MLB 2K12 Initial Impressions

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Posted March 5th, 2012 at 10:15 am

Titles that end a series, or that never receive a warranted follow-up, are often looked back upon fondly. 2K Sports has several of those in their past catalog alone.

MLB 2K12 will not be joining them in high-regard. What 2K Sports has produced is a game that makes it apparent the end is near and it’s clear that the company has no further plans for baseball considering how little effort was put forward.

Of course, seeing framerate issues after the very first pitch, watching that Carlos Zambrano scene just minutes later, and having a position player literally on the mound in the half inning after pinch hitting (despite selecting a pitcher to take his place) is going to have some influence on later evaluations. It’s not as though oddities are witnessed every inning but when they do appear they’re impossible to overlook. It all just started things rolling in the wrong direction particularly because the focus this year supposedly was on fixing lingering issues and providing a more authentic “looking” game.

There are a number of weird animations and scenes that play out and that really affects what immersive nature the title is seeking to achieve. Players walk and run funny, spin in circles, face the wrong direction, speed up like they are being fast-forwarded, slow down like they are in slo-motion, and those are just some of the observations off the top of my head. Handling outfielders is also especially difficult – there’s a hesitation when first taking control and they don’t tend to settle into the spot where the ball is coming down. That makes most routine catches look like circus ones. Infielders sometimes have trouble getting the ball out in time rather playing out an animation first. Most worrisome are the times where they casually pick up the ball and then toss it to the wrong base (seen that with catchers a few times and a second baseman once).

The graphics are unquestionably the worst amongst the crop of major sports titles. Even if that was the only weakness to the series it’s inexcusable to look so bad. Player faces seem to have been made slightly better this year but otherwise the visuals are arguably worse all around. That the framerate can still be an issue when the visuals are so poor makes it even more embarrassing. Even touches like grass stains on the uniforms come with a caveat – I’ve had my team actually start the first inning with big stains already present.┬áIt’s just an ugly game to look at despite its decent presentation package.

Last year MLB 2K11 had a certain fun factor about it, very good commentary and presentation as well, but those positives were wrecked by how bug-riddled it was along with disastrous CPU AI. Things have improved, though marginally so, on this front. For some reason of which I’m having trouble putting a finger on why exactly that fun factor hasn’t really carried over as much as I had anticipated it would if many of those issues had been ironed out. The desire to play 2K12 began to dissipate almost immediately.

The new focus on tendencies and confidence is interesting and makes for a better strategic batter-pitcher battle. That pitches lose effectiveness and the CPU begins looking for them when overused (or when getting knocked around) makes for a much more organic struggle and more of a challenge. They push it a bit too much in the commentary though. While it’s valuable to hear what the pitcher has been doing the focus on it becomes a little tiring.

Hit variety has been decent but, and this may be due to the analog hitting where there is a small window for it, I’ve seen very few balls pulled or taken the other way. It may just be sample size though so no declaration on this yet. I also have yet to hit a single home run and that again could be due to sample size or fault of my own. In previous years though I’ve hit a fair number of them in early play. I do like the new way bunting is handled in having to actually put the bat on the ball rather than having it done for you.

The other notable gameplay change has to do with the throw meter which has been made extra sensitive – errors are much more prevalent from the user controlled side of things. The window to make a good throw is slim. My first instinct was to make “safe” throws when not actually needing to rush them but those safe throws are now considered dangerous too which I found to be a somewhat odd design decision.

Though I’ve only simmed through Franchise mode (results here) a few things to note. Fatigue seems to be fixed in that players do deal with having lower energy levels (last year they reset after a simmed game), there were a decent amount of injuries during sims (don’t know how many will happen when playing those games), and the post-season atmosphere doesn’t feel special enough. 2K does deserve credit for not just getting in the new 10 team playoff structure but also the new tie-breaker game for teams locked atop the division at the end of the season.

The big change to My Player mode is bringing in player “roles” which help to define the type of player being built. There are a good variety to choose from and the ratings are structured to encourage their style of play. In my case I chose “Slugger” and started off rated 58 with 45 contact and 60 power. Otherwise the mode seems to be largely the same as before. Base running is a tedious chore, training drills can’t be skipped, and when in the field the throw controls are reversed – this despite a diagram that pops up on screen that seems to suggest otherwise.

2K Sports has failed to provide a compelling reason to play MLB 2K12. There are no new features worth getting excited about, authenticity is a still lacking severely, the graphics are terrible, and there are still all sorts of problems throughout. That the gameplay has been cleaned up to an extent and tendencies play a bigger role over the course of each game is about all there is to cheer about. That is probably not going to be enough to justify a purchase considering the climate of today’s marketplace and the vastly eroded legitimacy of the series.

See earlier: Team RatingsTop Player RatingsFranchise SimGameplay Videos