I love baseball. I mean, I really, really love baseball.
As a kid growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the 70s, I remember loving the Tigers before loving just about anything else. Through the years, my passion for the game has only grown, and as a father, it’s been the source of great joy to share my love of America’s past time with my 10 year old son.
As it turns out, I had the privilege of coaching his Little League team a year or so ago. And one day before a game, he asked me, “Dad…why do you love baseball so much?”. As I struggled to give him a sufficient answer, I realized that it’s the sum of many different things that makes me love baseball so much.
The sights, the sounds, and even the smells of the game are what caused me to fall deeply in love with baseball. And to me, that’s really what baseball is. It’s more than just a game. It’s an amalgam of Geometry, Physics, history, culture, memories, or the anticipatory pause before every single pitch, that all come together to create this magical, uniquely American experience.
As a gamer, I’ve played almost every baseball game ever created. And while there have been a few franchises that have gotten close to capturing the “spirit” of the game, none have done so as aptly as Sony’s MLB: The Show franchise. Without question, MLB:The Show is the only baseball franchise to consistently hit it out of the park with each iteration.
And MLB 12: The Show is no exception.
It’s one thing to focus on the basic geometry & physics of the game. Which The Show executes masterfully. But, it’s another thing altogether to really focus on the little things that actually make baseball great.
For instance, if you play at Wrigley Field in Chicago, you’ll hear the el train going by during the game. Play an entire season as the Cubs and you’ll be able to watch Wrigley’s trademark ivy go from a dingy brown in April, to a lush green as the season winds down.
And it’s like that for each and every team & stadium.
Considered by many to be the most authentic baseball simulation available, Sony’s San Diego Studios continues to deliver an award winning take on America’s game.
This time around, they’ve combined the feel of the classic Zone Hitting interface with the Analog Hitting interface to get something called Zone Analog Batting.
You still use the Right Analog Stick for the stride & swing, but if you choose to, you can now control where you actually swing in the zone, by using the Left Analog Stick. It seems insignificant at first, but once you get the hang of it, it feels like you’re actually “steering” the ball like a real hitter.
While the Analog Pitching system remains virtually untouched, the Classic pitching interface has gotten an upgrade. MLB 12: The Show introduces a brand new pitching interface for the Classic Pitching Style, called Pulse Pitching. Players still pitch using a simple “X” button press, but now must time the press with an on-screen display, to ensure pitch accuracy.
But don’t freak out. If you prefer to just use the Classic Control System for either pitching or hitting, you can do that too.
MLB 12: The Show also introduces True Ball Physics. Again, it seems insignificant at first, but once you get into a game, you’ll notice that the baseball now acts & reacts more realistically than in previous installments. Using actual math, the ball will now behave like a real baseball, making hitting and fielding a bit more challenging.
Also making a return to The Show are Franchise Mode and the “fan favorite“, Road To The Show.
Franchise Mode is basically the same, with the exception of a few tweaks they’ve made to team logic. Teams will now make decisions including drafts and trades that make more sense for each specific team, depending largely on which market they happen to be in.
Similarly, Road To The Show has been tweaked to the point to where your progression feels more natural & balanced. Most noticeably, the reward / penalty ratio is more balanced, so you feel like you succeed almost as much as you fail. At-Bats also seem a little more forgiving than in previous versions of RTTS.
What may have been considered a Poor AB in MLB 11, may now be considered an OK AB in MLB 12: The Show.
It’s not really easier, just more balanced.
New to The Show, and maybe 2012’s biggest upgrade, is Diamond Dynasty.
Diamond Dynasty juggles aspects of team management, player progression, and online competition with more creative freedom than any other sports game to date. Gamers create a completely customizable team, with thousands of options that include, team name, team colors, custom uniforms, and customizable logos.
Once created, the team is given a handful of MLB baseball cards and Dynasty baseball cards that, when activated, add the players to your team’s roster.
The fundamentals of Diamond Dynasty revolve around the difference between MLB and Dynasty cards and the unique reward system that support each type.
A Dynasty player is a long-term investment that requires training similar to a Road To The Show player. While an MLB player is a short-term investment that is ready to slot into your roster ready to play at their current attribute levels.
Like real baseball cards, completing collections of MLB players will reward you with budget bonuses. Your budget is used to train players, purchase card packs (Dynasty or MLB), and purchase cards from other users on the marketplace.
Most of your budget is earned by playing ranked/matched head-to-head online games or vs. CPU against MLB teams. Every fifth game played, your custom team is re-evaluated for placement into one of five competitive divisions:
Spring Training, Season Series, Division Series, Championship Series, or World Series.
Clearly, Sony understands that baseball fans want an accurate simulation of baseball reality, and anything that detracts from that, can shatter the illusion of playing in, or watching, a real game.
MLB 12: The Show‘s TruBroadcast Presentation once again blurs the line between reality, and the in-game experience. If you didn’t know it was a video game, you’d swear it was an actual network broadcast, of an actual game.
Which, in my opinion, may just be the one thing that needs to be revamped in the entire franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Vasgersian well enough, “Soup” is a baseball encyclopedia, and Karros is a former Cub, so he gets a free pass from me.
But, the fact that I can actually recite the booth dialog word for word, or predict the dialog in almost any scenario, is just unbearable at times.
In fact, I often turn it off “in-game“, which is disappointing in and of itself. Mainly because the booth dialog does add to the overall experience. For a franchise that has went to great lengths to create such an in-depth simulation, they seem to be neglecting what I think is an important aspect of the game.
Outside of that single criticism, it would be hard to find anything wrong with this game.
Overall, much like the real game of baseball, MLB 12: The Show is an amalgam of many different things, that all come together to make a great game.
And I guess that’s as it should be.