The snow on the ground has melted, the weather is getting warmer, and you all know what that means. Baseball is right around the corner and to celebrate America’s favorite pastime, Sony has released MLB 12: The Show. This year The Show is back with plenty of new features including the ability to play and share gameplay on the PS3 or the Playstation Vita. Whichever system you choose, gamers will get a solid baseball simulation with lots of personalization and fun to be had.
This year’s edition of MLB 12: The Show made some significant changes to the control scheme, giving this game a much different feel than in years past. Gamers that choose to be a pitcher will immediately notice that the traditional pitching meters are gone and have been replaced by the pulse pitching system. You select the pitch you want to throw, and a circle will appear which gets bigger and smaller. This circle represents the area that your pitch will land in: the smaller the circle, the more accurate your pitch. This circle is directly affected by the command and confidence of your pitcher and how long the pitcher has been pitching.
Batting has also been modified from years past with the addition of zone hitting. You can control where your swing will be focused, allowing you to make the best possible contact. The zone is controlled by moving the left analog stick to the area of the strike zone that you think the pitch will cross the plate. The higher your batting stats are, the larger the zone becomes. The type of swing you choose also has an effect on the hitting zone; for example, contact swings have a much larger contact zone than a power swing.
Both of these new mechanics take some getting used to. By design, they are far superior to the old control scheme, allowing you to become much more precise in both pitching and hitting. Luckily, there are options in the game menu that allow you to turn these new mechanics on or off, so if you have a hard time with the new mechanics, you can always revert to the controls you’re used to. Switching to the old control scheme should be a last line of defense, though, since this new control scheme gives you more tools to place the ball wherever you’d like. You will need to have a good sense of timing, but once mastered, pitching and batting really open up to the players.
This year also includes the ability to upload your saved games to the cloud. If you purchased the Playstation Vita version of this game, you will be able to grab your game from the PS3 and play it on the go. This is one of the first commercially available cross-compatible games to hit the market, and it works extremely well. When you want to load your game on either the PS3 or the Vita, simply start the mode you wish to play and choose the “Load from Cloud” option. As long as you saved your game on the cloud, your game will be waiting for you. This cross-compatibility makes the game one of the first truly portable PS3 games, and though there is some graphical loss when playing on the Vita, it is a similar experience on both devices. Anyone who has a Vita should seriously consider buying this game alongside the PS3 version.
For everything that is different about this game, there are plenty of existing modes which found their way to the system, including the popular “Road to the Show” mode. The “Road to the Show” allows players to create a player on his way to being drafted. You’ll soon get drafted by a team, and you have to work your way through the organization as you play out a career. A new mode called “Dynasty Mode” has been added to this year’s package, and this allows a player to choose a team of both real and fictional characters to see if you can create a dynasty. If you played EA’s Ultimate Team, it is very similar to that in concept.
Playstation Move fans will be happy to know that Move support is found in all modes of play. Last year, support was limited to the Home Run Derby, but that has been updated. The Move works well, but shines in pitching and hitting. For pitchers, simply choose a pitch and perform a pitching motion. Batters have a similar process where they choose the type of swing and go for the fences. Much like the rest of the game, the Move controls are very timing-oriented and take some getting used to. Different actions require different stances, and although they should theoretically immerse the player, they sometimes require so much precision that they get in the way of playing the game well. The Move integration is not for everyone, but if you are a Move fan, this will definitely appeal to you.
Players may also notice that the physics engine has received a nice upgrade. Players take better angles to the ball and the animations look better than in years past. There are still some hitches, including the animation after you hit a home run, but all-in-all it is an improvement. The commentators also do a nice job of keeping the chatter relevant and interesting, although after a while you’ll hear the same comments a few times. The stadiums themselves look great, and this has always been a strong point for The Show franchise. All the nuances of the fields are presented well, and even some inter-inning production pieces have been placed in the game.
Unfortunately, the online experience is still suspect, as has always been the case in this series. It takes a long time to get an online game started no matter what time you play, and performance takes a hit when the servers slow down – at times, this mode becomes unplayable. Those familiar with the franchise know that this has always been a sticking point in the series and it remains a problem this year.
Overall, MLB 12: The Show is an excellent baseball simulation. There are lots of improvements in this year’s version and if you’re a fan, you will certainly appreciate them. However, if you are a new player, you should know that you will have to invest some time getting used to the controls and building up your players to get to where you want to be. However, if you are willing to put in this time, the game will provide you with a baseball experience unlike any other.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of MLB 12: The Show by Sony Computer Entertainment