Also on: PS Vita
Developer: SCEA San Diego
Medium: Blu-ray Disc
Players: 1 – 4
MLB 12: The Show from Sony Computer Entertainment (San Diego Studio) 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. With the 2K series license running out, it would be easy for Sony to just release a subpar product and plan for a massive ’13 upgrade, but alas, the boys don’t let their hardcore fans down, who like myself, may have bought a PS3 solely to play this series. MLB The Show has continually represented the most accurate transition from on-field to virtual field ever in a baseball simulation and MLB 12 is no different.
In MLB 12: The Show, gamers not only can expect the best of what The Show has always offered; including a robust list of features that include exhibition, season, playoff, home run derby, and franchise mode, but a rebuilt Road to the Show mode that allows you to begin 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.
The most dynamic addition to this year’s game has to be the Diamond Dynasty Mode that takes a page from EA’s Ultimate Team online mode and expands it tenfold. You begin by creating a team from scratch including where they are from, the uniforms, logos, etc. You are then provided with a random selection of players to begin your dynasty with from made up roster fills, to proven baseball talent. You are also given a limited amount of funds to buy packs of baseball cards that will have random players to build your team and replace less than stellar players. Keep in mind that you have each player only a certain amount of games ranging from 10 for MLB stars, to 35 for lower market scrubs. You must invest in them wisely as once their time is up, that is it and you have no chance to resign or buy that card again. The good news is that those dynasty players can be trained and edited to become just as good as, or better than, a real life MLB slugger. Along the way, the goal is to build the best dynasty you can and you will do so by playing against the CPU or a real person in the midst of 5 game seasons. The better you do during a season allows you to earn more rewards. Don’t fret if you start off 1-9, as each new 5 game series still pits you against the best in big games and you don’t have to play a grudging 162 games to succeed or fail. While there are a few hiccups such as no game length adjuster and some early issues that affect wins and losses (which are fixed at this time but had some rough edges early on) are present, but so far it is a nice distraction away from the norm and a great way to balance against CPU and playing online with all games you play mattering on or offline.
The new modes and fixes are not the only big time improvements as you get them in the control department too. Sony has finally implemented the PlayStation Move controls for all modes this year, and while they can be cumbersome, they do a pretty good job of getting you up and on your feet and really immersing yourself into the game. Sony has 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.
The game has also gotten a shot in the arm visually with a new broadcast camera scheme and some nicely cleaned up visuals. The Show has always looked good, but now the developers have went above and beyond here trying to bring the TV watching experience to the video game world by changing angles not only after every play, but really taking advantage of key situations such as livened up crowds, frustrated benches, and even Home Runs. These Home Run moments show multi angle views from the player trotting happily, the managers pleased or upset dependent on whose team hit the long ball, scoreboard flashing the big moment, and of course stadium specific celebrations are present as well. With each game finally feeling different thanks to this new camera system, even long time followers like myself can feel like they are almost playing a new game. You may even want to watch events between innings and pitches, and not skip cut scenes that may have repeated in the past.
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.
All in all, there is much to play and see in MLB 12: The Show even if you are a series veteran thanks to the revamped Road to the Show and Diamond Dynasty Modes. Toss in the fact that if you own the PS Vita you can save your franchise, season, or RTTS mode to Sony’s cloud save system and pick up what you are doing on the PS3 and play it on the Vita version (our review here) and vice versa, so you never have to miss a swing or play two identical modes with different results. Keep in mind that the new Diamond Dynasty mode cannot be played on the Vita, so keep that in mind when buying both versions.
Once again, Sony raises the bar on what should be expected from a baseball game. Whoever picks up the pieces next year after 2K leaves the scene; they better bring their ‘A’ game as I can’t foresee anyone touching MLB The Show when it comes to visuals, playability, modes, and the pure realism that is captured by this game of baseball better than any other franchise captures another sport.