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Three Attention Grabbers in MLB 12: The Show

So far, I’ve spent a handful of hours with the newest edition of MLB: The Show. And, so far, my impressions will report that I’m, in fact, “impressed.” Most of the changes this year are sort of “under the hood,” but I think for the serious baseball fan, there’s a lot to like.

On the other hand, if you are a casual fan, you may miss what really makes this game stand out. Similar to NHL 12, there are a lot of aspects that look and feel the same as last year.

The Show’s approach has been gradual and effective refinement, as opposed to blowing things up for the sake of a bullet point on the back of the box. One could argue that these changes have come too slowly; others would say they are just hard to see.

Here are three aspects of MLB 12: The Show that have grabbed my attention thus far:

Presentation

Presentation is an area where The Show receives a good deal of criticism, and for a couple of reasons. First, the MLB2K series has done a better job of recreating the TV broadcast, at least in the past few years.

Secondly, the audio commentary hasn’t changed in a while. If this is one of your main gripes, I’ll warn you: without spending any significant time in Franchise or Road to the Show modes, it is not much different this year. I hope next year, they jettison everyone but Matt Vasgersian.

However, if you look at presentation in a larger scope, you will find a lot to like the MLB 12’s presentation.

TruBroadcast Presentation is a wonderful step toward more accurately reproducing what you see on TV. I love the camera cuts to pitcher or hitter reactions between pitches. And the improved defensive introductions look like something right off of ESPN.

To see these though, you really have to let the game "breathe." I’ve developed the bad habit of pressing X to jump to the next pitch. This year, there’s reason to not do that. Still, if you are trying to squeeze in a game before work or cram in a three game series in one evening, you may end up missing this feature.

While the commentary remains the same -- still good, but getting harder to defend each year -- other sounds have been vastly improved. The bat sounds are fantastic; they are pretty varied and much more realistic than last year. Additionally, the “pop” of the ball in the catchers mitt sounds a lot better too.

Then there are the little changes to the broadcast elements, like more realistic player banners and some nice graphical effects. One nitpick here -- the “video” that plays under transitional screens looks surprisingly low-res compared to everything else in the game.

Diamond Dynasty

I haven’t spent a great deal of time in DD, but at this point, I’ve played it more than any other mode. I think this is going to be good place to lose a few hours, especially if you plan on waiting for Knight’s rosters before starting a franchise in earnest.

First, despite the many criticisms lobbed at EA’s Ultimate Team modes, they know how to produce slick interfaces. The menu system in DD, on the other hand, is a little clunky, and not organized quite how I’d expect. Also, unless you watch the tutorial video, there isn’t a whole lot of help to be found in-game.

Still, I really like the ability to create a fully customizable logo, modify uniforms and edit my “generic” players. I think more than EA’s Ultimate Team modes, there’s a strong sense of ownership with the DD team. When you play, this team will be completely yours; there isn’t a strong push to simply collect the best MLB players or create a team of real-world teammates to artificially boost chemistry.

I’m not sure how much I’ll visit this mode once I sink my teeth into Franchise or RttS, and its longevity is certainly tied to the online experience. But, for now, its a fun way to learn the game while playing “meaningful” baseball. Let’s just hope we see a full “Expansion” mode next year.

Physics

This is probably the biggest and most important improvement for 2012. The way that the ball physics have been tweaked really is a “game-changer,” in the most literal definition of the term.

To fully explain what impresses me with these physics, I’ll direct you to three examples:

The first is the often meaningless foul ball. In past year, you could line a foul ball into a tarb, the fence or the backstop, and it would either stop dead or shoot like a marble into the corner. Now, it’s almost fun to see what kind of crazy hops and spins are produced by hitting the ball off of surfaces never meant to produce a predictable hop.

The next example is evident in grounders up the middle. These seemed to be relatively routine last year. Either they found the hole and skidded into centerfield, or they were sucked in by a middle infielder (who did or didn’t record an out).

This year, these hits can produce the craziest and most interesting plays. I had a ball hit sharply off the front of the mound, send the pitcher reeling, and land in shallow center. I saw a “Baltimore chop” sail over the charging pitcher, then snagged by the shortstop who didn’t have a play. And I got to see my second baseman lay out and smother a ball under his glove. And while I’m sure that these plays happen at least once a day in the real MLB, I’m not sure I saw anything quite like them in last year’s game.

Finally, the most game-changing way I’ve seen the new physics engine work is in liners to the gaps. Most of these used to be automatic doubles, as the ball often skipped to the wall.

On my first solid hit to the gap, I was easily thrown out at second. You see, the ball, after it hit the grass, took a slow, perfectly natural-looking hop right at the fielder. My previous Show experiences had taught me that these hits were an automatic double, so I was mashing R1.

I’m excited to see what other ways the physics engine plays out in game situations. I’ve read forum posts mentioning tipped balls, balls caroming of bases, etc.

Again, at this point, I am pretty excited by the additions in MLB 12: The Show, and I haven't touched yet on the new hitting and pitching interfaces. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at The Show's various modes.


MLB 12 The Show Videos
Member Comments
# 1 econoodle @ 03/08/12 11:49 PM
good stuff.

excited on where the presentation can go in future versions.

as far as commentary, personally i am digging eric karros.
soup? not so much.

what did this mean though?

Quote:
the “video” that plays under transitional screens looks surprisingly low-res compared to everything else in the game.
 
# 2 mikemck09 @ 03/09/12 12:36 AM
Great write up dude... Agree tremendously... Commentary is going to be the next thing to be improved, I am just so happy that they nailed the physics down. That is a humongous step in the right direction for any sports game.
 
# 3 WVUnick @ 03/09/12 02:39 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by thevaliantx
Please, Caley, tell us about the actual gameplay. Are pitchers tiring when they should? What are the pitch counts like? Does the opponent TAKE balls or let close ones go, or do they swing at anything that is precisely on or in the strike zone? What about substitution patterns? Is the opponent manager leaving his starter in 'til the guy is shelled or shot (fatigued, lol), or is the guy being yanked after the fifth inning in 2-0 game? What about manager-only mode? Does it exist, or has it been taken out? Last year the MOM was like watching paint dry, it was that boring. No life whatsoever. I feel these are legitimate concerns, other than that The Show has so much potential.
From my brief game play: I had to pull my pitcher (Jonathan Sanchez) after about 85-90 pitches (6 IP). The opposing pitcher was pulled when the game got "close" (within 2 runs in the 9th) despite having plenty of energy left to keep going for the CG. The computer would take all types of pitches, sometimes freezing on a 3rd strike breaking ball that comes back to the middle of the plate. The new physics of the ball take some getting used to... it moves around like crazy.

I haven't tried MOM, so I can't help you there.
 
# 4 Armor & Sword @ 03/09/12 10:50 AM
No doubt the ball physics and upgraded sound effects have stood out and truly changed the game. The polish on the visuals is also very evident. This game is peaking on this system and this is hands down the best console baseball game ever made. And i said that about 2009 and 2011. It just shows the commitment by this team to continually enhance and refine what is already a strong foundation.

Commentary is good. I can't wait to get into franchise mode with the OSFM roster and see and hear all the new franchise OSD's and commentary on the season, players etc. I am sure it is improved.

Also the ball spin and pitcher grips are standing out this year for me. I love it.
 
# 5 MMChrisS @ 03/09/12 12:32 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by thevaliantx
Please, Caley, tell us about the actual gameplay. Are pitchers tiring when they should? What are the pitch counts like? Does the opponent TAKE balls or let close ones go, or do they swing at anything that is precisely on or in the strike zone? What about substitution patterns? Is the opponent manager leaving his starter in 'til the guy is shelled or shot (fatigued, lol), or is the guy being yanked after the fifth inning in 2-0 game? What about manager-only mode? Does it exist, or has it been taken out? Last year the MOM was like watching paint dry, it was that boring. No life whatsoever. I feel these are legitimate concerns, other than that The Show has so much potential.
Caley will totally touch on that stuff. He's just getting started!
 
# 6 thaSLAB @ 03/09/12 12:48 PM
Great write-up Caley. Especially the point about how a lot of the changes we have seen aren't "Boom! in your face!" type changes. Glad to see you mention how some presentation effects have an ESPN feel to them. And it can be noted that the overlays are pretty similar to what you see on the MLB Network too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by econoodle
good stuff.

excited on where the presentation can go in future versions.

as far as commentary, personally i am digging eric karros.
soup? not so much.

what did this mean though?

Quote:

the “video” that plays under transitional screens looks surprisingly low-res compared to everything else in the game.
I think he means the MLB 12 THE SHOW banner art, like on the team intro. I asked about that too, and I think that was the effect they were going for... kind of an LED background look (if that makes sense).

I definitely agree that presentation is headed in the right direction. I actually had Matt V. talking about the Giants 2010 run, call the next pitch "as Verlander gets this one in for strike 1", then go into the new commentary line asking EK if he felt they could make another run this year. I said it before too, I think Soup is the weakest link now, unfortunately.
 
# 7 CPRoark @ 03/09/12 06:15 PM
Thanks guys....there will be more impressions coming this weekend or early next week.

What I meant by the lo-res screens are the transitions screens that flash a team logo right before a replay. Behind the logo is a "warp engine" type device. It looks good, and like something you'd see on tv, but it seems really grainy. It's a minor thing, but a little jarring if you pay attention to it.

I'm loving this game so far...
 
# 8 enice128 @ 03/09/12 09:13 PM
i also am enjoying the amount of stats that matty v spits out from last year's mlb season!
 
# 9 apps80 @ 03/09/12 10:00 PM
Surprised that no one is mentioning the new bullpen features. I like the "stretch and toss" and the "ready and waiting" features. Don't seem like much, but they add a lot I think.
 
# 10 teebee @ 03/12/12 08:00 PM
Time to retire Soup; prob not the best selling feature for the game when one of the guys is so old he's talking about going to bed and the game is the only thing keeping him up

Get rid of this old POS
 
# 11 Eski33 @ 03/12/12 09:28 PM
They added my last name in the audio....Awesome!!
 
# 12 mgsmith119 @ 03/13/12 04:51 PM
Any further updates on Diamond Dynasty? I've read a few things about people having serious problems with the online game play and even some games not being recorded once they were completed. Has anyone really gotten into it yet?
 
# 13 GregJennings @ 03/15/12 07:35 PM
only noobs use r1 to advance baserunners
 
# 14 ghostmedic171 @ 03/19/12 09:09 PM
Good posting; I think this is my oh 20 somethin-th year in a row where I've bought at least one kind of baseball game in one form or another, and ever since I defected from 2k sports for the Show 08 I've been hooked.

I have to agree; many improvements seem minor on the surface, but after getting through about 10 games, I'm really excited about this years release. The improvements to ball physics really are noticeable; those chops and hops translated into some great plays for both sides of the mound. The presentation on the field is excellent. I feel like the graphics are as sharp as ever, all flowing at very smooth frame rates. I especially love how they added bullpen options; now I can have my long relief "Stretch & Toss" instead of getting him throwing the ball, warming up and sitting him down if I dont need him. It can also make you feel stupid when you get bullpen management wrong, but I like that kind of strategy. Great touch!

All in all, this year's Show is awesome. I've never really got into create-yourself modes, and I'm sure I'll give Diamond Dynasty a roll, but did I see this right? CO-OP ASSOCIATIONS?!?! Sign me up! (Cant remember if this was in last years show? I know online leagues, yeah; but co-op association??? My brother and I are gonna enjoy that.)

For me, its all about the association; and Show got the fundamentals right 3 years ago; they've been ironing it out ever since, and each year they get closer and closer to perfection. I dont think it's perfect, but it's deep enough to take my summer away from me. Plus, I dont think any franchise mode for an MLB game can be perfect without minor league players; but no thanks to the MLBPA, OS is taking care of that problem with their own Roster Update - Crucial for me since my team's success is going to be determined by its farm. But I'm pretty sure all MLB licensed games have this problem.

Yeah, the announcing is getting old. Some of the same lines at the same times. Many times, uninspired and a little flat. Though if you give it time, it does get the job done, especially in the statistical department. Milestone moments, series streaks, and situational commentary is well timed and well delivered. If you feel the commentary is holding back your experience so much, then call yourself a wahbulance, trade the show in and get yourself MLB2k12 if it bothers you that much. Otherwise, the sounds of contact and the slap of a Felix fastball into the mitt is potent to say the least (first thing I noticed; it made me jump!)

As for the replays; they're all customized; you can turn the frequency down if it bothers you. I'm seeing alot of complaining about stuff that's adjustable. This is the most adjustable baseball game on the market - anyone can play it if you take the time to set your profile correctly.

Anyway, great article. I'm literally excited to play the crap out of this years copy; and that's a good sign if you're still excited AFTER you've been playing it for more than a week. If you're not? You might want to ask yourself if it's time to change gears and get 2k. Seriously, sometimes that can be refreshing. Just me personally, I don't see any reason to being a PS3 owner. I've played a lot of virtual baseball; and for me, this is as close to ballpark bliss as it's ever been. If some of you youngin's start complaining; than go find a copy of R.B.I. baseball 94 or Baseball for the 2600... not even a fair comparison.

Lastly, Thanks to all OS members contributing to the Show's rosters. Im my opinion, they make the difference for me (I mean stock Mariner farm rosters are pretty bad... I put all my prospects into my own Roster, but what about everybody elses teams? Lets just say the guys workin on a league wide minor league roster? You deserve a medal.)
 

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