America’s favorite pastime, the great sport of baseball, is a deceptively simple game that is filled with complexities. While watching baseball may be simple enough, a number of decisions come into play at every position on the plate that need to be taken into consideration. When does a pitcher throw a ball or a strike? When does a batter swing for the fences or lay off a pitch? Can a tired starting pitcher last another inning, or is it time to pull someone from the bullpen? All of these decision-making capabilities — and ability to provide challenging circumstances for those decisions — need to be included into a video game about baseball, which is far from easy. Luckily, SCE San Diego is up to the task and crafted a wonderful game that captures every nuance of Major League Baseball in MLB 12: The Show.
What immediately stands out about The Show is presentation. In terms of presentation finesse, The Show is a World Series champion. First and foremost in the presentation are graphics, camera angles and realism. Graphically, The Show is a stunner that makes good use of the power of the PS3. Players look very much like their real-life counterparts, stadiums from all over the country are incredibly well detailed, and light and shadows create an authentic baseball atmosphere. Atmosphere is also replicated well in the camera angles and replays, which make The Show feel like an interactive television baseball broadcast. Also, every dive, every swing, every pitch and just about every play imaginable in baseball is possible in MLB 12: The Show. The level of detail gets even more impressive when considering that AA and AAA teams are included in the game as well.
To elaborate even further on the game’s depth, The Show is deep, built from the ground up for the most hardcore baseball fans. The game is just packed with statistics and does an excellent job of integrating them with player ability. Swinging the bat as Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, for instance, doesn’t provide the same experience as knocking a ball out of the park as batter Hunter Pence. The same applies to pitching: pitch accuracy will vary not only by how well players utilize those mechanics, but player stats as well. One of the other great things about The Show is the way that the game integrates human error, though, as strikes will be called balls and vice versa, basemen will miss throws that they shouldn’t have, and more. The Show even does a good job of being accurate about human inaccuracy.
The Show offers a number of modes that will give hardcore baseball fans every last bit of control that they could imagine. Road To The Show allows players to build their own MLB player, who begins in training and tries to make his way all of the way to the Hall of Fame. The player can be from just about any position and is built up by playing through games, doing well at the things that the player’s position is responsible for, and then spending the resulting experience points in relevant stat areas. Season Mode lets players take a team all of the way to the World Series, through a full season of baseball or in a season as short as fourteen games. Baseball fans who’d like to have a mini-series of their own can jump to Rivalry Mode, where they can have two teams compete in a series to see who’s best. For the most hardcore baseball fans who’d like to control every last bit of their teams are two modes in particular: Franchise Mode (which gives players full control over a team’s finances and roster moves) and Diamond Dynasty, a fully-featured online league that allows players to build their own customized baseball league and move up through the ranks by playing against other players.
For all of its depth, though, MLB 12: The Show can be especially daunting for newcomers or casual fans of baseball, as there is an initially step and overwhelming learning curve. The game has a number of different controls, including fielding controls than can change based on certain camera views, which can take quite a bit for players to learn. The in-game strategy guide communicates plenty of information, but none of it is really integrated into the game’s Practice Mode, where helping players have a deeper understanding of about when they should throw balls vs. strikes, swing a bat vs. wait for another pitch, or throw to one base vs. another would go a long way. With time and practice, the information begins to come together, but the new, casual player really needs to make an effort to grasp everything that The Show is offering.
Online multiplayer works well in The Show for most part. In terms of the gameplay experience, no difference really exists between playing someone online and playing the CPU, except for no help with pitching and the player being responsible for manual fielding. However, while the PS3 version is mostly stable online, it did seem to occasionally suffer from lag problems and “traffic delay,” which will instantly bring any game of The Show to a grinding halt, for as long as a few minutes on the Vita version. The PS3 version online experience wasn’t as pronounced, but bits of lag came in at the worst times, making it difficult to assess pitches or field accurately. The lag problems were a little frustrating, as they were the only downsides to an otherwise gratifying multiplayer experience.
Speaking of the Vita version, the Vita’s commercials have advertised the ability to take a game of The Show on the go by saving to the cloud. The truth is that Season, Franchise, and Road To The Show data can be saved, uploaded, and downloaded without any problems whatsoever — the process is also relatively quick. Games saved in progress in Season Mode, though, can’t be continued on the opposite platform — they can only be resumed on the platform that the game started on. However, depending on when you save or if you choose not to sim, progress won’t have yet occurred on the opposite version. What that means is that the game calendar will likely be at the game that players are in the middle of playing through, giving them a chance to begin that game anew on the opposite platform.
PlayStation Move support for The Show offers kind of mixed results. Batting is great fun in the game and really does a good job of recreating the experience of being at bat. Gamers should, however, always be aware of their position and make sure not to have the Move controller anywhere that the Eye camera can’t read it. If the PS Eye camera can’t read the Move’s location at any point, it will more times than not result in a missed swing opportunity. When constantly in the Eye’s range of vision, a Move experience at bat is quite enjoyable. Pitching, however, felt a little hard to grasp except when utilizing the Move strictly as a pointer location for pitches.
MLB 12: The Show, though, is a gold standard for baseball games and sports games alike. SCE San Diego’s attempt to turn nearly every last bit of baseball into a video game is most definitely a success. From details to customization, to the sheer amount of modes and options, MLB 12 The Show is nothing short of rewarding for those most passionate about the game of baseball. The depth may intimidate newcomers, but with the right amount of practice and attention to detail, even they can appreciate just the sheer fun of a great baseball game such as this. Throw in the ability to take progress on the go in seamless fashion with the PlayStation Vita version and The Show is an amazing game that can be taken anywhere for a great game of baseball at any time.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Tons of options, tons of available customization, and ability to take progress on the go with Vita version.
– Daunting depth for newcomers, online multiplayer lag hurts games.