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Published: Thursday, 3/29/2012

PLAY BALL!

The Show scores but MLB 2K12 whiffs

BY CHRIS CAMPBELL
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
An animated Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is shown in Major League Baseball 2K12. An animated Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is shown in Major League Baseball 2K12.
2K SPORTS Enlarge

The Show has dominated baseball gaming for a few years now, and although 2K's franchise closed the gap some in 2011, it has widened again in 2012.

What makes this year's offering from Sony more interesting -- and more fun -- is the way the game continues to detach itself from gaming and deliver a broadcast-like feel to what is happening.

The HUD is cleaned up and the controls are simplified in ways that make the game rewarding to those who commit to mastering the national pastime.

The most noticeable addition is pulse pitching, a new throwing dynamic that, once mastered, allows you to mow down opposing batters in quick succession. More cutaways, and new camera angles, show stadiums teeming with activity instead of just being motionless backdrops.

This year's edition also features full use of the Move motion-control system (last year it was only usable for Home Run Derby). There is some novelty in trying it, but considering the response lag and finicky nature of the motions, you'll probably give up on it after just a few innings.

Most of the game modes are unchanged except for a few tweaks here and there, though the new Diamond Dynasty will appeal to hard-core baseball gamers.

Road to The Show is still one of the best single-player sports campaigns on the market with its depth and ability to keep you hooked on your player's progression for hours on end.

There isn't a breakthrough change in MLB 12: The Show that catapults it into legendary status, but it does its core things well, and that makes it worth recommending to fans.

MLB 2K12

Regular readers know that I am not a baseball savant. For newer readers, you are now warned: I am not a baseball savant.

When I hit a home run in the 2K12 demo, and then again within my first three games, I knew something wasn't right with this game.

And considering the other problems in the game play, it is easy to see that 2K Sports has lost its feel of the franchise as well.

Sure, the hitting is more dynamic (last year's version had you hitting to the same gap and spots in the outfield constantly), but subtle changes to the pitching mechanics hinder your success. The right analog stick used for pitching motions is extremely sensitive, and try as you might to master it, rarely do you feel as if you are controlling the game from the mound.

Also, the prompts and graphics are massive distractions from what is supposed to be a sim-style baseball game (as opposed to 2K's old arcade version of baseball, The Bigs). Mix in glitchy animations when players field and throw a ball, and it gives you the sense that you are playing a stilted video game instead of an immersive baseball experience.

My Player has made its way from 2K's basketball franchise over to the diamond, but you have less control over situations, and are at the mercy of an inept AI system. Most of the other modes are retreads of previous editions, so unless you want updated rosters to fulfill your desire for "the new," there is not much reason to plop down full price for this edition.



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