- Publisher: SCEA
- Developer: SCEA San Diego Studios
- ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
- Genre: Sports
- Pros: Lifelike player and stadium graphics, fun new pitching mechanics, incredible customization
- Cons: Occasional presentation glitches, repetitive announcers, cross-save feature that works better in theory than reality
The core gameplay of “MLB 12 The Show” is not noticeably different from last year’s edition. Yet the minor differences add up in such a way that it really makes this new upgraded “Show” a strong contender for the best baseball simulation ever made. The ball arcs in the air just a little more believably, spins off the pitcher’s hand more stylishly, and bounces off the infield grass more accurately. According to Sony, the game features over 500 new presentation animations. With more authentic graphics, smoother controls, and deeper levels of customization than ever before, this is a must-own for every generation.
All the customization, graphical detail, and mode variety won’t matter if the core of a game like “MLB 12 The Show” doesn’t work. So how does it feel when you’re on the mound or in the batter’s box?
The biggest addition this year is on the mound as the game will default to “Pulse Pitching.” A circle pulses in and out of the location in the strike zone that you’re trying to hit. The speed and size of the circle depends on the confidence, situation, and energy level of the pitcher. It’s much more difficult than in baseball games past to directly locate a pitch. Even a great player like Justin Verlander isn’t going to hit his spot every single time. Pulse Pitching is a great new feature that adds a nice dose of realism to a large part of “The Show” experience. (If it doesn’t work for you, it can be turned off or adjusted, like nearly every gameplay aspect in “The Show.”)
The default batting dynamic involves locating a swing with the left analog stick and timing it with a face button (different ones for contact or power). The player can adjust this in a number of ways, including eliminating the zone contact and relying just on timing or even pulling the swing mechanic off the face buttons and to the analog stick. I experimented with them all and found the default the most responsive and realistic.
As for game styles, “MLB 12 The Show” features everything you’d expect from a title like this. There are multiple modes and most are self-explanatory – “Franchise,” “Season,” “Exhibition,” etc. One of the more popular modes in the game has long been “Road to the Show,” and even the ability to build a player from Double-A to All-Star has been tweaked and refined.
One of the most striking new features this year is that owners of a PlayStation Vita, who are willing to spring for the game on that platform, can cross-save. Start a season on the PS3, load your save file to the cloud, pick up your Vita, and continue working your way to the World Series on the road. The Vita version of the game is a bit glitchier and the differences between the two can be frustrating, but the very concept of cross-platform saves is an incredible new advancement and one we hope to see more often.
Other new features include new Situational Collision Awareness, a new Tag Animation System, TruBroadcast Presentations (which contain realistic camera angles as if you’re actually watching a game), and a heavily-customizable card-based game called Diamond Dynasty. The game also supports the PlayStation Move, if you really want to feel like you have a bat in your hands. While I’m not convinced that motion controllers can accurately control things like pitching and fielding, it’s another example of how this game can be tweaked to the individual experience.
The near-perfection of “MLB 12 The Show” does make the occasional glitch in gameplay and presentation all the more prominent. There are enough of them – a camera that gets stuck in the wrong place, a ball against the wall that your fielder can’t reach, etc. – to knock the game down just a peg, but not to significantly alter the overall experience like the glitch-heavy “Major League Baseball 2K12.”
Graphics & Sound
“MLB 12 The Show” is the best looking sports game ever made. The level of detail in the character and stadium design is breathtaking. I happen to be a huge Detroit Tigers fan and was stunned by how comparable these avatars are to their real-life counterparts. From the way Miguel Cabrera steps out and adjusts his gloves after a ball to how Jose Valverde pounds his chest when he gets an out, you’ve never seen detail like this in a sports game. Even the stadiums look more realistic than ever before. The atmosphere is accurate, even down to the fact that a Tigers day game in April will be half-empty and the ticket buyers will be wearing sweatshirts. It’s that deep.
As for audio, the announcing team has a few situational glitches, but it’s still strong and the crowd noise is better than ever before.
There’s something about baseball that makes it a natural choice for video game fans. While there’s a beauty and grace to the real game that can never be recreated, it’s also a sport that’s built on statistics – a gamer’s best friend. And yet for every hit franchise like “The Show,” there’s been another that didn’t get it quite right. It’s not an easy transition to replicate the subtlety of the game into a simulation experience.
Which makes the accomplishments of the development team behind “MLB 12 The Show” even more remarkable. There’s a reason why this series has been the number-one rated sports video game for the past four years and, with “MLB 12 The Show”, is very likely to make it a fifth.