MLB 12: The Show |
MLB 12: The Show continues the legacy of the long-time franchise that has been bringing America’s favorite pastime into your home since the days of the PS2. For as much as I love “most” sports games, I’ve also become a bit jaded by the annual video game releases whose updates seldom go beyond new rosters and an incremental number increase on the title. MLB: The Show is one of the few franchises that strive to make significant improvements in their game and this year is certainly no exception - seriously, my reference sheet of new features and additions is longer than this review.
Building on what is arguably already the best baseball game on the market, MLB 12: The Show is easily the most authentic recreation of the sport as well as the most complete full-featured experience, nailing every aspect of the game with absolute perfection starting with the highly polished TruBroadcast Presentation right down to the less-obvious but just as important True Ball Physics. This year sees some innovative new features like Pulse Pitching, where you must rhythmically match a heartbeat-style pulse and tap the X button at just the right time for the perfect pitch. It’s a great new way to pitch that keeps the game moving along, but you are free to revert back to the classic arc meter or even take a stab at analog pitching, which had me feeling like I was putting in Tiger Woods.
The other side of the equation comes in the form of Zone Analog Batting – the marriage of the analog controls from last year’s MLB 11 whereby you can now control your stride and swing with the right stick and your accuracy within the strike zone with the left. It’s a fairly complicated process; one that tries to mirror the complexity of human movement achieved more accurately with a Move controller, but if you don’t have a PS Move and are willing to put in the time, Zone Analog Batting is pretty darn realistic.
This latest version of MLB incorporates the PS Move into all facets of the game, which takes the interaction to new levels of immersive and physical gameplay. When was the last time you had to ice down your shoulder after pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs? There is something quite refreshing when you take the controller out of the equation and make the gameplay all about “your personal performance”. On-screen meters still indicate the force and accuracy of your motion inputs, but these are merely training tools until muscle memory kicks in and you start to play just like you would if you were at the real neighborhood diamond.
For those who simply can’t get enough baseball at home, MLB 12: The Show supports cloud saves of your game, so you can take your Franchise, Season, and Road to The Show games on the road, assuming you own a PS Vita and are willing to purchase a second copy of the game for that system. You only get a single save per mode so you can’t abuse or cheat your career. I’ve been bouncing save data back and forth between my PS3 and Vita, and the process works as advertised. I was hoping for some real-time cross-play with me pitching from my Vita to a player who was batting on my PS3, but I guess they are saving that for MLB 13.
Speaking of real-time cross-play though, I do have to give a shout out to the SimulView support. Thanks to Wal-Mart practically giving away those PlayStation 3D Displays, I was able to pick one up on the cheap the other day, and while it is way too small for my everyday gaming needs, I have been using it to check out some 3D movies and games. MLB 12: The Show looks pretty amazing in 3D, but the game is taken to the next level when you have two people playing and each person is getting their own custom view – one from the pitcher and one from the batter – on the same freaking screen! So for the low cost of one of these 3D displays you can forever end the argument about which view to use in your two-player games.
I’m completely blown away by the number of improvements and new features (more than 50) in this year’s baseball game. I could go on and on about the enhanced Franchise mode and new trade system, or the improved Road to the Show mode with all-new training exercises and accessories to create the ultimate personalized experience. For those who love to split their gameplay across local and online play, you won’t believe how much the new Online Everywhere streamlines the process by creating a set of unified parameters between both modes.
Diamond Dynasty is MLB 12’s biggest new feature that takes the whole Road to the Show model to a team level. In an experience not unlike FIFA’s Ultimate Team, you’ll create your own custom team – a process that can take hours if not days – then, using an assortment of MLB baseball cards and Dynasty baseball cards, you can bolster your team roster using a combination of long and short term rewards. Completing collections of MLB players will reward you with budget bonuses you can use to purchase card packs (Dynasty or MLB). Most of your budget is earned by playing ranked/matched head-to-head online games or vs. CPU against MLB teams. After every fifth game, your team is re-evaluated for placement into one of five competitive divisions: Spring Training, Season Series, Division Series, Championship Series, and World Series. This game mode is so massive Sony could have release Diamond Dynasty as a standalone game – there is just that much to do.
MLB 12: The Show still has a few minor issues. First up is the ridiculous installation size; 5GB mandatory or a whopping 10 GB if you want to experience those “improved load times”. And while I did appreciate the new Tutorial Movies that introduced me to the new features and gameplay modes, I wish there had been something a bit more interactive. Instead, I was forced to learn my batting in Home Run Derby, which isn’t very realistic since every pitch is a good one – and my pitching during the 10-pitch warm-up in a Quick Game
Obviously, most of the effort went into making this latest installment the most feature-rich baseball experience you can play, so hopefully next year Sony can focus on the presentation because, honestly, I’m not seeing any huge leaps forward from last year, and aside from some fancy new ball physics and improved player animations, The Show is starting to show its age. The stadiums lack the detail and overall realism; although the crowd animations can easily be mistaken for live TV, especially when you see the surge in the crowd to catch a stray ball. Likewise, the commentary is pretty poor, with nothing of interest being said either in relation to the game or even in that trivial banter you hear between announcers on TV, which only makes it that much worse when lines start to repeat within the same game; sometimes the same inning. Crowd noises are great and you hear the stadium announcer in the background and there is fun music for the 7th-inning stretch, but these are small items that hardly do the Dolby Digital/DTS mix justice.
MLB 12: The Show offers a massive amount of gameplay wrapped up in a simple brown cardboard box. This is like the slightly less-attractive sister who is really smart, so while her hot sibling (MLB 2K12) is getting all the superficial action, those seeking a more permanent and richer baseball relationship should probably overlook these surface flaws and stick with the REAL DEAL – MLB 12: The Show. From a purely gameplay standpoint - it doesn't get any better or more complete than this.