Since the series’ debut in 2006, Sony’s MLB: The Show franchise has made its way to the top and become the definitive baseball simulation game. This year’s installment has made a few changes, in hopes of remaining on top, that long-time fans are sure to notice. These include new pitching and hitting mechanics as well as full PlayStation Move support, a feature that was limited to Home Run Derby mode in last year’s entry. Has Sony San Diego updated MLB 12: The Show into the perfect virtual baseball game? Or has the series finally struck out?
Updates to Gameplay
If you’ve played past The Show titles, then you’ll immediately pick out the changes. The most prominent of these changes comes in the form of pitching. Previous installments have included a pitching meter, but that has now been replaced by what is being called Pulse Pitching. As the name implies, the new system revolves around a pulsating circle that quickly expands and contracts. Select a pitch and you’ll be greeted by this new system. In case it isn’t obvious, you want to aim for the smallest circle possible, that way you can nuzzle into those corners of the strike zone. The size of the pitching circle is directly connected to the pitcher’s skill and current fatigue as well as the type of pitch. It provides an experience that can yield unpredictable results during the early learning stages, but eventually players will venture into risk/reward territory as they debate on pitching closer to the edges or not. Analog pitching is still an option, but the truest experience is found through pulse pitching.
The new Zone Analog batting system compliments the updated pitching. Basically, the left analog stick dictates where the bat is swung and the right analog stick determines the batter’s stride and motion. The batting styles of previous games can still be utilized for those not too keen on trying to master the dual-analog stick control layout of MLB 12: The Show. Overall, the latest tweaks will (or at least should) allow for more successful hits.
Let’s start with the new mode implemented by Sony San Diego, Diamond Dynasty. Baseball card collectors will truly cherish this mode. Before receiving your card pack full of players, you’ll have to create a team and design its uniform. The team obtained is made up of both recognizable MLB players and fictional ones. After setting it all up, the team can be fully managed. In order to improve your custom team, you’ll have to partake in leagues played against the CPU offline or human-created teams online. Money is awarded after each game and can be used to further train currently owned players, purchase new ones or even buy cards from other users. Hardcore players will enjoy creating and raising their own team as they chase the top spot on the leaderboard.
Returning again this year is Road to the Show and it’s mostly the same as last year’s, for the most part. Your created player will enter their career as a double-A starter this time around, but don’t expect an easier time just because of that boosted status. The road to the big leagues is still one full of trials and hardships. Play well and keep at it and eventually you’ll make it there. Franchise has also returned and has remained largely unchanged. The most noticeable change can be found in the trade system as it is easier to obtain whatever your team is looking for. I’m sure those who plan on investing countless hours in these modes will greatly appreciate the cloud save support. This adds the ability to share progress between the PS3 and Vita, allowing players to pick up where they left off even if they aren’t home.
Now, more than ever, you’ll get the feeling that you’re watching an actual game on TV thanks to the exceptional voice work from Matt Vasgerian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros. They’ll provide accurate and entertaining commentary based on the events taking place on the field. The references have been greatly expanded to better compliment every possible outcome. Also, the camera will constantly cut to specific players after pitches or innings to further improve the presentation stylized after its TV counterpart. Even more impressive are the silky smooth transitions and animations. You’ll be taken back by how realistic it looks when an infielder grabs an incoming ground ball and throws it off to the designated base.
Poor PlayStation Move Implementation
PlayStation Move was restricted to Home Run Derby in MLB 11, but they’ve decided to expand it across all modes in MLB 12. It isn’t a total failure or a total success. There are several shortcomings that will prevent most players from using the feature seriously. Batting still works as it did in Home Run Derby and pitching allows greater precision in selecting where to place the ball. Pitching reverts back to the meter system here, instead of the new pulse circle. These aren’t where the issues lie. The problem is the timing. Trying to nail down the exact moment to press the trigger to grab or throw a ball usually results in the opposing team gaining extra bases. Baserunning isn’t too easy to get the hang of either. When hitting with the PlayStation Move, the player stands with their shoulder facing the PlayStation Eye, just like the real stance taken in-game. However, the player must be facing the camera directly when running bases. Transitioning between the two stances can end up creating unexpected and unwanted results.
MLB 12: The Show suffers from horrendous online issues, primarily lag. Delayed reactions after imputing a command were commonplace. Sometimes these are nothing more than visual annoyances, but there are times when the online problems can completely change the outcome of the game. The worst issue presents itself while batting. It’s nearly impossible to accurately swing and connect with a pitch when said pitch is visually “stuttering”. MLB 12: The Show may not be as bad as its predecessors, but it’s not too much better. If you were hoping to spend most of your time online, you’ll be sorely disappointed to learn that it isn’t all that great nor is it worth the frustration.
Sony San Diego has reminded us why their franchise is the top choice for baseball fans. MLB 12: The Show has continued working everything it has done right, and even threw in a few improvements. Pulse Pitching and Analog Zone Batting may take time to fully master, but they both add to the realism of the game once their mechanics have been grasped. Road to the Show and Franchise return accompanied by the new Diamond Dynasty mode, and they all provide a top-notch experience for baseball fans. Not to mention that the presentation seen throughout every aspect of the game is truly meritorious. It’s too bad that the online portion can be near unplayable at times (actually, most of the time) because it still has great potential. Ignoring the PlayStation Move functionality all together, MLB 12: The Show has still managed to remain the definitive baseball game and one that long-time fans should definitely check out.
[Editor’s Note: MLB 12: The Show was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]MLB 12: The Show (PS3) Review,