When you hear the term “system seller” what kind of games immediately come to mind? Off the top of your head you’re probably thinking about a game that has you invading an enemy nation, slaying a god of war (or two), or maybe one that has you enthralled by its epic story-rich role playing. While these are all great examples of what it takes to sell hardware, you can now, thanks to the team at Sony’s San Diego Studio, add baseball simulation to that list. MLB 12: The Show is the new game by which sports titles will be measured.
It’s the return of the king.
This is my third go around with The Show (in an official review capacity), and because I’ve spent years with the series, I think it makes sense that with this review I focus on what’s changed, added, tweaked and updated. Trust when I say that there’s plenty to talk about here but I wanted to make sure that I give you a review with the most important things to look out for.
When it comes to presentation, MLB 12: The Show has no equal. Period. It’s the best compliment that I can give a simulation sports game, one that I handed over to a certain professional basketball video game about 18 months ago (if you’re a fan of sports games you know what I’m talking about). Not only does The Show take the cake this year, it completely runs out of the park with it.
The most obvious thing you’ll notice is that The Show’s visuals are among gaming’s best. We’re not just talking sports titles here; I’m talking about video games in general. This is the fifth iteration on the PS3 and adds to the testament that things get better with age, as the sheer level of detail found here is at an all time high.
Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Eric Karros are in the booth handling the commentating once again. With the inclusion of 12’s “TruBroadcast” feature the trio seem to mesh much better with the game’s overall presentation. Last year, the commentary would have awkward moments where the speaker’s tone did not match the action on screen. That has (for the most part) seemed corrected. Also added in is much more contextual commentary, with some if it spilling into Road to the Show (RTTS), where you’ll hear about your players week, month, or season thus far. It makes for an even higher level of immersion.
In regards to gameplay, MLB 12 hands you the entire kitchen sink and let’s you do what you want with it. How many times have you played a yearly sports title where they change one key mechanic here or another gameplay altering mechanic there? Well, in this title, not only did they throw in a third pitching interface, they created a forth by combining two of the older ones, yet they still managed to leave in the original pitching styles that fans of the franchise have become accustomed to instead of forcing you one new mechanic or another. The choice is completely yours to switch to and from as you please.
One of the biggest bright spots in 12 is something that’s not even mentioned on the game’s box art, a feature that San Diego Studio is calling “True Ball Physics.” Community Manager Ramon Russell, told me at a preview event this past winter that it was something “built from the ground up… it gives [The Show] the most accurate ball movement produced in a video game. Ever.” Truer words have never been told to me by someone trying to sell me on their game.
The beauty about this feature is that it feels like it was always there, but it’s also a feature that — now that you have it — you can’t go back to playing games from years prior because it just wont be the same.
It’s no secret that the game already looks incredible, but because it looks so good when subtle details like ball movement don’t behave naturally, it tends to stick out even more than it normally would. With these revamped physics in 12 though, hit balls no longer die in the outfield, nor do they suffer the repetitive three bounce and roll animations when they do make contact with the earth.
Whether you’re chasing a floater int0 the right field corner or gobbling up a two-hopper out of the infield dirt, these new found physics will not just check you on your baseball situational awareness, but it will also be making sure that you’re taking the right angle to the ball every time. You’ll even see low line drives smack into bases where you can do nothing but sit and watch as the ball bounces straight up into the air. You’ll be treated to much more natural looking ground-roll doubles this time around as well.
The Show also reminds us that the PlayStation Move exists, by bringing in a deeper integration into 12. Last year, we were limited to using the motion functionality in the game’s Home Run Derby, which made sense at the time. Now, Sony’s glowing orbs can be used to play a full game. Hitting with the controller feels as good, if not a little better, than it did a year prior (see: easier), and the pitching mechanic is passable enough that you won’t be embarrassed to take out Sony’s questionable looking peripheral in front of your guests.