Any review of MLB 12: The Show is going to be quite similar to those done for past iterations of the series. There’s a consistency to what The Show does well – just as there is with where it tends to falter. That certainly holds true with MLB 12 which delivers top notch authenticity, graphics, and depth while failing to provide an acceptable online play experience.
MLB 12 plays like The Show everyone is used and remains somewhat inaccessible in nature – it can be unrelentingly difficult at times. That’s baseball though and The Show is as “sim” as they come. Hit variety has been enhanced somewhat due to better ball physics. It’s nothing dramatic but a worthwhile enhancement that pays off over the long-term. The batter-pitcher battle feels strategically realistic and engaging, animations are excellent, and SCEA provides a number of options in controls, cameras, and difficulty levels to help each user tailor the experience for themselves as well as possible. Results always feel realistic and organic and that is the most important thing gameplay can offer.
The Show remains the most respectful representation of a sport in gaming. The atmosphere, sounds, and pacing makes it feel more like baseball than a video game attempting to replicate it. Enhancements in presentation are subtle but notable such as cuts to a managers in the dugout. The biggest disappointment is that SCEA didn’t get in the new 10 team playoffs or division tie-breaker games in for release.
The Show has been arguably one of if not the best looking team sports series this generation. MLB 12 is visually stunning with improved lighting, detailed stadiums, realistic player models and faces, and a wide variety of natural looking animations. The crowd is probably the weakest aspect but all things considered the game represents itself with exceptional visuals.
•Depth of Modes
Though little has changed with Franchise mode and Road to the Show they both provide immense value and combined with ‘Diamond Dynasty’ there is a commendable level of variety amongst them. There are some issues, like the game start times in Franchise mode, but otherwise they are solid as expected. For those who pick up the game on both the PS3 and Vita the ability to transfer Franchise and RTTS saves between the two systems is really well executed and beneficial.
To the surprise of few online play with MLB 12 is excruciatingly bad. Debilitating lag often strikes, disconnects along with “traffic delays” are common, and being tied to servers with ‘Diamond Dynasty’ has meant results aren’t always being registered. The lag favors pitching with even the best online players struggling to hit and produce runs. Adding insult to injury SCEA introduced an “Online Pass” this year which means it’s now considered to be a value add-on. At this point if online play is important to someone it’s well known that The Show will disappoint there. That it is still considered a premiere product despite such a huge portion of the game being severely deficient is a testament to how well it does everything else.
•Lack of Advancement
Siphoning off development time to work on the Vita version could be costly for SCEA. There isn’t much new with MLB 12 that will be readily apparent to anyone but the ultra hardcore crowd. It’s the clear reason why the company avoided putting out a demo. ‘Pulse Pitching’ is notable for its ability to make pitching more challenging despite inherent simplicity and differentiate pitchers better but it can be almost physically painful or nauseating to focus in on (that effect is lessened the more camera angles are distanced from the plate). ‘Diamond Dynasty’ is conceptually sound but poorly executed, commentary is dry and dated, collision detection between players is still absent, and loading times are still quite lengthy even with a larger hard drive install.
The Show is the most reliable of all sport gaming franchises. Consumers can know what to expect making it an easy purchase for those who have any interest in baseball – and though online play remains miserable even that has become totally predictable. While that confidence in the product is comforting the dwindling sense that SCEA is providing sufficient reason to buy year-to-year has never been more apparent than with MLB 12. Whether The Show has become a victim of its own success is arguable but those are the circumstances that must be accounted for going forward.