MLB 12: The Show Hands-On

Football season is just about to wrap up, and the NBA and NHL seasons are just about in the thick of their seasons.  You know what that means – spring training is heating up, and soon we’ll be rounding the bases for yet another six months of baseball.  With that, Sony Computer Entertainment of America is just about ready to bring its clutch hitter to the PlayStation 3 once more with MLB 12: The Show, set for a March 6 release.  We recently took a time-out to go hands-on with the game earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show.

mlb 12: the show, miami marlins, heath bell

There wasn’t really much to the demo we saw, since it was primarily made up to be a home run derby that utilized PlayStation Move controls, but we saw enough to see some of the comprehensive changes that went into this year’s edition of the game.  There are a whole lot of them, in terms of cosmetics.

First off, the animation is much smoother than it’s ever been, and that’s even accounting for last year’s stellar MLB 11: The Show.  We’re talking hundreds of new presentation, fielding, and throwing things, little bits and pieces that frame themselves together to make each player look authentic.  Even the umpires look like they’re doing something, rather than stoically standing around.  The crowd is equally eye-popping, as they’re individually moving about.  Just hit a ball into the stands and you’ll see a small group stand up as it comes in, trying to reach for it.  That must’ve taken some painstaking effort right there – something Sony’s team knows all about.

As for the controls, well, you don’t HAVE to rely on PlayStation Move, but we were surprised how the bat motion came off using it.  Your swing is faithfully recreated using the device, so you’ll want to go for as much accuracy and power as you can, in the hopes of getting one into the box seats.  Traditional controls are said to work equally well, especially when it comes to precision pitching and, most importantly, base running, which Sony touched up so it doesn’t feel so mechanical.  We have yet to try it out, but we’ll take their word for it until the demo eventually surfaces on PlayStation Network next month.

The reason the gameplay actually clicks more this time around is because of the ball itself.  That may sound weird, but the improved physics are much more lifelike.  When a pitcher hurls one at you with a little top spin, the way you hit it is actually taken far more into account, and can make that much more of a difference between a line drive, a home run, or a bloop single.  And obviously, swinging remains highly important.  Now if we can only get an idea of how well the fielding is… but, again, we’ll know soon enough with the demo.

mlb 12: the show, papelbon

In addition to the Home Run Derby mode, you can play through exhibition matches, join up with friends in various modes (including, for the first time, Season and Franchise), try to figure out the much configured pitcher logic (will they lure you with a fastball or try to throw you off with a slider?), and take advantage of the new free agent system, building the team of your dreams in the returning The Show mode.  All of it is bound to come together into yet another truly worthwhile virtual baseball experience.  And let’s not forget the added effect of 3D, for those who have the TVs to support the format.  Talk about adding depth.

Thanks to Sony for giving us a go-around with MLB 12: The Show.  It’s got quite a bit of promise behind it, and that’s just from the Move options it showcased.  If everything the rep described comes together the way it does, we’re in for a summer filled with great match-ups.

Just watch out for our screwball…