Video Game Review: Incredible ‘MLB 12 The Show’ Sets New Bar For Baseball Games

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CHICAGO – Previous installments of Sony’s hit baseball series “MLB The Show” have shattered sales records and won dozens of awards. The new edition, “MLB 12 The Show,” is the best to date. With amazing graphics, an addictive new pitching mechanic, and the depth of play we’ve come to expect from this series, a new bar has been set. Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0

Whether you are the kind of sports game player who longs for online action or the kind who goes deep into a franchise mode on your own, it is not cliched to say that “MLB 12 The Show” has a style of play for everyone who likes baseball. Without major changes to any of the modes (there’s a new pitching mechanic but you can switch to the old style if you prefer), the differences this year may seem minor but they add up. There’s a sense that every element of the game has been slightly tweaked, subtly refined in a way that results in a more complete overall experience. And the ability to take a season on the road with your PlayStation Vita is a remarkable step forward in the evolution of gaming. Start a franchise on your console and take it with you when you leave. I wish the Vita edition was a little more consistent when compared to the PS3 version but the cross-play is something that future generations will point to as a notable first in the history of the form.

MLB 12 The Show
MLB 12 The Show
Photo credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

I’m getting ahead of myself. Most people want to know just how a basic game of baseball plays in a title like “MLB 12 The Show.” The first thing one notices, especially if they’re a baseball fan, is the stunning attention to detail. Other games have gotten the big things like stadium dimensions, player likenesses, etc., but no sports game has ever been as finely detailed as “MLB 12 The Show.” Being a Detroit Tigers fan, that’s naturally the team I choose for my season and the team I know quite well as a fan. The way Jose Valverde pounds his chest after a strike, the way Miguel Cabrera adjusts his gloves after a pitch, the way that Victor Martinez can’t quite get to third from first on a well-hit single — there’s never been quite this level of detail. And it’s even there in the crowd. I loved how a crowd for a day game in April against, say, the Royals would be noticeably smaller than one for a night game in June against the Yankees. These are the little things that add to the realism of the experience in a way that can’t be undervalued.

MLB 12 The Show
MLB 12 The Show
Photo credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

You might be tempted to say that those little things were there last year so why bother upgrading? The 2012 edition of “The Show” has been enhanced in significant ways, including over 500 new Presentation animations, over 300 new Fielding, Throwing and Base Running animations, over 150 new Batting Stances, and over 75 new Pitching animations. And, of course, the team that creates the player likenesses are always fine-tuning. Prince Fielder looks a little fatter. Martinez looks a little older. It’s the details.

There’s a customization of play even in the basic foundation of a simple game. The default will be the new pulse pitching — a system in which a circle pulses around the intended location and one must time the pulse with the button to locate the pitch. It makes pitching much harder than it used to be…but it used to be way too easy to locate. Even the greats can’t always hit an exact spot with a 95 MPH fastball and so the new system feels like it more accurately represents that fact. It took some adjusting, but I grew to love the new system. If you don’t, you can always go back to the old one. Batting features a number of options, including using the face buttons to swing or doing so with the analog stick. And you can set it so you have to hit the location in the zone or merely for timing. You can even use the Move to pitch, hit, field, and run the bases. Using the Move for batting feels organic, but I’ll never get used to using it to pitch or field.

The presentation has been upgraded with a new Broadcast option in which the game looks a lot like you’re watching one on the MLB Network (in fact, you can adjust the controls to a point where you really are mostly watching a simulation and just managing the action). There are too many options to list in terms of presentation but you should know that the game has never looked nor sounded better. There were a few minimal glitches in audio — times when the announcers didn’t quite know where they were at in the game (I remember hearing in the 10th that it was “still early”) — but it’s rare. Even the crowd noise and music sound more realistic than last season.

MLB 12 The Show
MLB 12 The Show
Photo credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

As for modes, there are many, including standards like Exhibition, Season, Franchise, and the return of Road to the Show, in which you take a player from creation to All-Star. New this year is Diamond Dynasty (just on the PS3, not the Vita), which merges card pack playing and franchise mode.

Now, a lot of my rapturous praise for the PS3 version of “MLB 12 The Show” must turned down a bit when discussing the Vita version of the same game. I LOVE the cross play idea but the actual game is much less refined than its big brother. Some of the animations look great but others are clunky and I ran into far more glitches on the handheld. Still, this is the FIRST sports game for the new platform and, with that in mind, it gets the job done. It also seems somewhat unfair to compare a bar-setting PS3 version with its port to the Vita. The first is amazing, the second is just good.

There’s simply no reason for a baseball fan with a PS3 to not own “MLB 12 The Show.” I’ve played it for hours and hours and know that I’m nowhere near done with my time. I imagine it will be an addiction all season long. Isn’t that what we play sports games for? To complement our love for the real thing? They don’t get better than “MLB 12 The Show.”

MLB 12 The Show’ was released and developed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is rated E (Everyone). The version reviewed was on the PS3 and PlayStation Vita. It was released on March 6th, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Jeremy Brown's picture

Great review Brian, I have

Great review Brian,

I have to say, and this is coming from an MLB 2k fan, The Show looks gorgeous. I had a change to play it for a bit and it’s riciulous how great of detail the game has.

You hit the nail on the head, the small details in games mean a whole lot…at least to us gamers. The Show continues to pump out awesomeness every single year. I just may have to convert systems :) ~Jeremy

mystic7's picture

No announcer's voices

Yesterday the disc worked perfectly, hooked up to my main tv. Today I moved the PS3 to my son’s tv (both are hdtv) and now the announcers voices are gone, even though it is turned on in settings. Any ideas? Hooked up via HDMI in both cases.

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