MLB 12: The Show
The Road to the Show, MLB 12’s unique take on playing a sports game, allows you to make and play as your own player. I made a first baseman. His name is Joe Random, but as he approaches the plate a far different moniker is called out by the emotionally distant announcers. “Bones…bones is up at bat.” At 290 pounds packed within a 5’11” frame the man is a beast, but somehow remains light on his feet and quick in his step. He flexes the bat in generic pose number 15 and readies for the pitch.
In its attempt to simulate realistic baseball to a greater extent than its predecessors, MLB 12 comes with a wider variety of tools to create the individual player. These details are varied all through the deeper statistics that govern ability, to cosmetic changes that affect look and behavior. Dozens of audible cues can be chosen from to give the new man a unique title. Hundreds of batting stances are available if you have the patience to browse through them all. Many stances are far too similar, and navigating the list requires constant loading.
Luckily the game isn’t weighed down with loading times. A single loading screen creates a seamless game that blends its transitions between batting and pitching with ease. This is good, because the majority of your time is going to be spent doing either of those activities, with the remaining time spent watching the infield and outfield attempt to react to oncoming balls. Anyone not standing on the mound or at the plate functions without your input, with the exception of Road to the Show.
The Road is the highly touted unique feature of The Show, and it is the only mode that grants you the ability to either control someone who is not batting or pitching. Unfortunately, none of this play has been improved and for the most part the game is happy enough to do the majority of actions for you. The aforementioned Joe Random is only required to be moved onto the first base to receive a thrown ball.
It’s the dynamic interaction between the pitcher and the batter that’s the highlight of MLB 12, complete with updated controls to cater to beginners and advanced players alike. Pitching receives the most notable variety between its modes, leading from basic pointing and throwing to taking control over power and direction. Batting, however, comes with odd degrees of advancement. Merely tapping the X button is upgraded to being able to aim your swing. Advanced mode removes the ability to aim and replaces the X button with the rotation of the right analog stick to determine power. Like the game overall, this is a step forward and a step back.
Once the ball is hit, the control is out of your hands. AI determines success or failure with the stats of the infielders and outfielders involved. While the individual animations are smooth, the connection between these animations are jagged. There’s a lack of urgency when animations collide. It turns these players into doppelgangers of men. These men turn blind on obvious plays, make the same mistake multiple times in a row. Choose a slow moving animation to stand up before throwing the ball. Their clumsy animation switching is something that not only looks poor, but can cost you base hits and runs.
MLB 12 on the Vita is a clean presentation of the baseball experience on the go. It raises the bar for realism a notch with its enhanced physics, but loses what it gains from clumsy animations. There’s a lot of room for improvement, both technically and creatively, but for now the game suffers the most from the former.