Review: MLB 12 The Show (PS3)
Title: MLB 12 The Show
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Developer: Sony San Diego Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
It’s the beginning of March. Here in Wisconsin it’s actually been snowing consistently for 3 days, and I’ve been sick for the last two. That’s probably how a lot of people would answer if you asked about “the beginning of March.” For those that revel in the Glory of America’s pastime, it’s a totally different answer you’ll get. To them, all of the anticipation that began when the World Series ended has been building steadily, and on March 6th, that hunger is satiated. Spring training has already begun, and for those fans, The new year of The Show finally hits the shelves. This year, the theme definitely leans toward “behind-the-scenes,” as major changes have taken place underneath the hood.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 258 of the podcast.
Last year, one of the major improvements was the all new skeletal system for the players. This along with improved lighting throughout made quite a splash to those that have played the series for any amount of time. This year however, sees some minor improvements in the lighting, some tweaks to the stadiums, and over 1,000 new animations (and that’s just the beginning.) The biggest changes in my eyes though, are those that were made to the core of the game itself. An all new mode was added this year called Diamond Dynasty, which I’ll be honest, even after the developers explained it to me, I’m still a bit foggy on. Sounds throughout are all new, new AI logic for any situation you can imagine, expanded bullpen management options, new art assets for OSD’s, and even better load times with an optional 5GB install (still requires the standard 4.5GB install, but the extra 5GB is worth it.)
I’m not done though. The biggest news this year was that they would be releasing the game for the PS Vita on the same day, and that finally you will be able to transfer your save for Road to the Show, Franchise, and Season between the two systems. This is done quite effortlessly by simply saving to the “cloud” within the MLB 12 server environment. This does NOT require you to have PlayStation Plus, and is a function built directly into the MLB 12 infrastructure. The review for the Vita version will be posted separately and at a later date, but much of what you will read here applies to the Vita version. We saw first-hand that when a change was made to the PS3 version, it applied to the Vita version as well, that’s how closely these 2 versions come to each other.
Last but not least, the biggest and most amazing change is the addition of True Ball Physics to the Baseball. It may sound like a minor addition, but when you play your first game, you’ll understand why this is such a game changer. The ball reacts to everything and anything the way that you would expect a real Baseball to react. The ball now pop’s off of the bat with incredible accuracy, it completely dies if you hit the pitcher in the chest, and even when it rolls into the grass, you’ll experience weird hops as it gets ahead of the grass deformation because of the top spin. I probably have over 60 hours into this game already, and still I’m amazed at the new physics engine with every game I play. The best part is that the ball doesn’t have a semi-predetermined route on its way to the field anymore, so gameplay is much more unpredictable now.
Road to the Show, which is how I spend about 80% of my time every year, is improved in some great areas this year. First, they’ve expanded training to cover more aspects of the game, so now Batting, Fielding, Base running, and a mode that tests how good or bad an actual “at bat” are all covered. The learning curve has definitely been smoothed quite a bit as well. Also changed this year is that when you start in Double-A with an organization, you start as the “hot prospect,” which if you can back those expectations up, allows you to progress through to Triple-A and possibly the Bigs quicker than in past years. It’s not a cake-walk by any means though. The first player I created just didn’t have any pop, no matter how many training points I spent. So I sent him to an early grave and started a new one. The new guy isn’t a home run machine, but he gets the job done, and his fundamental hitting is much more solid. Sure, he’s had some rough patches, but overall the numbers are very solid.
Season mode is just that, running an MLB team (or multiple teams) go through a full season. What I like here is that not only can you shorten the length of the full season, but you can choose how much you do in terms of management. Personally, I don’t care about trades or drafts, so I can just choose ‘auto’ and let the CPU handle it.
From what we saw in San Diego, there wasn’t a huge overhaul in Franchise mode, but from what it sounded like, they squashed a pretty long-running draft bug. This seemed to make the Franchise specialists really happy, so that seems to be a good thing. Honestly though, even if I messed with this mode for hours (I did try it for a while) I wouldn’t be able to make any judgments that are fair to the mode.
Again, the new mode that was added, Diamond Dynasty, is really complex to me. It’s been compared to the “Ultimate Team” mode in the Madden series, but it goes much further than that. Essentially, and what is similar to ‘Ultimate Team,’ you start with a base set of player Baseball Cards (virtual of course.) Unlike UT though, you can’t purchase a ton of MLB superstars if you have that depth in your wallet. One of the controls in-place to prevent artificially loading your team is the fact that a full season only lasts a week, so you’ll run your players through their entire career in a matter of a few weeks. The goal instead is to force the player to draft real and randomly created players within the set budget and to develop those players, instead of simply buying a pack of Adrian Gonzalez cards for a premium price
There are two types of generated players, Free Agents and Dynasty Players. Dynasty Players are really the ones that you ant to develop and shape, as they’ll be available for the longest period of time (around 40-45 games I believe.) Free Agents might come in with boosted stats and skills, but are only available for 10 games. Real-life players however, can’t be trained, and again, they’re only available for 10 games. Any new funds, online or offline, cannot be applied to any training points to the real players, again to further your need to train and develop your own players into superstars. In other words, this is almost the exact opposite of Madden’s ‘Ultimate Team,” as it has specific controls to make sure that you can’t pay-to-win. You’ll have a myriad of customization options for your team, including tools to create your own logos and uniforms. We played with these tools in San Diego, and all of us were pretty impressed with the depth. A full article could be written about Diamond Dynasty though, so let’s move on.
Another addition, and something I honestly didn’t think that we’d see, is the ability to play a full game using only the PlayStation Move controller. I’ll be honest, I thought it was more of a folly than anything else, but after the controls were explained and demonstrated, I have to say that I’m really impressed. Check out this video of Senior Designer Eddy Cramm explaining how the controls are used.
Also added this year is the new Pulse Pitching system and Zone Analog Batting. So last year, Analog batting was added, but it was all about timing, as the height of the bat was automatic. This year, the analog timing has definitely been improved (I wasn’t a huge fan of the Analog hitting) and I can actually hit the ball now. To make this scheme even more accurate (and complex) they’ve now included Zone aiming with the right analog stick. It works really well, but really isn’t what I’m looking for. It’s definitely nerve-wracking though!
Pulse Pitching is a new option that focuses more on timing and accuracy, and handles how fast the pitch is on its own. Instead of merely having a Baseball to show your aim in or out of the strike zone, there’s now a bigger circle around the Baseball, which pulses larger and smaller. The smaller the outer circle when you hit the button, the more accurate the pitch will be. I’ve really been liking this new control so far, but I do miss the opportunity to set the strength of the pitch, especially when I’m gong from a 4-seam Fastball to a changeup. It is a great alternative though, and I urge you to try it. The bet part of all of this though, is the fact that they haven’t removed any control scheme, so you have a ton of choices and aren’t forced into any one scheme. You can even mix and match, so like me you can use Zone hitting, Pulse Pitching, and Analog Fielding.
Improvements are made to The Show every year in the visuals department, and this year is no different. While most of the improvements may not be immediately apparent, the more you play the game, the more you’ll notice the upgrades. Lighting has been tweaked in every stadium, and new collision awareness makes an attempt to not let a player run through another as in years past. As I mentioned, over 1,000 new animations were added this year, with quite a few covering tags and making transitions smoother. Now if you pre-load your throws, the transition from the catch to the throw is seamless, and really improves the overall experience. There have been tweaks to the stadiums, but many are still not “perfect.” For me, they look great, but there are always those purists that look for every sign or color. I understand that though to a certain extent, as I load Miller Park up as soon as I get my hands on the newest game.
There is so much happening visually in this game, so for you newcomers, I think that you’ll be thoroughly impressed. Uniforms get dirty, shadows move throughout the day, and even the shadows of the clouds moving across the sky obscure the sunlight in patched on the field. Everything is so clean visually, and so much detail as ell, all at a buttery-smooth 60FPS.
3D looks great again this year, and is actually cleaner with more depth than in ’11. Another new feature is Simulview support for those that have the Sony 3D Display or another device that supports the technology. This allows 2 players to see their own view of the game on only one display. It’s a cool technology, especially for those with limited space on their shelves.
The audio is great this year, and it’s obvious right away that the glove, bat, and other sounds have all been redone. The ambient stadium sounds are more varied and fill your surround speakers even more than before. The crowd reactions to situations, while still not perfect, are definitely better than in past years as well. The announcing team is solid as usual, but do screw-up on occasion. They’ve added enough new lines to feel new, and one thing that really stands-out is that they now will carry on a conversation for 2 minutes or more on occasion. We just had an instance where the crew discussed a player moving to a different team and how that affected the current team. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s really cool.
At the time this review is being posted, Online is not available yet. I will reveal however, that this year sees the change from client-based online to full server-based. This should, in theory, take care of a lot of the client-side prediction issues that we’ve seen in years past. I don’t know how this will affect the online experience. One cool thing that’s been changed in the interface is that now, if you want to play online, there’s not a separate “Online” selection on the front menu. Instead, you simply choose “Online” in the mode that you’re playing (Exhibition etc.) It seems like it’s a small change, but the process is streamlined quite a bit.
I know that a lot of people thought that MLB 12 would be “not much different” this year because of the Vita version being developed at the same time, and if you only look at the game cosmetically that could be your first impression. The truth is that there are a ton of updates in place, from the all new OSD assets to the immense amount of added animations, and especially the all new physics, this game plays completely different now, and all with a shiny new coat of paint. I know that in my previous coverage, I’ve brought the new physics up multiple times, but mark my words that when you actually play the game, you’ll notice the difference immediately, and you appreciate the change as much as I do. Clear your schedule, because MLB 12 The Show is going to consume all of your time.
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