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Game Review: MLB 12 The Show

For: Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita

From: San Diego Studio/Sony

ESRB Rating: Everyone

Price: $60 for PS3, $40 for Vita, $80 for bundle (through April 10)

"MLB The Show" has been the undisputed king of baseball sims for at least five years running, and even though the 2012 edition's additions rank on the weak side, this remains the case.

For the second straight year, a new pitching mechanic leads off the roster of changes. But in contrast to last year's excellent Pure Analog system, the Pulse Pitching method relies too much on a gimmicky (and counterproductively touchy) timing mechanic that doesn't really replicate the sensation of making a perfect pitch. With practice, it can be mastered, but "MLB12's" other delivery methods - Pure Analog, Meter and Classic - are more fun. Fortunately, all remain available to use and tweak as needed via an extensive options screen.

"MLB12's" flashiest new feature - Diamond Dynasty, available only in the PS3 version - attempts to replicate the success of EA Sports' Ultimate Team modes, in which you assemble teams of players from virtual packs of cards you buy with in-game (or, of course, real) money. But while the seeds of compulsion are there if you're willing to look for them, Diamond Dynasty clearly is a rookie effort - all over the place in terms of confusing interfaces, and spotty with how it facilitates team management and rewards.

The better modes - Season/Franchise, the role-playing Road to the Show - are available on both Vita and PS3, and those who purchase both versions can share the same cloud save file between both. If you love the game but never have time to play an entire season on your couch, the flexibility this entails may be the best news there is about this year's game.

Per annual tradition, there's more good news in between the lines. A brand-new baseball physics engine should quickly make its presence known to longtime players, and Road to the Show finally lets you begin your minor league career as a starter instead of on the bench. Tweaks have been made to the way A.I. managers and general managers handle lineups and trades, respectively, and every detail of the Marlins' hideous new uniforms and home run structure has been recreated in exquisitely ugly detail.

Most importantly, none of the core fundamentals that have made this series the best in the business have been broken.

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