Major League Baseball 2K12|
Baseball; the game that is widely considered to be “America’s Pastime,” that has seen the biggest heroes, the most inspirational stories, and the most devious deceptions of any professional sport. What was once the largest selling ticket in town, baseball has been waning for a couple of years under the shadow of faster-paced sports like basketball and hockey and it is no longer a surprise to turn on a baseball game and witness the stands half-empty.
Where games like hockey, soccer, and basketball have room for certain degrees of team momentum and gameplay randomness, baseball is regimented; we know ahead of time where each of the runners is going, we know ahead of time where the batters want to hit the ball, and we know ahead of time where the pitcher should pitch the ball – and they all seem to do what they are supposed to for the most part. This is reflected as well in baseball video games, which are similarly regimented as their real-time counterpart. Like the real game, a video game of baseball can be won or lost with a single pitch or hit – but unlike hockey or basketball, this is not the result of randomness or momentum shift, rather it is the result of the gamer not doing what they are supposed to in a given situation.
For this reason, video game baseball has been fairly stagnant for the past few years – not in terms of quality or gameplay (both of which are getting astonishingly realistic), but in terms of innovation and entertainment. Developers continue to try to tweak with the formal trying to come up with new and exciting reasons for gamers to plunk down $60 for yet another yearly update – but they can only do so much within the confines of the subject matter. So I have to approach baseball video gaming from two fronts; first, with respect to the general quality and technical data, and second with respect to the any/all improvements – and believe me as the years go by it get more and more difficult.
2K Sports newest installment in their MLB series is Major League Baseball 2K12, and no surprise on the technical side it is one fantastic simulation of hardball. From the initial menu to the in-game experience, 2K12 just screams of presentation quality. From the top-shelf character animations, to the excellent stadiums, and all of the MLB-style overlays on the screen 2K12 looks more like an authentic broadcast baseball game than any other on the market.
The AI is absolutely fantastic, with the game making (mostly) all the right calls for each given situation, and providing an extremely difficult degree of challenge. The AI pitching is fantastically accurate, and as with every baseball game I go down swinging more often than I care to admit. When I do manage to make contact, the AI fielding is adept at taking down fly balls and getting the rock to the right bag to tag out runners.
In terms of the presentation, the game is top notch – especially with regard to the announcing which has improved immensely even over last year’s fantastic showing with a noticeable increase in the amount phrases, accurate delivery, and impeccable timing. With such a slow paced game, this additional variety definitely helps to keep the gamer awake and interested.
The visuals do not appear to be improved over last year, but then again there was not much improvement needed. As mentioned earlier, the player models are solid – with accurate body proportions and movement, covered by realistic uniforms featuring all the right ripples and creases. The lighting is purported to be improved, although I hardly noticed any difference, and the shadowing was a good as it always has been.
The controls are only moderately improved from last-year’s game – I am still not a fan of the gesture-based input, but I admit that I might have been a little too hard on it in last year’s review. Now that I am more familiar with the mechanics, I have found out it might not be such a bad system. I would still rather a more full-featured button-based system, but we don’t always get what we wish for.
The batting mechanics are solid, giving just enough assistance to make it not impossible to make contact with the ball, but not holding your hand to a homer every time. As I alluded to earlier, I still find myself anxiously and excessively swinging at far too many bad pitches, but I just lie to myself and say that it makes the runs I do score that much more rewarding.
Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely despise base running? Well I do – and no game as of yet has provided me with an enjoyable base-running experience. MLB 2K12 probably comes the closest to supplying a system that is not completely befuddling to manage in the brief decision-making moments you have during a hit ball – but it always seems like human players are at a unfair disadvantage against the AI when it comes to navigating the bases.
The fielding mechanics have been tweaked a bit, giving players a throwing reticule that shrinks or grows based on their stance and footing – a running player will have far less accurate and powerful throw than one who is planted correctly. Not always is it clear what is the deciding factor for making a good or bad stance, but the reticule at least takes away the element of surprise a bit.
All of the gameplay modes of MLB 2K11 are here – the requisite Quick Play, Season, and Franchise as well as the 2K Sports’ trademark My Player mode. A new mode makes an appearance in MLB Today, where gamers pick their favorite team to follow through the actual 2012 season, performing the same daily matchups and rosters as their real-life counterparts. This is not the first time we have seen a mode like this, but it is a nice addition for true hardball fans.
And that’s precisely the group that 2K Sports is trying to target with MLB 2K12 – the hardcore baseball fans. With the slow tactical pitching game, the new fielding mechanics, and the complex base running – MLB 2K12 is definitely not for the casual gamer. And hardcore fans should really find something to like in MLB 2K12 because it is as accurate a hardball experience as can be found in gaming.