a spot in the lineup as he will be a prospect in Double-A, and your pitcher won’t be  in relief for too long as the game starts you off with scouts loving your potential.

The majority of my time with MLB every year is spent on the RTTS mode, so I was super excited to see this change.  It’s still the same RPG-style mode at heart, but with changes that fans wanted and San Diego Studios listened.

The biggest new mode is Diamond Dynasty.  If you were into collecting baseball cards as a youngster like I was, you will love this new mode.  Similar to EA Sports’ Ultimate Team modes from FIFA or NHL for example, this mode allows you to start a team from the ground up, literally.  You hand-pick your team’s players from baseball card packs purchased with your hard-earned in-game money, choose your team’s colors, creating the logo from over 1000 different layers, and then play against real-life MLB teams. Whether you win or lose in the games you play, in game cash still awaits you, so you never feel like you need to quit and start over.  If you feel confident in your team you can take it online and compete with other users against their teams.  Diamond Dynasty is an awesome mode that rewards you for making the right choices, and you’ll feel like Billy Beane in no time.

Now, for the online gameplay – well, it’s rough. This is by no means a PSN issue, but the guys at San Diego seem to have a tough time with getting a fluid online experience working year after year.  For the three online games I tried, only one started up for me and it still had major lag issues.  Still occurring are the uncalled balks: if you go to pitch sooner than what is deemed “normal” pacing, you’ll be cursing at the screen in anger. The online games lag so badly it seems like the game is trying to catch up with your speed of play.  It’s something the developer should really have a grasp on by now; with online play being so important to sports gaming nowadays, why isn’t it their first priority?

Yet, it seems that San Diego Studios turned their attention to adding more features to this year’s installment, one of which is Move support.  Last year the Move controller was only played with in the Home Run Derby mode.  Now you can pitch, field and bat all with one Move controller.  Despite all of it working extremely well (and none of it felt tacked on), don’t expect a full-on accurate pitching simulation as if you were on the mound of Yankee Stadium.

Also, there is 3D support.  With Sony’s push on 3D technology, their franchise does support the Simulview tech,  so your buddy next to you can’t see what pitch you’re about to throw at him.  It’s still a gimmick, but the technology is very impressive nonetheless.

If you have a Vita and also picked up MLB 12: The Show, you can take your game on the go.  Load your PS3 franchise or RTTS save file to the Cloud save feature and you can download it right to your Vita.  So if you have a lengthy career on the line but are about to board a plane, have no fears, as you can continue your quest to the World Series on Sony’s nifty new handheld.   I was able to quickly upload my franchise save file into the game’s Cloud storage with ease.  I then went to MLB 12: The Show on my Vita and was able to download that same save file without any hiccups.  This is a standout feature of the game; hopefully other developers will also see this Cross-play ability as an opportunity for their releases – especially EA Sports, as the Vita collects an even more impressive library.

Another season is about to begin and MLB 12: The Show is here to cater to your fantasy needs and baseball dreams.  Nothing in the digital realm of sports gaming compares to the realism of this game and no baseball fan should be without it. Despite its clunky new pulse pitching and repeated online issues, San Diego Studios has once again outdone itself with another installment.  I’m always asked if a new sports game is worth getting if they already have last year’s version (and at $60 apiece, that is a fair question to ask, since most sports games have the stigma of “It’s just another roster update”). However I can tell you right now, this is above and beyond MLB 11 and you will notice the difference at the first pitch.

MLB 12: The Show receives a score of 4.5/5.0

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

March 11, 2012 - 8:30 am