MLB 2K12 review
In the last year of 2K Sports' MLB exclusivity, developer Visual Concepts focused on polish instead of a ton of new features. MLB 2K12 is the only baseball game available for non-PlayStation 3/PS Vita owners, so does the focus on polish and tweaking pay off or does it drink beers in the clubhouse and have a monumental collapse?
The answer is... meh.
I feel like MLB 2K12 does play better than its predecessor, but it still suffers from a lot of the same problems. First off, I'm going to talk about the graphics, which is by far the weakest part of the game. This will be the only time in the review that I compare 2K12 to MLB 12: The Show, but The Show on the PS Vita has better graphics than 2K12 has on consoles. The game hasn't even taken steps towards become more graphically enhanced. Player models are dull, their uniform is always creased in the same spot, some of the biggest faces in baseball are unrecognizable, and the stadiums fail to impress. Also, the fans and their animations are just atrocious.
The biggest grief I have against the visuals are players in the batter's box. When they walk up, they look fine, but right as they enter their batting stance, their chest swells up and they have a huge block for an upper body. It's really strange looking and makes them look like the Hulk. Animations are also a bit smoother around the bag, specifically when turning double plays, but in the outfield, you will see frequently see your fielder slow down on approach to a fly ball dropping in — as the animation takes over, everything moves at normal speed, except for your fielder moving in slow motion. It's really obnoxious.
The pitching system remains the same, as does the batting — with both being done with the right analog stick. Batting and pitching haven't felt better than now. Each pitch has a specific motion that you need to mimic, and hitting is as easy as flicking up for a contact hit, or down and then up for a power hit. The throwing system has also been revamped that stresses mechanics. If you queue up a throw, the sweet spot will be much smaller with a higher risk of error, in contrast to getting the ball and stopping to set your feet, which will give you a larger sweet spot and more accurate throw. The throwing system is really well done, so color me impressed. But, players still move slow and have a chunky, sluggish feel to them. They move like it's actually me out there trying to track down a line drive, and I'm not the most athletic person.
Franchise mode returns largely unchanged, but I did notice some better AI trade logic — so don't expect to land Ryan Braun for two B prospects. My player mode gets some more polish to it, with you choosing the type of player you want to be right off the bat — whether it be a power hitter, an artist with the glove, or a speedster. Homerun derby uses a stamina and timing mechanic. I really didn't have fun with the mode, as you're assured to hit homeruns by flicking up the first five pitches; then your stamina reaches 60 percent and you'll just get out if you don't hit power, and even then you aren't assured of anything.
MLB Today Season mode is the sole new mode that lets you complete an entire MLB season at the same pace of your favorite team. You play your favorite team's real schedule, one game a day, and you can compare your players' stats to their real life counterparts. If you don't have time for a full out franchise, I think it'll be the most realistic way to play as your team through a season.
The game has a dynamic tendencies system that changes the pitcher-batter matchup from each at bat. If you hang a curve to a good hitter, that pitch's effectiveness will decrease. This will make it harder for The Perfect Game Challenge, which will award the first person to pitch a perfect game (within the contest's rules and requirements) with one million dollars.
Presentation before and during the game is fantastic. A tons of stats are thrown at you through the course of the game that should help you make adjustments. You can see how Jose Bautista hits after being down 0-1, and then 1-1, and then 2-1, and so on. I wish that during franchise mode it would do this with the stats you have for your players, but it does not. The sound is your typical fair of baseball chatter between the GM that ruined the Mets, Steve Phillips; Philadelphia cheese steak eater, John Kruk; and Gary Thorne. It's relevant conversations they have to what's happening in the game, for the most part. The soundtrack is good, but the third of fourth time hearing Skirllex starts to get annoying.
Overall, the lack of new features and only marginal improvements in the parts they did polish doesn't outweigh the poor graphics and animation blunders. MLB 2K12 is a baby step forward, but I do think that it's on the right track. If 2K Sports sticks with the series, I think they can build on what they have here. It does some things right, but does have issues that will turn sports gamers away. It stays in second to The Show this year, but if they do an overhaul of player models and clean up the animations, MLB 2K12 could be a serious contender for best baseball game in the years to come.
[Reviews on Xbox 360]
You can follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ