When it comes to baseball games, your choices are limited. There’s the venerable The Show series (take a look at our PS3 and Vita reviews), and the long-running 2K series. While The Show is generally considered the superior game, MLB 2K was the first baseball series to introduce the innovative analog pitching system, and may have a few more tricks up its sleeves. But can this multiplatform game from 2K Sports dethrone longstanding King of the Diamond MLB: The Show? Let’s find out in this review.
Presentation-wise, MLB 2K12 has quite a bit going for it. While the game can render in up to 1080p resolution, it’s not a graphical powerhouse. Stadiums are faithfully reproduced, and the time of day and weather drastically affects things like shadows and visibility. But player models aren’t as detailed as they could be. Not to mention, they all seem pretty emotionless. Just nailed a huge homer? You wouldn’t be able to tell it based on your player’s face. Despite this, camera angles are pretty impressive, including a cool low-height, from-the-ground camera as the batter steps into the box. The frame rate also stays pretty consistent, in single player modes at least.
The “My Player” mode has been updated this year, with a new attribute of “Player type,” where you can define where you want your strengths to be from the get go. Are you a slugger, clutch or all-around hitter? Or, for pitchers, are you a solid starter, closer, or reliever? This selection gives your player’s attributes a boost in the expected locations, such as greater power numbers for slugger hitters, and greater stamina for starting pitchers. This mode is easily the most rewarding of the entire game, as you bring a nobody up from the minors into the major leagues. You have short and long-term goals set according to the aforementioned player type that you chose, such as maintaining a certain OBP (On Base Percentage) as a hitter or keeping your ERA (Earned Run Average) down as a pitcher. One odd omission is the lack of commentary when in the “My Player” mode. Some people may find this to be more engrossing, since in real life you wouldn’t be able to hear any commentary, but then again this is a videogame first and foremost so why not leverage the medium and give players instant feedback regarding their performance?
MLB 2K12 has a ton of potential, however, it just seems to come up short. Let’s start with fielding. This is easily the most disappointing area of the game. It seems simple enough – using the left analog stick, move your player. The right analog stick selects which base to throw to. Point that right analog stick to a base, time your release right, and you’ll execute a successful throw. Sounds easy, but throw in a far-too-sensitive accuracy meter, and wild throws become commonplace, even in Rookie mode. It’s possible to get used to this in single player modes, but take the game online and these problems are amplified (more on that in a bit). Playing with professional characters should not result in such a small window for a great throw. Dial up the game’s difficulty level, and you better not blink the second that the ball is in motion.
Audio work here is pleasant, including the crowds. While not as reactive as I would have liked, especially towards the end of games, there are nice little touches such as individuals shouting out the pitcher or batter’s name followed by something appropriate to their position. The commentary here is superb. Steve Phillips, Gary Thorne, and John Kruk all talk amongst each other, and everything flows pretty nicely. Rarely will you hear the same commentary game to game, and even rarer, if ever, will you hear the same soundbyte in a single game. The commentators in MLB 2K12 are actually a bit less harsh than in The Show, which new players may appreciate. They’ll banter back and forth, including picking up conversations they started a few moments ago. Yet, there are still a few hiccups here and there. For example, if any of the commentators are on a long, wordy rant or explanation, seemingly no amount of on-field action can stop them from finishing their anecdote. It doesn’t matter that you just hit a two-run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game up – Mr. Thorne just has to finish his schpeel on why the Marlins are a new team to watch out for before anyone can address the game-changing play that just transpired. MLB 2K12 almost has the commentary done perfectly – it just needs a bit more realism in reacting to onscreen action.
Taking the action online is a mixed bag as well. While there is no lag whenever it is time to pitch or swing, once the ball is in motion things get real ugly real fast. Multiple times per game, you should expect the game’s engine to run in slow motion, for no apparent reason. The fielding problems become far worse online as well. Sometimes, the accuracy bar for a throw will not show up over a fielder’s head for a while, you’ll stop the gesture for a hard throw to first, then the bar will reappear, you’ll attempt to correct the throw, and the result is either an extremely late or inaccurate throw. Catching a no-brainer pop fly is also never a given here, since the outfielders run like molasses stuck in tar. It all leaves a sour taste in your mouth, and is a mode that is better left for the diehards who have the time to work through all the issues.
So, does MLB 2K12 topple MLB ’12: The Show as King of the Diamond? No, not yet. While this may be the best iteration of the series in some time, it’s mostly just a ton of potential that ultimately lets you down. Pitching is great, but batting needs some practice. Fielding is frustrating, and even more so when you take the game online. Audio work is incredible, but not reactive enough nor as customizable as in The Show. If this is your only option for virtual baseball this season for whatever reason, it will suffice. But with the stellar MLB ’12: The Show offering an obviously superior overall experience, it is hard to recommend this to fans of baseball simulators when it fails to deliver a more satisfying experience than its main competitor.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+/- Online play doesn’t lag where it counts, but staggers everywhere else.
– Emotionless players, frustrating fielding, mistimed commentary.