MLB 12: The Show
- Street Date:
- March 6th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Chad Goodmurphy
- Review Date:1
- March 25th, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- PS Vita
- Sony Computer Entertainment
- SCE San Diego Studio
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
Spring is in the air, so you know what that means: the boys of summer are preparing for yet another lengthy Major League Baseball season. To coincide with Spring Training’s drills, meetings and exhibition games, Sony has released MLB 12: The Show onto its PlayStation 3 and PS Vita systems. This discussion will centre upon the handheld version of said sports simulator, in order to dissect and comment upon its portable features.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
It can be said that baseball is the most meticulous sport on our blue and green globe, forcing competing managers to dissect their upcoming match-ups in a plethora of different ways. Batting line-ups, defensive alignments and different types of pitchers are examined, in an attempt to one-up an opposing squad. To a newcomer, all of the involved statistical analysis can be overwhelming, especially when scorecards and game sheets are shown. On the other hand, many fans thrive on these intricacies, obsessing over every in-depth aspect of the game. It’s those hardcore fans that Sony Computer Entertainment’s San Diego Studio has targeted with its latest baseball sim.
Over the years, sales numbers have indicated that this series is the sport’s interactive champion, having outperformed its competition on Sony’s platforms. Understandably so, owners of other consoles have complained about its first-party status, but that exclusivity is of great benefit to the electronics giant. After all, the goal is to own the franchises that people want, in a business that happens to be as competitive as this billion-dollar video game industry is.
Although previous incarnations of this simulation saw the light of day on the PS2, PS3 and PSP, MLB 12: The Show happens to be the first series release to be made available for the PS Vita. In fact, it’s the first baseball game to grace the device’s OLED screen. Then again, that won’t come as much of a surprise, considering that we’re talking about a brand new system. With that being said, it is important to note, because expectations were high that this would be a triumph for gaming’s most talked-about portable friend, upstaging other mobile baseball titles. Is that the case? Yes and no. A swing for the fences has been made, but the end result is merely a competent hit.
Going in, fans can expect a relatively expansive set of gameplay modes. You’ll find standard exhibition matches, a home run derby, practice options and a managerial franchise mode. Additionally, a user-controlled season mode where games can be played, managed or experienced through broadcast is made available. All of those happen to be what you’d expect, delivering quality ways to play as your favourite team. Armchair athletes can dive in and make a difference by themselves, while those who feel they’d be a better manager than a player can move to the front office from the get-go.
Since all sports fans have dreamed of being in the position to rise into prominence in a professional sports league, it isn’t surprising that Road to the Show has been included as the game’s flagship mode. Within its confines, one must create a player to take through minor league paces, with the hope that The Show will be in his future. Hard work and determination can help your created avatar (which will be an ugly one, considering how poor some of the provided faces are,) achieve that goal. Of course, it’s a long road from A ball to the Majors.
Road to the Show is an altered version of the core MLB 12 game day experience. Gamers are responsible for performing whenever their player is needed to bat, pitch or field a ball. The game fast-forwards to these opportunities, meaning that matches are much shorter than they would be in a season or exhibition setting. Camera angles are also slightly altered to provide a closed-in feel during on-field action, but other than that, Road to the Show’s core gameplay experience doesn’t differ much from what is found in other modes.
Performing well whenever you’re called upon is the key to success in what is essentially a realistic representation of what the road to the big leagues is really like. Every play is rated on a post-game menu screen, with experience points awarded for good results. Poor plays result in a loss of this important award, which acts as currency for simulated and categorical training exercises. Those help to improve your players’ skills, adding onto user-controlled training minigames that occasionally pop-up during season play.
New to this iteration is a pulse pitching control system where a circular indicator quickly alters its size. Hitting the button at the perfect time will result in nailing your desired spot with accuracy, but therein lies its issue. Getting used to how fast the fluctuating circle changes in size can be tricky, leading to a frustrating time. As a result, it’s best to overlook this inclusion. It happens to be problematic and difficult, which is something that mars a couple of the other included control styles.
I went into this game with a great deal of excitement, which was aided by the fact that my Toronto Blue Jays now have a load of potential. Despite having previous experience beating up on virtual representations of real-life MLB opponents in other iterations of The Show, I had a hard time using the majority of this version’s control options. The rear touchpad’s throw-inducing swipes didn’t work that well and the aforementioned pulse pitching option was problematic. Additionally, the right-thumb stick controls seemed a bit off when it came to nailing movement timing.
After spending time trying out all of the aforementioned control set-ups, I resorted back to what is referred to as “timing” for batting, as well as the standard one-button press pitching mechanic. Using one of four different types of swings (contact, regular, power and bunting,) all of which are assigned to a face button, timed batting asks users to perfect their swing. If you’re right on, then a hit will be the result. Conversely, being off by just a bit will pop the ball up, send it foul or create a weak dribbler. This option is realistic and sensible, but it takes a while to get down pat. You can change sliders to increase the frequency of human and computer contact, but that almost felt like cheating.
Under its default setting, pitching becomes much easier. Batters’ hot and cold zones show within a strike zone indicator and the catcher’s glove signals optimal pitch location based on the opponents’ previous performances. As with time-related batting and its in-depth feedback, several different buttons are used to identify unique pitches, with combinations employed for pitch outs and pickoffs. That mechanic worked relatively well, but hitting zones perfectly was occasionally difficult. A fastball targeting the left side would sometimes sail to the right, and vice-versa. Sure, this could have been due to the wind, but it never seemed to be that severe. This occurred in more than one game, and with more than one pitcher.
Despite its control issues, MLB 12: The Show (Vita) is still a solid portable baseball simulator. It does a pretty good job of transferring a console style experience to a handheld system, allowing fans to hit home runs while on the go. The game’s in-depth stat tracking, complex gameplay and involved Road to the Show mode are all fun to become immersed within. After time, the one more game mentality will set in and one hour of game time will quickly turn into two or three. It should also be noted that the aforementioned pitching nuances do become easier to get used to, though Sony San Diego needs to look into changing things up for future releases.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Although it should be noted that MLB 12: The Show for Vita is merely a first attempt at creating a baseball simulation for Sony’s impressive new device, the game doesn’t look as good as it could have. Instead, its visuals are merely OK. The main problem lies in its lack of definition, as players’ models tend to look slightly blurry. Some of the utilized texture work also leaves something to be desired. Don’t read these complaints as statements that the game looks terrible, however. It’s competent overall, but does not take full advantage of the Vita’s graphical powers, resembling a higher resolution PSP title instead.
Over the course of this professional baseball adventure, many different ballparks will be visited. In addition to well-designed representations of each MLB stadium, unique A ball venues also play host to the bat and ball sport. It was impressive to see how much effort went into creating detailed representations of every location, with each one having its own feel and area-based sound effects. Road to the Show does a good job of highlighting this visual achievement, with games that show off a quality day-to-night cycle.
A representative from SCE San Diego previously mentioned that the studio’s goal was to make this version more organic than its predecessors through the implementation of enhanced ball physics. This design philosophy’s added animations are noticeable, as balls will ricochet off of players’ gloves, as well as encountered bases. In general, it reacts as it should, bouncing realistically.
On the downside, too many of the same hit cameras are shown, meaning you’ll view identical fouls over and over again, along with similar base hits. More camera angles would have aided the game’s presentation quality, considering it doesn’t have enough viewpoint variety. The everyday ballpark atmosphere is lacking as a result, especially since the mediocre-looking crowd is never featured in environmental lead-up shots. When cut scenes are shown, they’re limited to batter practice swings, which occasionally suffer from frame rate slowdown. Dugouts are shown as being empty and celebrations are notably missing, along with opening day ceremonies.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The feature commentary provided by Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros is very insightful, evolving throughout each series. Players’ stats are discussed through interesting means, and it’s mentioned when they’ve been inserted into the line-up after missing the previous night’s tilt. Furthering that design, individuals who played in a previous game will have their performance mentioned, which is something you won’t find in a lot of other sports games. Sure, some of the announcing could’ve used added emotion, but it’s quite impressive overall.
When fans make their way out to the ballpark, they don’t do so in order to simply watch all of the players perform. In fact, the emotionally charged sounds emitted from fans, players, musicians and vendors combine to create what is a unique experience that cannot be paralleled. A bit of that can be found on this cartridge, but organ music and fan chants seemed to have been omitted. Instead, fans’ clapping and occasional hollering is all that one will find. At times, those effects sounded OK, but there were quite a few times where the ball’s sounds would combine with fans’ effects to create an off-putting result. It almost sounded like a bit of static was present during those instances.
After playing several games, I started to wonder whether there might have been something wrong with my Vita’s speakers. The thought that went through my mind was that they could’ve been the cause of the static, despite the mid-range volume setting that I’ve always kept to. That didn’t seem to be the case, however, because all of MLB 12’s well-chosen soundtrack tunes sounded great, with rich tones and impressive quality. The static-like sound only reared its head during gameplay, though it wasn’t there consistently.
Portable systems are perfect for gamers who love to take their favourite sports with them while on the go. Having the opportunity to play at any time is a definite plus, especially with a genre that promotes replay value as much as this one does. It’s in this category where MLB 12: The Show excels, providing replay value that simply cannot be measured. All of its single player modes are long-serving and interesting, with Road to the Show taking the length-based crown.
Sony’s ongoing Vita advertising campaigns have centred upon the idea of Cross-Play, where game saves can be transferred between PS3 and PS Vita versions of different games. This happens to be one of the first titles to provide that feature, with the help of Cloud saving. If you’ve become immersed within an ongoing season and have to leave the house, it’s a great option to have.
Purchasing a new copy of this game will gift Vita owners with an online code to redeem in the PlayStation Store. Entering its string of digits and pressing OK will unlock online play. This particular mode uses a lobby system where challenges can be issued to other players. Individual rooms are made available, including two that are reserved for those who prefer to guess the incoming pitch; a facet of the main experience, which provides a location knowledge benefit if the player guesses correctly. Playing online can extend replay value beyond what is found in the aforementioned single player menus, especially if friends pick up the game.
With MLB 12: The Show for PS Vita, SCE San Diego has delivered a competent and enjoyable baseball experience for those who love to game on the go. Considering that its existence comes as a first effort on a new device, it’s easier to overlook all of the aforementioned deficiencies, though they definitely do take away from the great sports title that this could have been. Overall, it’s worthwhile for the pastime’s hardcore fans, although those looking for a title that can last for years should maybe wait until the kinks are ironed out. Maybe the popular Diamond Dynasty mode will also make an appearance at that time.
- 1Q HD
- Online Versus
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