When you have done so much right for so long, to the point that very little needs to be changed, the paradox of your success is that what you offer risks becoming stale. For years, MLB The Show has been one of the most universally acclaimed video games, regardless of genre, and its improvements—while observable—sometimes feel like a world-class sprinter shaving hundredths of a second off his winning time.
Every video game should be so lucky. But as an annual release, sports video games also reflect the leagues they simulate: The present matters most. The future is either a promise or an excuse. And what you did in the past is worthless. Even a repeat champion like The Show is held to the same standard.
MLB 12 The Show answers the challenge with a new custom-team mode called Diamond Dynasty, another modification to its pitching and batting controls, and a slew of other upgrades that are more subtle but apply a nice shine to an already highly polished product. Are these features, plus the best-in-class reputation in carries, worth another 60 of your dollars?
Again, this is my review, and I do things differently. I go through 10 features of the game in ascending order of the enjoyment they delivered. The stuff you read first is the negative, the stuff you read last is the positive—but this format allows for the fact that some things I disliked may be qualities that others value.
Ten Things You Should Know About MLB 12 The Show
10. Online play is still powered by MySpace servers, apparently: I have given up on online multiplayer in baseball and, evidently everyone else has too. If hitting is the art of timing, and pitching is the art of destroying that timing, then the constant lag you face is Sandy Freaking Koufax. It may be that because of the limits and variables in current technology, baseball is impossible to play on an enjoyable level in online multiplayer. While consistently the worst aspect of a brilliant product, online support bears watching this year because of how it affects Diamond Dynasty, where connection issues in release week brought complaints that results weren't being recorded. I wouldn't buy this game for online multiplayer but then, I don't think anyone buys a baseball game for online multiplayer anymore. If there's good news here, it's that signing in is automatic.
WHY: Because it is the finest baseball video game ever made and one of the best titles, across all genres, available on the PlayStation 3.
MLB 12 THE SHOW
Developer: Sony San Diego
Platforms: PS3, PS Vita (with some features absent on Vita)
Released: March 6, 2012.
Type of game: Sports simulation.
What I played: An entire Road to the Show season (and a few games in another one as a hitter/outfielder) and about 8 games in Season Mode. Dabbled with the Move support, played a game in Diamond Dynasty and spent about 90 minutes fooling with lineups and uniform options.
My Two Favorite Things
- By far the best visuals of any sports video game, period.
- Comprehensively offers everything a baseball fan could want.
My Two Least-Favorite Things
- Online play still plagued by lag.
- Core modes like Road to the Show and Franchise/Season aren't differentiated enough from previous versions of the game.
- "The only sports video game capable of selling a console." —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
- "It happens every spring: Sony makes a great baseball game." —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
- "I played with a Rawlings in high school, and I play with The Show today. Both are The Finest in the Field." —Owen Good, Kotaku.com
9. Outdated Playoffs: While it's a shortcoming, I can't really fault Sony San Diego for not having a new format that was decided by Major League Baseball only a week ago. The game's postseason presentation is loads better than MLB 2K12's but your pennant race will play out for the wild card or division under the old format. That puts a big dent in your fantasy of the Cubs winning it all, if they do it within an obsolete tournament. It would have been nice if this had been accommodated under custom postseason settings, but the game would have been left holding the bag if MLB backed off the extra round this year. MLB 2K12 gambled and won, MLB 12 The Show, which prides itself on authenticity, gambled and lost.
8. Long loading times: You're given the option of installing an extra 5GB of data (so, a 10GB installation) but I honestly noticed very little difference in loading time between this and the old installation from MLB 11 The Show. Road to the Show games still take a solid 30 seconds to load, long enough to seem like it's taking forever, too short to go get a drink or take a leak. It's the price you pay for such rich content, like it or not.
7. Commentary Needs More Attention: Again, I've got no complaint with Matt Vasgersian or Dave Campbell. I think their presence and tone adds heft that a knowledgeable fan can appreciate. (Eric Karros is in over his head, and just does a bad acting job as himself.) I just wish Vasgersian and Campbell were given greater variety in their lines or that the banter went a little deeper than just reacting to what they see. Campbell seems prone to go on about a certain pitch choice (or decision not to swing) early in an at-bat when such things are hardly consequential.
6. It's Got Some Gimmicks: I put these here because while they don't really add to my enjoyment of MLB 12 The Show, they don't really detract from it either. Or in some cases, I simply lack the technology to see how they work. If you have a 3D TV and two pairs of glasses, you and a friend can play through SimulView, not split-screen. The game is now fully controllable through PlayStation Move (last year it was the home run derby only) and I fooled around with that some but I really have no desire to play any simulation sport with motion control. The PS Vita integration seems useful; I don't have a Vita, though, so I can't judge whether this game really is as fun when you're taking it to go.
5. Diamond Dynasty: This is going to take a lot more time than I had this week to fully appreciate what is being offered. For the best description of what it does, read this feature. I can verify Diamond Dynasty delivers as advertised. Its problem is that it doesn't provide much hand-holding, just giving you an introduction movie. You'll see this in the beginning, there is really no quick way to set up even a minimalist uniform if you're more interested in taking the field than designing clothes. Secondly, I played my first game with no major leaguers in my lineup because I didn't know to go buy a pack of cards. I don't know why the game doesn't just start you out with opening a pack and seeing who you got and then getting into player management. I simply haven't had as much hands-on time with this as I'd like. It's a high value mode but you're expected to discover how it works largely by yourself.