Batter up, STACK Gamers! Sony's celebrated baseball franchise, MLB 12: The Show, hits shelves today, March 6. Back in January, cover athlete Adrian Gonzalez told STACK "the game is amazing." But is it worth your hard-earned cash? Here are the facts.
Let's be honest. Solid presentation should be easy for any sports video game developer at this point. So, as expected, The Show does not disappoint. The intro featuring live action clips—a staple of any respectable sports video game at this point—immerses you in some of the most exciting plays of the 2011 season. By the time the main menu loads, you're jacked up and ready to step up to the plate.
The combination of excellent broadcast work, camera angles and stylized intros gives gamers a true baseball experience. Baseball games have to be held to a higher standard because each stadium is unique. Football stadiums and basketball arenas, although they differ externally, all look the same internally. The focus is on the ground. But the grounds of baseball parks differ in their dimensions against different backdrops. Except for the chalk lines, Progressive Field in Cleveland looks nothing like Wrigley Field in Chicago. Sure enough, when you approach the plate as Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera, you see Cleveland landmarks like the Terminal Tower and Quicken Loans Arena ("The Q," home of the Cavs) in the background. Such attention to detail adds to The Show's increasingly high level of realism,and it's a welcome treat.
We previewed three improvements to The Show back in December: Ball Physics, Collision Awareness and Pulse Pitching. Now that we've had a chance to play around and test them, we can say these improvements are a great addition to the series.
Ball Physics just makes sense. Baseball players have a general sense of where the ball should go based on the time of contact and where the ball hit the bat. In this year's The Show, you see that the ball goes where you expect it to. A lefty at the plate who swings early on an inside pitch will pull the ball up the first baseline. A righty who reaches and swings late will likely have less power driving the ball to the opposite field.
Collision Awareness is especially evident when there's a play at the plate. The baserunner lowers his shoulder and the catcher braces for impact, giving the gamer a sense that something epic is about to happen. Finally, a baseball video game comes close to simulating the heart-pounding excitement of a collision at home plate.
Pulse Pitching can be satisfying and frustrating at the same time. Basically, pitchers see a circle begin to shrink after selecting a pitch. The smaller the circle, the more accurate your pitch. But timing is different for every pitcher, and the game takes the player's stats into account, meaning each pitching experience is different. This can prove frustrating for someone who wants to knock out a quick game before heading to practice. However, with a little patience, strikeouts will be more gratifying if you're able to take command of Pulse Pitching.
The battle for baseball video game supremacy gets tougher every year, and 2K Sports put forth their best efforts in MLB 2K12. True, The Show has been the perennial favorite of baseball gamers, but it's only available on two systems—PlayStation and Vita. Xbox, Wii and PC gamers, forced to take their business to 2K Sports, will be missing out on one of the most in-depth sports video games of all time. Both games are worthy additions to any library.
If you're having a hard time deciding, look at the features each offers. The Show is known for its exclusive Road to the Show, where you take a created player through the minor league system and up to the Bigs. MLB 2K12 has a more relaxed franchise system, allowing gamers to play shorter seasons and shorter games. 2K12 also has the same kind of slick main menu we've come to know and love from NBA 2K12, allowing you to play the same game your favorite team is playing on any given day.
Bottom line: if you're looking for something more in-depth—i.e., you see yourself as a future general manager—The Show is probably what you're looking for, and you won't regret it for a second.