The Common Man did not plan to buy MLB12: The Show this year. He bought and enjoyed last year’s version (when the Twins were much, much better), and didn’t see the need to shell out $60 to stop living with the lie that Vernon Wells is a good player and that Justin Morneau’s career wasn’t in jeopardy. Plus, there were some truly annoying features of the game that TCM had trouble ignoring. Namely, the baserunning in Road to the Show is incredibly boring, the Franchise mode is bogged down by tedious and mundane details, and the minor league system of having to continually re-sign players makes very little sense.
Then he started hearing good things. Namely, that Steve Berthiaume loved it. Bert is a good dude who, despite his well-documented weakness in picking NL Central champions, plays video games openly and unrepentantly. That endears him to me. He’s been addicted to The Show for years, and so was sent an early copy. He was ecstatic that,
“The game's programmers have completely replaced last year's code and thus changed the way the baseball behaves with what they call True Ball Physics, which uses actual math for a spinning baseball that ricochets off bases, the pitching rubber and other field surfaces. The spin of the baseball off the bat is now accurate with realistic RPMs and the ball gains or loses energy like a real baseball, resulting in more hit type varieties. Line drives rise or sink and infield chops quickly become difficult to handle.”That sounded very promising. So, on Tuesday night, TCM stopped at Target on the way home and bought it, and over the last two nights, after washing the dishes and putting the kids to bed, TCM has played around with it in both Road to the Show and Franchise modes as an “experienced” player and using a standard controller (you can also use PS3 Move, if you have it). Here are the game’s features, and TCM’s reaction to them:
True Ball Physics
- This is what Berthiaume is referring to above. And he’s right about the ball behaving differently. Which is kind of neat.
- However, it really didn’t seem to impact the game as much as Bert implies it does. TCM had no trouble fielding as a shortstop, and fielding as an outfielder wasn’t really that much more challenging.
- Last year’s baserunning in RttS made it very hard to steal second base because of the time it took to build up your runner’s momentum. But it was ridiculously east to steal third base, especially when the pitcher was trying to pick you off second. Both of those problems seem to have been fixed.
- However, the rest of the baserunning still sucks. You stand on first base for pitch after pitch after pitch, while the batter at the plate can’t get anything done. You don’t even lose points for being picked off. Life would be better if subsequent batters only got one pitch (or two if you wanted a chance to steal, to either walk, strike out, or hit the ball so that the game’s momentum wouldn’t be slowed down.
- Also, the baserunning A.I. could be greatly improved. TCM had his 3B coach call for a hit and run with runners on first and third in extra innings. The batter missed the pitch, and the runner on third was out by a mile. Hitting and running with the runner on third? Have the programmers ever seen a baseball game?
- TCM cannot stress how tired he was of the old music on MLB11.
- That said, he anticipates being just as sick of this music by next year. Can we get a music patch every couple of months?
- Yes, it’s nice that Vernon Wells isn’t considered a star anymore. Hooray for Mike Napoli getting his due.
- But does that really change the experience all that greatly? No, it doesn’t, especially in Road to the Show.
- The new pitching system consists of a rapidly expanding and shrinking circle, which moves differently for each pitcher and each pitch that pitcher throws. The smaller it is when you hit X, the less variability there is regarding your pitch’s speed and location. You’d think that would be a huge draw, with the introduction of some randomness and legitimate difficulty into the pitching. But the circle moves with seizure inducing speed and is just unpleasant to watch. Frankly, it’s obnoxious.
- Last year, The Show used the right analog stick to control your swing. This year, you can use the left analog stick to control your swing’s location, while using the right analog stick to swing. It is…difficult.
- However, as Bert points out in his review, all of this can be turned off. The Show can be a button mashing game again, and you can use or combine virtually any of the game’s old pitching and hitting systems to make your life easier. Why introduce these new, profoundly unpleasant, systems? Was there a single person at Sony Entertainment who actually preferred the new ones? No clue, but it’s hard to imagine.
- The training sessions in Road to the Show are much improved, with more variation and different goals attached to different skills. This makes it much more challenging to improve your reaction time, for instance, and can also help you improve your throwing arm in addition to your fielding ability.
- But…no buts, this is great.
- For new players, this is The Show's central feature, a role-playing component that allows you to create and play as a minor leaguer, building up your skills on the way to the Hall of Fame.
- Your player is automatically a prospect and a starter in Double-A, which is nice. It gives you some playing time security as you try to upgrade your player.
- Again, no buts. This is a good thing. While it eliminates some risk if you start to suck and some of the sense of accomplishment you can feel when you succeed (yes, TCM realizes how ridiculous that sounds), it essentially gives you more playing time, which means more fun for you.
- Nothing has changed, really. You are still stuck with having to ignore your team’s budget altogether or having to delve into the incredibly mundane minutiae of scheduling ticket promotions, managing advertising campaigns, improving the services and attractions at your ballpark, and selecting TV and radio contracts. Woo. Look, if TCM wanted to manage all that stuff, he’d play SimCity: Baseball Team Edition. All he wants is to control trades, free agent signings, the amateur draft, lineups, call ups to the Majors, and the 40 man roster (which, by the way, you still can’t sort by position, dammit). Everything else should be automated. Also, why is The Common Man having to sign new draft picks to two year contracts? Just give minor leaguers a standard minor league contract that doesn’t impact the team’s Major League Budget, and give new draftees signing bonuses that do come out of that budget. Also, where are the international signings, or is TCM just missing that entirely? The Common Man wants to dominate the German and Aruban markets. Franchise mode is, by far, the biggest weakness in this game.
- They're perhaps even sharper than before. Especially in between the action, as you watch player's reacting and moving around.
- Apparently, this allows you to build your own team online with real and fictional players, customizable uniforms, and stadiums, and join online leagues. TCM didn’t play this, and can’t speak to it.