If there was one game in the PlayStation Vita’s launch window that I was looking forward to, it’s MLB 12: The Show. Being among the first games to have cross platform cloud support to come into play, whether you’re a hardcore sports gamer or not, it’s a compelling piece of software. If this game is any indication of the direction the “never stop playing” mantra Sony is pushing with the handheld, there’s a bright future for the device, especially with the deeper games that require a player’s dedication. The question is: does The Show go much further than that?
For starters, the feature set in MLB 12: The Show is for the most part on par with what you see when you boot up the game’s living room counter part. You’re met with a variety of different play options such as Exhibition, Road to the Show, Franchise, Season, Practice Mode, and Home Run Derby. The only omission you’ll find here is that Diamond Dynasty mode, one of the newer features from the PS3 version, didn’t make the cut here and I’m sure its sheer size has something to do with that.
The Vita hardware comes with it’s own bag of tricks, but playing The Show on it won’t do much in the way of showing you that. Besides navigating the sometimes delayed response touch menus, you wont find yourself too often using many of the Vita’s bells and whistles. The one place that the touch screen does deem itself useful is when selecting ball placement while pitching. For example, when choosing a spot for a pitch the analog nubs on the Vita are a bit too sensitive for my shaky 27-year-old thumbs. This is one instance where I almost had to use the touch screen every time to achieve the results that I wanted.
The real star of the show here — just like it is on the console (at least for me) — is the inclusion of Road to the Show. Not just the mode, but the fact that I can save my game from my PS3 up and onto the cloud and download it to the Vita wherever I go. It’s simple to set up, and the time it takes to download and upload the save file seems instant. This is one place where it feels like there were no sacrifices made. You’re truly taking the entire mode — the practice sessions and all — that you’ve come to love with from series, with you. For the die hard fans of RTTS, this mode alone can and should easily merit a purchase.
Considering that much of the Vita library so far looks so good from a graphical standpoint, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that The Show’s visuals (something the series sets a standard for normally) on the Vita leaves us with much to be desired. Players faces are quite horrid to look at and stadium crowds look like they’ve seen little to no improvement from what already existed on the PSP. Under normal circumstances this would be a non issue, but when all you hear about is the handheld’s graphical prowess and have set high expectations because it is a game in The Show series, the results for the most part are underwhelming.
The game’s presentation, or lack thereof, is another unfortunate mishap here. Again, I don’t want to make it sound like the Vita version is a victim of its own success, but the fact remains that there is little to no polish in terms transitions and the broadcast style that we’ve become accustomed to for the past five years on the console version. The Show, as a series, excels because of its true to life representation of Major League Baseball, not just the players and teams, but the experience of watching a real life game (that’s why I gave it a 9.5 on the PS3 in my review). When that element of what sets it apart from the competition is missing, it’s something that simply can’t be ignored.
I will note that community manager Ramone Russel assured me at a preview event that time and size was the reason why True Broadcast presentation didn’t make the cut this time around. I’m sure it will transition over to the handheld eventually but in the mean time it is what it is.
Thankfully The Show does come with a multiplayer mode. However, it’s only of the local variety and achieved with the use of a second Vita through either ad-hoc or infrastructure mode. The fact that online multiplayer was left out shouldn’t surprise anyone considering it isn’t exactly a highlight (because of its laggy nature) that one would point to on the PS3 version of the game anyway.
If you’re a Vita early adopter looking for a title that can show off what the device is all about — besides the cloud functionality — you won’t find much in that regard, as the game is a bare bones, no added frills experience. If you’re a fan of MLB 12: The Show on the console, but more notably a Road to the Show or Franchise mode devotee, then the Vita version is a no brainer as long as you’re aware of the extras being forfeited.
Considering this is the game’s rookie entry on the platform, it gets somewhat of a pass for its first go around. As a fan of the series with such high expectations of the Vita, personally I was expecting a little more polish. As a Mets fan I know a thing or two about being let down but as I always say… “there’s always next year.”