Also on: PS3
Developer: SCEA San Diego
Medium: Blu-ray Disc
Players: 1 – 2
MLB 12: The Show from Sony Computer Entertainment (San Diego division) has been the long running top dog in representing baseball ever since the demise of the MVP and High Heat series. Sure the 2K guys gave it a good run, but even after impressive strides, their games have never even came close to the complete package that Sony brings to the field year after year. This is also a team who never seems to rest on their success and finds ways to not only add value to their franchise by introducing new play modes, but listens to their fans to fix any issues or add features the game lacked the prior year. As good as their PS3 version is (our review here), and with 2K Sports losing the license after this year, Sony has deemed it necessary to bring their beloved franchise to the PS Vita to help with their initial launch window of impressive offerings and hope to deliver the best gaming for baseball fans who are on the go. Do they succeed in this endeavor? For the most part, yes, but the ride isn’t without some hiccups in some key areas that keep this from being a carbon copy of the PS3 version.
Gamers can expect the best of what The Show has always offered ported over to the Vita; including a robust list of features that include exhibition, season, playoff, home run derby, and franchise mode, and a rebuilt Road to the Show mode that allows you to being as a starter on your AA roster rather than earning your spot with rigorous tasks and goals. Not to mention you are finally moved up in promotion by doing your job and performing well overall rather than doing little things like striking out the side, or mundane tasks that may or may not suit the situation.
While the Vita game is pretty solid and complete and includes even online play for ad hoc and infrastructure, the absence of the new, cool, on and offline Diamond Dynasty mode found in the PS3 version is not present, which is a shame as the whole custom creator idea suits the Vita’s touch screen usage to a T. Nevertheless, even with this omission, you will have tons of game play options to choose from that will put your Vita’s battery life the test. What is especially nice is the Cross Play feature that allows you to upload your save to the cloud and pull up your Season, RTTS, or Franchise mode that you are playing on the PS, on your Vita version, and continue playing.
All the best offerings of The Show’s game play are brought over quite nicely to the PS Vita including all pitching and batting types, and even a few inclusions of touch screen options to select pitches, do maneuvers, and even substitute L2 and R2 buttons that are absent on the Vita compared to the PS3 controller. Sony has even found a new way to tinker with pitching as you now have a new control scheme to add to your meter, timing, and analog modes in the form of Pulse Pitching. While this is the most difficult to pinpoint, the varied results present a greater challenge and more accurate box score and pitch count totals than the other modes and for once I feel antsy and nervous when my pitcher is in a jam. Here you pick your pitch, location, and when it’s time to toss the pepper you have to time a pulsating circle that goes large to small at various speeds depending on how good your pitcher is feeling and the ‘oomph’ of his pitch. Your objective is to time it at its smallest point to be the most accurate, failing to do so will result in the ball doing its own thing, so timing here is more crucial than any other style presented. New ball physics really allow the ball to come alive as now not only the way the ball has been hit makes an impact on where it goes, but the rotation of the ball off the bat can result in some bad hops, misjudged fly balls, and most importantly a nice variety of hits that fly all over the field with unparalleled realism.
All is not completely perfect in control-land as the analog sticks are a bit more sensitive than on a DualShock 3, and even with the onscreen ball being larger, some plays are subject to being misjudged more often than on the PS3. Also, the game has some frame rate issues that can hurt things like playing ground balls or even stealing a base. Nothing here is game killing mind you, but coming from the PS3 to the Vita you will see this difference moreso than if you are just playing on the handheld only, and it is here where those differences are more noticeable.
It is odd to see The Show take such a visual hit on occasion, especially when you look at games like Uncharted , Rayman, and Wipeout that are darn near the PS3 in visuals. While I’m not just talking about a drastic reduction in polygon count, which is expected, there is also an extremely low resolution crowd, and no one in the dugouts, but the most disappointing lack of visuals is where the PS3 shines the brightest, and it’s in the game’s broadcast presentation. There are no cut scenes or replays to be found this year in the Vita version, and I just hope this version was pushed out due to the Cross Play feature and they did not have enough time to put in the polish before the game’s launch. I hope they are not using the old “we want it faster for on the go play” excuse, as I would at least like the option to turn it on or off. Not only is it crappy to have a walk off HR not shown or the celebrations afterward, but the game tries to whip by so fast that sometimes it does not allow you to call on a pinch hitter or bullpen move as it has already loaded the first pitch and the next batter before you have a chance to select the option to substitute. Of course this results in the pitch being thrown and you are most likely stuck on a 0-1 count when you can select a new batter. Granted, I’m sure I’m being picky and maybe am expecting too much from this little handheld, but I’ve seen what this system can accomplish and doubt that this version of The Show pushes the system to the max. We’ll just have to see next year I guess.
The audio still sounds great as always, from the authentic on field sounds, crowds that react to situations, stadium specific bloops and cheers, but once again the 3 man booth needs to have their comments wiped and started from scratch. Sure they have some new sayings here and there and many comments will be relevant on the game’s happenings, but I have heard about 60 percent of these “catch phases” for 5 years now and am ready for a new team to give me play by play. Granted these things won’t stretch your nerves like mine if you are new to the series, but veterans know exactly what I’m talking about when the commentators belt out the same shtick time after time.
MLB 12: The Show on the Vita does a pretty good job getting the nuances right, but fails to deliver on the fluff that gamers have a chance to see on the PS3 version. Even if next year the impossibility of porting all the game’s cut scenes and such exists, please at least have the decency to keep crucial Home Runs and game winning moments and replays intact as they do add to the emotion of the game whether it’s the thrill of victory or agony of defeat. For a first shot for this portable system I can forgive its shortcoming if only to know I have the ability to pick up my game and play it on the road without having to lug my PS3 around with me, and that is worth the price of admission alone.