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PlayStation 3 Review: MLB 12: The Show

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For the latest iteration of MLB:  The Show franchise, MLB 12:  The Show, SCEA have put together another excellent edition.  It is a beautifully organized, beautifully presented, and a relatively realistic baseball excursion.  The game features tons of new animations, improved load times (that’ll take 10 gig of your hard drive, a standard installation requires a mere five), prettier graphics, and new lineups (updates to this last bit are, naturally, available). 

What really makes the game work, however, is how immersive and true-to-life playing a game is.  Every sports franchise pushes for the best representation of the television experience possible, and The Show really hits the nail on the head (perhaps “gets the bat on the ball” would be a more apt expression).  From the use of camera to replays to the commentary, what is offered here on The Show truly is quite the show.

But, a great presentation without great gameplay wouldn’t work, and the mechanics (depending on what pitching/hitting modes you choose) are outstanding.  With multiple choices of pitching and hitting controls as well as lots of difficulty and assist levels, The Show is made to be accessible to all levels of players, providing whatever degree of challenge one wants.  What’s more, with all the various levels and control schemes, you can maintain the same level of challenge as you get better by upping the degree of difficulty.

Despite the large list of tweaks that this year’s edition features,  the most obvious is something called “Pulse Pitching”  (probably it’s the most obvious because it’s the default pitch setting and something of a shock).  It also, unfortunately for an otherwise really well put together game, highlights one of the major problems with the title – a distinct lack of explanation.  Pulse Pitching involves you, as the pitcher, having to hit the “x” button at specific moments according to a rapidly pulsating circle on the screen.  How exactly you go about the best stuff you have on the ball with pulse pitching is exceptionally unclear from the minute amount of on-screen directions given in the menu and you can’t go to the manual to figure it all out… because the manual is pretty much non-existent. 

One needs to go and search out the training video (or lose a bunch of games) if they want any chance of being able to pitch via Pulse Pitching with any success whatsoever and, frankly, that just shouldn’t be the case.  If a part of a game needs an in-depth explanation (and pulse pitching unquestionably does), said explanation ought to be provided in a manual.  Pulse Pitching isn’t the sort of thing you’re going to work out during your pitcher’s warm-up throws and, without a good explanation, no matter how great a mode it may be, most folks will just abandon it so that they can get to playing.

That issue aside, the rest of the game is just wonderful.  The franchise mode really lets one get into the nitty gritty of controlling your team at all levels while still being relatively easy to understand.  If building up your own player is your thing, that’s still available as is online play.

One of my complaints with last year’s version of the game was that it took a long time to get through nine innings.  The amount of time a game takes remains long this year, but with the improvements to look and presentation, it feels like a faster pace.  It is still awfully hard to get through an entire 162 game regular season (if one opts to simulate spring training), but the individual nine inning extravaganzas  are more enjoyable.

Despite not having a 3DTV to test it out, one of the more intriguing smaller features of the game seems to be SimulView.  This allows two players to go up against each other without one getting to see what commands the other is inputting (it sends one image to player one and a different to player two).  With any luck that’s something we’ll be able to test in the near future.

MLB 12:  The Show has proven once again to be a top-notch sports game of any ilk.  Any developer trying to figure out what a sports title should look and feel like would do well to study up on it, and anyone out there who simply wants to play ball would do well to buy a copy… just plan on taking some time to work out for yourself what the manual ought to say.

MLB 12: The Show is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS Vita.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.