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.