MLB the Show is known as a series dedicated to baseball accuracy and purity. It boasts identical replicas of the major league stadiums (even some minor league ones), players move fluidly and resemble their real life counterparts and sounds from fans heckling to the smack of the bat are captured perfectly. MLB The Show 12 still includes the countless control options and slider tweaks, still allows custom music integration into the game and still pretty much allows the player to derive pleasure from the game in whichever way he sees fit. Right down to the basics, it's up there with the best representations of the sport ever seen.
All of the game modes return from the last iteration and have all seen at least minimal tweaks and improvements. All of these options are a large part of The Show's critical and commercial success over the last few years, and this year's additions do nothing to tarnish that reputation: it looks greats, sounds great and has the same near-endless replay value.
The only problem is this: it was about this good last year. Sure, there are noticeable improvements in the areas of game presentation, menu selection, another new pitching option in Pulse Pitching and a few new options in the meat of the game in the Franchise and Road to the Show modes, but for the most part these modes have been this good for awhile and it's a shame not to see anything new or groundbreaking go into them. The improvements are good and do make this game better than its predecessor, but it feels more like an improved version than a whole new game. Franchise mode has smarter trade logic, the create a player mode Road to the Show has a few new options for player customization, the in-game presentation has been upgraded and 3D SimulView has been added which allows players with a 3D television to view different projections on the same screen. A minor gripe is that the game commentary is still choppy and occasionally unrelated to the in-game action and that the online match-ups can still be laggy from time to time. Luckily, this isn't all San Diego Studios added this year as there are four additional major improvements.
Baseball is commonly known to be one of the most divisive sports on the planet; either passionately loved or religiously hated. Generally speaking this should mean that a baseball video game should evoke the exact same emotions from its players just as the sport itself does. So how can a game consisting solely of baseball ever interest a non-baseball fan? SCE attempted to answer that question this year with two new features aimed at enticing both new and old fans alike: the online Diamond Dynasty mode and full PlayStation Move controls.
When Move was first introduced it came with the hope of blurring the lines between reality and gaming, invoking dreams of allowing the player to actually be that soldier or athlete on the screen. Move controls in MLB 12 bring all of this to the table, albeit with mixed results. For a game already boasting a plethora of control schemes and combinations to more than adequately support any player's styles, what does Move support provide? Hitting has been expanded and refined from its small entry in the MLB 11 The Show's Home Run Derby mode and is an absolute blast. Pitching and fielding are also fun and mostly accurate but never really feel entirely natural, nor do they allow the full spectrum and ease of controlling that the DualShock fans are accustomed to. Using the Move controls with a friend can be incredibly entertaining — for a few games. Move may allow a non-baseball fan to enjoy the game, but still doesn't really provide a solid enough reason for a purchase; motion controls are a fun distraction but require too much exertion to be played for an extended period of time and lack any sort of wow factor.
By far the most interesting new feature is the Diamond Dynasty. One of the greatest things about baseball is its rich history, and baseball cards reflect that. Diamond Dynasty is an incredibly deep and thoroughly customisable experience — if you're patient. You create a team, right down to the uniform designs, then use generic players paired with packs of cards containing actual MLB players — which must be purchased through the store — to compete with other teams online. There are limitations on the ability to simply buy the best team, and even once good players are acquired they have a set number of games they will be available for before disappearing from your roster. For the patient, there's plenty of fun to be found in this mode, but unfortunately it's online only and therefore dependent on others enjoying it as well.
In addition to Move controls and the Diamond Dynasty modes this year's iteration includes revamped ball physics and the ability for cross platform play between the PS3 and Vita versions of the game. You can now take your Franchise or RTTS game saves on the move with the Vita and enjoy the exact same experience on the go. MLB 12 is one of the first games to offer this cross platform compatibility and has created a great experience if you own both the PS3 and Vita versions.
MLB the Show 12 is an excellent game, incrementally better than its predecessor and still miles ahead of its competitor. This is still the best and most polished baseball game available, and perhaps even the best ever. But with where the series was prior to MLB 12, fans couldn't help but have hoped for something a little more. The main additions this year undoubtedly enhance the game, though overall it just lacks any sort of awe-inspiring features its predecessors seemed to include every year.