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MLB 12: The Show review

AT A GLANCE
  • The outstanding presentation
  • The fluid animation and superb ball physics
  • Improvements to the lineup and trade logic
  • The problematic netcode
  • Franchise mode is long overdue for a revamp
  • "Pulse pitching" is both shallow and disappointing

More than any other sports game that many of us Stateside have ever played, MLB: The Show has the power to dazzle spectators. Even non-baseball fans seem incapable of escaping its spell.

Sony's San Diego Studios long ago mastered the art of authentic baseball presentation, and have seemingly only needed to make minor tweaks since then. It's evident in every facet of their games -- the breezy conversation of the announcers, the way fans will reach down for a ball that bounces just out of reach, and the grimace of disgust on a batter's face after being called out on a particularly close call. Little has changed in MLB 12: The Show, for better or worse.

That MLB 12 looks exactly the same as its predecessor was evident when we loaded it up for the first time, and a roommate looked up from her computer and asked, "So wait, how is this different from last year?"

If you want us to be completely honest, it's not that different at all. Even the references to the now-three-year-old Target Field as the "Twins’ beautiful new outdoor stadium" sounds like something straight out of MLB 10. Because that's where it came from. Wait, there is the new Miami Marlins stadium. But still, is that a dramatic update compared to the big changes you see from other sports games? Not really.

This year's edition is mainly marked by touch-ups and tweaks, the most notable being the new "Zone Plus Analog" control scheme, which seeks to fix last year's Pure Analog scheme. Following complaints that the Pure Analog controls made it impossible to choose where to hit in the zone, Sony San Diego has added in a little cursor that marks where the swing will make contact. It's not a bad addition, even if it's more or less inaccessible to all but the most advanced players.

The Zone Plus Analog scheme adds yet one more variable to an already highly-complex control scheme, making MLB: The Show one of the most difficult sports games we've ever played. As in the real game, making contact means being able to gauge whether the pitch will be a fastball or a changeup and where it will be in the zone, all while it zips through the air. Doing all that, winding up, and placing the cursor in the right place for a well-timed hit can be a bridge too far at times, and resulted in much cursing as we swung feebly at expertly placed strikes. Even after reducing the difficult to "veteran," we had our share of hearburn. Finally, we just threw up our hands and went back to good old Zone with its nice, familiar buttons.

As for the pulse pitching, well, the less said about that feature the better. While Zone Plus Analog at least has the benefit of being an advanced control option with a true to life rhythm, the rapidly shrinking and enlarging circle that comprises pulse pitching mostly just made us feel nauseous. It wasn't hard to time the pitch button with the circle, but it wasn't satisfying either. It wasn't long before we went back to the much more intuitive analog pitching, which does a far better job of capturing the overall rhythm of throwing the ball.

The tweaks to the controls aside, MLB: The Show's other major feature is Diamond Dynasty -- a monetized, collectible card game-type feature that ought to be familiar to most sports gamers, as it has appeared in Madden, NHL, FIFA, and other major franchises. We're told the mode has its fans, but to us at least, it's always come off as a rather uninspired way to squeeze more money out of devoted players by charging a fee nominal for the packs of cards. We suppose we should wonder what took Sony so long to get into the act.

Here's the thing though. Even if you're collecting cards and building a custom team, Diamond Dynasty is an online mode, and there's little to suggest that online play has significantly improved over previous iterations. In our test match, it was every bit as lag-filled as ever. The timing is such that you have to swing the bat <i>after</i> the ball has disappeared, or you will be marked as having swung too early. Things may improve on retail servers, but we doubt it. This is a netcode issue, if anything. Given how precise the frames need to be, isn't it time that Sony San Diego find a way to adapt something like the netcode GGPO? It's done wonders for fighting games like Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, which require equally precise timing.

Online has been a nagging issues with this game for years, and no amount of PlayStation Move support will fix that (Note: MLB 12 features complete support for PS Move now. We were unable to test that particular feature, but it's there, for those who are interested.) And there are other features that could use updating as well. We love that franchise mode has better trade logic, but why is there no accountability for losing too much? No goals like the ones found in Road to the Show? There's always new places to take the single player, but franchise mode has hardly changed over the years.

With that in mind, there's less incentive than in years past to pick up the PS3 version of The Show this year. If you're the lucky owner of a PlayStation Vita, think about that edition first, which at least has the novelty of being portable, as well as supporting cross-compatible saves (if you're really itching to play both). We're not asking that Sony rebuild from scratch, and thus risk throwing out a great baseball sim out with the proverbial bathwater. But there is a sense of diminishing returns with this franchise that is becoming worrisome. It still has the power to dazzle, but Sony should take care lest the best baseball series of this generation grow stagnant.

More Info

Release date: Mar 06 2012 - PS Vita (US)
Available Platforms: PS Vita, PS3
Genre: Sports
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developed by: Sony Computer Entertainment
ESRB Rating:
Everyone

13 comments

  • talleyXIV - June 24, 2012 3:49 p.m.

    This is the most pretentious review I have ever read. Obviously this girl doesn't appreciate the game of baseball, I want another review by someone who actually likes sports. A baseball fan's rating: 9 Dumb girl journalist who has never watched a game in her life: 7 By the way: Do you realize that pulse pitching has been in every baseball game for a long time? It is the standard and great form of pitching... you act like it was just introduced and call it shallow? You are shallow
  • talleyXIV - June 24, 2012 3:42 p.m.

    Main complaints: Lack of music (Around 12 songs). Hitting on experienced is extremely difficult and computer pitchers do not throw many strikes. The game is actually very clunky, (Franchise mode) it throws everything at you, it is the most headache inducing game I have ever played. As a baseball sim though, it is superb.
  • don-juarez - May 4, 2012 6:43 p.m.

    I love this game but twice now the other team hit a home run yet when i went to instant replay they were both clearly foul balls but the umpires called them fair. does anyone else have this same issue
  • 44Patriots44 - March 6, 2012 12:30 p.m.

    I wish they made franchise similar to be a GM in NHL 12. Where doing poorly loses you privileges (Number of phones for trading) and can get you fired for not reaching certain goals. I was going to pass this year anyway simply because of the combo pack at Gamestop (NBA 2k12 and MLB 2k12)I know 2k usually makes a really poor baseball game and it being my favorite sport I really should get The Show. But I figure $10 more on top of the NBA game I wanted for a sports simulation is hard to pass up. They are very similar year to year so saving a bit of money this year would be nice.
  • bkrich83 - March 5, 2012 11:23 p.m.

    Looks exactly the same? Nothing has changed? The new lighting effects and physics models are instantly apparent fro the second you fire the game up.. I mean blatantly obvious. I have to question whether you played this game at all. I've never commented or questioned a review before, but this was something that reeks of no effort. If the site is going to review sports games, do your readers some justice and have someone who's somewhat familiar with the sport and the sports game genre review them. This was a poor effort and you should be ashamed of it.
  • Skyboxer - March 5, 2012 5:32 p.m.

    I have never been as compelled to respond to a "review" if that's what you want to call it, as I was after reading this one. I now know why I don't even come here. I only just created an account to respond to this. The new physics alone make MLB 12 a MUST own if you are a baseball fan. For you not to see this means you either spent lesst than 5 minutes with the game or the others in the series. As far as the pulse pitching? Most who have actually played longer than 30 seconds LOVE it. A few of us have had the game since last Thursday and can't believe the jump the gameplay has made. I only came here after all the WTF did you read GR's review comments?? Anyone who is a fan of baseball, do yourself a favor and get this game. Heck, rent it first if you want. You'll buy it right after. Haven't been able to try online as it's not on yet for the rest of us. Hope it's smooth but we'll see. Anyways, your review is laughable to those baseball fans who've actually played this years version.
  • demetri-chase - March 7, 2012 2:05 p.m.

    Man you are nothing but a fanboy. This game is not that improved, online is still garbage, and "ball physics" dont cover all of that. You and bkrich can go back to the O.S. fanboards.
  • Zephyius - March 5, 2012 4:11 p.m.

    Why did I see another reviewer claim that online is currently (as of posting time (TODAY)), not available to him?
  • chrisat928 - March 5, 2012 1:50 p.m.

    Well, this review sucks. Seems rushed and thrown together with little regard for actual content within the game.
  • Partridge12 - March 5, 2012 12:28 p.m.

    I wouldn't pay too much attention to this review. She says it is not different at all. The review from ESPN, from the host of Baseball Tonight, said it is greatly improved. Who would you trust about a baseball game? Further, the New York Daily says the Diamond Dynasty really isn't much like the EA thing, though you still pay for cards. Then, she is only guessing that online won't be fixed, and where is the part about the new move controls? How about how much defense has to change thanks to the new physics engine which basically means the ball acts like a real baseball? If you are big on online play, wait a while and see if it still sucks. If you play because you like baseball, I would just reference other sources.
  • D0CCON - March 5, 2012 3:09 p.m.

    I get what you're saying, but who would you trust to review a videogame? A videogame review site or ESPN?
  • TurtleAssasin33 - March 5, 2012 10:35 a.m.

    I wish that they could have a decent online mode in this game. I've tried playing '11 the show online, and not only is it hard to find a match, but when you play it switches up the control scheme on me and the lag is unbearably bad
  • KingMiedus - March 5, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    Aww, I have 2010 and was hoping to buy it again after skipping last year. Ah well, likely wasn't going to have all that much time for it with Mass Effect 3 coming out too!

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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