A study conducted by a University of Colorado at Boulder research team once found that the average career for a Major League Baseball athlete lasted about 5.6 years. With an unmistakable grasp on the fundamentals of the sport as well as near-universal critical acclaim, MLB The Show’s legacy seems destined to endure much longer. Now in its sixth annual iteration, the year’s entry shows a number of small tweaks and trimmings which collectively allow The Show to maintain its dominance of the console market. Save for the title’s reoccurring network issues which often stymie online matches, the game offers an often-dazzling and surprisingly accurate recreation of America’s pastime, fated for appreciation by fervent fans.
Although MLB 12 The Show’s True Ball Physics modeling seems like little more than a back-of-the-box bullet point, in execution the system endows each game with an organic unpredictability. Purportedly tracking the number of RPMs for the ball as well as calculating surface friction against the stadium fields, players no longer see a homogenous set of contact options. Instead, the title tenders up a satisfying multiplicity of hits- from streaking line drives, lively choppers, to anemic bleeders. While the variety is undoubtedly welcome, occasionally the physics glitches- sending the ball ricocheting off objects with a burst of supplementary kinetic energy.
Likewise, the game’s addition of Zone Analog Battling adds an unexpected amount of nuance to each game. Here, the left analog stick determines what part of the zone you’ll be swing through, while the right stick still manages a both stride and swing. In execution, the system endows each trip to the plate with a bit of strategy, as the batter attempts to guess where the pitcher will put the next throw.
When on the mound, the MLB 12’s Pulse Pitching speed up the tempo of the game by taking the hurler to hit the “X” button to coincide with the smallest diameter of a throbbing circle. Cleverly, the speed of the heartbeat-like meter is determined by factors such as composure, fatigue, and the difficulty setting, offering a shrewd method to articulate a number of variables. The downside is that the new system takes some time to learn, with players flinging a lot of unruly junk before they acclimate to the technique. For those who prefer last year’s analog-style delivery, or even the simplicity of accuracy-metered or single button pitches, those options remain. Like previous iteration of The Show, MLB 12 bestows a remarkable amount of flexibility; scaling its play mechanics to players of various experience levels.
One of my favorite elements of last year’s version was the Road to the Show component, which followed the trajectory of an aspiring athlete. This year brings some small modifications which help the mode’s focus. Players start their careers in the Double-A minors and have a distinct role of the team, this year. To offset the cadence of seasonal schedule, players also participate in training drills, where success leads to a slight stat increase. Yet, the Road to the Show’s undeniable draw can be found in the narrative that is created, as gamers instinctively identify with their ambitious athlete. The only element missing are some of the absorbing accompaniments offer by 2K’s similar mode, offering player the opportunities to participate in press conference and sign endorsement deals.
MLB 12’s Diamond Dynasty mode attempts to cultivate those bonds with a personalized team, as players cultivate a custom squad built from in-game collectable cards. Recalling the Ultimate Team modes found in EA’s FIFA, Madden and NHL franchises, gamers start by generating a team name and assigning a handful of other variables. After that, players are dumped off at an intricate system of menus, with little upfront instruction. Following a bit of roster management, I assumed my squad was ready to take on a few online and CPU opponents. Regretfully, The Show neglected to warn that I would take the field in the game’s austere, standard-issue uniform until I ventured into the powerful graphical editor. Here, players can choose colors for the team’s caps, jerseys, and batting helmets as well as design a logo using built-in templates.
Once the squad’s attire was accounted for, Diamond Dynasty proved fairly compelling, taking players with balancing a team comprised of long-term fictional players, and interim appearances by real athletes, capable of deliver a fleeting talent boost. Wins against other teams reward players with in-game currency, used to train players, purchase additional card packs, or buy a single card from the game’s auction house. Predictably, players can use real-world currency to booster their coffers, which skews the balance of the component.
Last year The Show added Move support to its Home Run Derby mode; this year, players can use the peripheral to control every mechanic of the game. Expectedly, batting with Sony’s motion-sensing device feels the most intuitive. Pitching and fielding respond accurately, although neither feels instinctive with the controller. For marathon-minded players, playing MLB 12 with a DualShock is a near necessity, as muscle fatigue set in after a few consecutive games.
For PS Vita owners, the ability to share Season, Franchise and Road to the Show saves with the handheld version of MLB 12 The Show is certainly an impressive feature. The portable iteration doesn’t match the prowess of its console brethren- with sputtering batter walkups and a truncated number of game modes- yet being able to chip away at your progress while being away from your console is undeniably gratifying. Once players overcome the hurdles associated with the initial set-up, transferring save files is quick and trouble-free.
Visually, The Show commendably strives to recreate an actual television broadcast, with panoramic mid-inning transitions, shots of scorned batters, and aerial perspectives. While player animation is consistently credible, sporadically athlete movement becomes uncannily life-like, thanks to flawlessly stitched mo-cap sequences. The title’s one aesthetic quibble can be found in its commentary; not only is the banter noticeably ambiguous, but infrequently the team of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Eric Karros will make flagrant mistakes. Fortunately, the title’s sound effects and crowds help to offset these quandaries.
The title’s fundamental failing is one that has afflicted The Show for the last few seasons: debilitating lag. Although online notices assure players that the slowdown is cosmetic, the delivery of pitches as well as batting is affect by disruptions of fluidity. With five patches issued since the title’s retail release, it’s apparent that developer Sony San Diego is working on the issue, however at the time of writing the problem has not been completely eradicated.
If players can overlook the game’s online performance, MLB 12 The Show’s outstanding collection of modes and customization options allow the title to be enjoyed by both casual admirers as well as hardcore aficionados. In its sixth in the majors, the title shows the markings of any prospective Hall of Famer, by nailing the rudiments of the sport and outclassing its competition. For PlayStation 3 owners, The Show is the only baseball game you’ll want to consider.