Hate it or love it, baseball will always be known as America’s Pastime. It’s a sport that turns friends into enemies during an intense pennant chase. For a long time, baseball games, much like golfing games, were the bane of sports gamers. Capturing the inter-league rivalries or the solitary tension of being on the pitcher’s mound or in the batter’s box could never quite compare to the real thing. Then, MLB 12: The Show stepped onto the field to give gamers one of the best baseball gaming experiences in the market. While the commentary may not be a match for the 2K Sports’ baseball franchise, The Show succeeds where it matters – on the field.
Now that the Move has become a mainstay in PS3 peripherals, the controller has been fully integrated into the latest version of The Show. Instead of simply using it in Home Run Derby mode, you can use the Move to field, pitch and bat in every game mode. Sure enough, pitching and hitting is where this controller excels, while fielding falls short. Telling your fielder which direction to throw in becomes another case of “standard controller” preferred.
When you’re using the standard controller, you can savor some of the new pitching and hitting upgrades in The Show. Pitching has been simplified from its previous versions. Instead of using a meter, players have a circular reticle that shrinks and grows to reflect accuracy. Similar to a first-person shooter, when the reticle is wide open, you’re accuracy is off. When the reticle has a smaller diameter, then your accuracy is at the top of its game. The new mechanism takes some getting used to, but triumphs in the end. Simply focusing on timing your button press just right speeds up every time at bet. You’ll feel like Nolan Ryan throwing no-hitter after no-hitter when you’ve mastered your pitching accuracy. Of course, control comes down to knowing each pitcher and his unique cache of pitches.
The batting system has also been upgraded. Players now have a pulsing yellow circle that can be moved around the hitting zone. The pulsating circle represents your target. More so than pitching, this function takes a lot of trial and error to master. Your timing has to be flawless from the moment the ball is released from the pitcher’s hand. You’ll have to lift your foot, guide your bat and follow through at just the right time to slam the ball to the fences. On easier difficulties, hitting is relegated to a simple button press. However, you won’t savor the same hitting emersion. I also found that (after a few days) I was able to execute stronger hits and even homeruns more often with the full hitting control as opposed to the simpler, button-press batting.
There are two key modes in MLB 12: The Show, which take their queue from other sports games on the market. Diamond Dynasty is reminiscent to FIFA Ultimate Team. Players can trade cards, representing players, to come up with the best fantasy squad around. Road to the Show is the more intriguing feature, which lets you create your own baseball player and follow his career. If you’ve ever played one of the WWE wrestling games, you’ll find it similar in theory (kind of like a Road to Wrestlemania). However, Road to the Show will leave you more satisfied with your created player. The game pays serious attention to your chosen stats, giving your player the time he deserves on the field. There are also periodic challenges and exercises to make your run for the majors a memorable experience.
With the Vita release this year, MLB 12: The Show offers a unique cross-platform experience. You can save games from your PS3 console game and continue them on the Vita version of the game. This is great for gamers who are fully invested in Road to the Show. You now have a reason to take your Vita with you wherever you go. Your custom player can achieve Majors success much more quickly. Unfortunately, you’ll have to buy two games (which are fundamentally the same) in order to do so. If you have no problem with double dipping, then you’ll get a kick out of this dual-system feature.
The commentaries in the game have been significantly improved from last year. However, they still feel a bit stiff. The commentators don’t play off of each other’s energy. It lacks the dynamics of being at a baseball game or even listening to one on an AM radio. By contrast, the camera cutting is stellar. Gamers will really get the sense that this is an actual baseball game as camera focus cuts through numerous areas of the field without skipping a beat.
MLB 12: The Show is an excellent game for baseball enthusiasts. Online gameplay still needs to be worked on. It’s hard to tell if you missed a catch or base hit because of lag. But when lag doldrums strike, you can always revel created player’s awesomeness.