A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to check out MLB 12: The Show at the PlayStation Lounge in downtown Toronto with none other than Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, we’ve been playing the aforementioned game for a little while now and, aside from a few minor gripes and some shoulder pain, we had a pretty good time with it!
Let’s start out with something obvious: this game is beautiful. It’s not ridiculously realistic to the point where you’d think you were watching live baseball, but when you take everything into consideration, the game looks pretty damn good. Facial animations aren’t the greatest, but you’ll rarely be looking at those anyways. What you’ll be noticing most while you play is the incredibly fluid sliding motions of the players, as well as the shadows and real-time lighting. There’s really no way to describe it better. Of course, in 1080p, it better look this good.
Other visual techniques that Sony San Diego managed to get into this game includes the automatic switching of camera angles immediately following pitches and hits to really make the game experience seem like a live broadcast. We’re not huge fans of watching sports on TV – we’d much rather be there – but we could tell that this is exactly what we could expect if we had turned to Sportsnet while we were playing. Each stadium is recreated in beautiful high-definition, and while there could be a bit more detail here and there, the game more than makes up for it with quick camera-swaps for a close-to-broadcast experience.
Audio in The Show is also nothing short of incredible. Audio commentary seems to be much improved over last year, and there are very few noticeable breaks between phrases when you’re batting, pitching, fielding, or watching from the stands.
Controls are a bit of an issue in The Show, and most of you are probably thinking that that would be more than a minor gripe here. The fact of the matter is that, while the learning curve for MLB 12 is rather steep, there are so many options for control schemes and layouts that once you pick one and learn it, you can master it. There is also PlayStation Move control throughout the entire game this year, and while it’s even a bit trickier to master over traditional DualShock controls, it does offer a pretty fun way to play the game, especially with a bunch of friends. Be aware, however, that you’re not actually swinging a heavy bat, so it is really easy to throw your arm too hard and feel the pain of an eighty-seven year old at your tender age of thirty-two. Just be careful, grandpa.
Last year, analog batting was the new addition to the control stable, focusing on timing rather than the position of the bat. This year’s version sees the inclusion of analog aiming which lets you adjust the position of the bat as well. On the one hand, it gives you a lot more control, but does it ever make things a ton more complicated. Needless to say, we couldn’t play with that control scheme, but we did our best.
Pulse Pitching is the new way to control the pitcher in the game, and it’s a similar mechanic to most golf games we’ve played, believe it or not. You can control the position of the ball, but as you do so, a circle pulses around that point, and it is up to you to time your button press to the time when the circle is smallest, giving you the greatest chance to throw the ball right through that point. It’s an interesting mechanic, but it makes playing feel more like a game of chance than one of skill. Additionally, you can’t control how hard you actually throw the ball, but maybe they’ll add that next year to make things that much more complicated.
There is a version of MLB 12: The Show out for PlayStation Vita as well as the PlayStation 3 version we tested. Save for some things like PlayStation Move functionality, the game is almost identical and supports the CrossPlay feature which lets you pick up and play your game on the go as you left it from the couch. That in itself makes this game worth it if you’re a baseball buff. Sure, it means you’re buying two copies of basically the same game, but you can go from the bus to the couch to the car to the couch again without having missed out on being able to play.
Last but not least, if you were one of the seven people who bought Sony’s PlayStation 3D Display (we make fun of it because nobody bought it even though we secretly love the thing), you can take advantage of SimulView Technology when you’re playing head-to-head and don’t want someone else peeping your screen details. We’re not exactly sure just how much they would be able to glean by looking over your shoulder anyways, but it does make for an interesting application of the technology.
The menu system when you first start up the game is our only other major gripe. It is rather convoluted and takes more than a few simple button presses to get into a game. But once you do, you’re pretty much all set for the series. A minor gripe, but we’re fans of developers that just let you mash a single button a couple of times to get right into your game.
Want to make up for every problem we have with the game? Get the Canadian version. The content on the disc itself is the same, but the cover athlete is Jose Bautista of our Toronto Blue Jays. He’s got a .302 batting average, making him the highest hitting player on the Blue Jays, and he’s all around a great guy. If you didn’t check out our coverage of the launch event for this game, be sure to give it a look here.