Hall of Famer Branch Rickey once remarked that “baseball is a game of inches.” Unsurprisingly, this quote could also be used to describe the Major League Baseball 2K series, where yearly iterations usher in minor adjustments rather than comprehensive revisions. Following nine seasons of measured improvement, the recent release of MLB 2K12 steps to the plate with an established grip on the fundamentals; pitching, battling and even throwing are all proficiently articulated. Yet, the title also fails to impress where it ought to, exhibiting enough gameplay and graphical glitches to undermine its veteran status.
Using the gesture-based pitching system remains engaging, as players twirl their controller’s analog sticks to fire off blistering fastballs or plunging sliders. While a seemingly minor improvement, the addition of the Dynamic Tendencies System fundamentally changes the throwing game. Typically, players facing the CPU utilized a fraction of their arsenal, unrealistically relying on a few pitches to advance the inning. With 2K12, each throw is measured against the man on the mound’s actual style, discouraging exploitation. Hurl too many two-seam fastballs, and the opposing team grows wise- lowering the effectiveness of the pitch with each additional use. Likewise, players will need to vary their throwing locations, lest batters will hone in your preferred zones.
Beyond a tracking system which offers an advantageous diagram incorporating each throw, players are given visual data of overused pitching zones as well as an indicator revealing a color-coded projection of success. Amazingly, 2K12’s commentary also provides an insight into a player’s pitching, with the team of Gary Thorne, Steven Phillips, and John Kruk offering accurate observations. Much of the game’s reported eighty hours of new dialog functions like an unseen coach, providing suggestions for when to reach into the bullpen or divulging a particular pitcher’s concealed qualities.
Batting preserves the same engaging right stick to mechanics introduced into 2K10, allowing players to connect with the ball, aim for the fences, or lay down the bunt. One of the persistent problems with hitting was the 2K’s limited variety of outcomes, with contact verging on the predictable. Wisely, battling has been overhauled, resulting in a realistic selection of energetic choppers, soft bloopers, and streaking line drives. Much like pitching, 2K12’s slow motion replay’s uncover some elaborate algorithms at work, with balls careening convincingly off of hits and exhibiting a bit of extra momentum when hitting a bat’s sweet spot.
2K12’s throwing system receives a minor augmentation, calculating the difficulty of each toss into a gauge-based system. Now, the game examines the balance and speed of the fielder, presenting a green-yellow-red colored meter which represents the power and precision of a throw. In execution, players are forced to decide between urgency and accuracy, endowing the fielding with a nice risk/reward mechanic. While it’s an interesting addition, some additional tweaking seems necessary, as athletes seem to take a few superfluous strides before throwing the ball.
Many of last year’s core gameplay components reappear, albeit with nominal changes. Although My Player Mode already felt like a sports RPG, the addition of specific roles (which alter progression, rating, and other evaluative criteria) advances the amalgam. From an accelerated game speed by only having to participate in plays your athlete has a hand in, to the sentiment of success expressed from seeing your avatar rise from Triple-A obscurity to big league sensation, the mode is consistently rewarding. Regretfully, it can also feel a bit unrefined thanks to unsightly player models and a handful of control snags. Baserunning felt like parallel parking rather than controlling a nimble athlete.
One of the more contentious elements of MLB 2K12 can be found in The MLB Today Season mode, which permits players to play alongside actual games. Taking the helm of a single team and using an updated roster with up-to-the-minute stats, players can attempt to outperform the pros. Regretfully, the mode is time-sensitive; miss the opportunity to play an imperative game and it’s gone forever. Likewise, the whole component will most likely cease to be supported at the end of the 2012 season.
Visually, MLB 2K12’s most recent patch mended many of the game’s hiccups and framerate hitches, yet a number of graphical oddities remain. From bats clipping right through the plate, balls seemingly being thrown right through runner, to fouls which enduce clipping, nearly every game exhibits a handful of quizzical blemishes. Less forgivable are some of 2K12’s animations which often seem to lack transitional routines, and look habitually robotic. Offsetting these weaknesses are meticulously modeled ballparks, pleasing uniforms, and competent pro models.
With 2K’s license expiring at the end of the season, MLB 2K12 has the possibility of being the swan song for the long-running series. If that’s the case, the title may not be remembered as a Cooperstown- candidate, but as a consistent performer which gradually absorbed the sport’s rudiments. While the most recent online patch remedies many of the disk’s most glaring faults, a number of imperfections still mar 2K12’s performance. Fortunately, these deficiencies rarely are severe enough to prohibit players from having a rousing time.