Grass cut, stirrups fastened, Jose Bautista Fathead on the wall. It’s a new baseball season, and with it a yearly update to Sony’s critically acclaimed ‘MLB The Show’ for PS3.

As much I’d like to playa’ hate on Major League Baseball (MLB) The Show for how little has changed over the years, it’s the hardball equivalent of yelling at Megan Fox for wearing the same revealing outfit too many times. Simply put, The Show is arguably the greatest console baseball game series of all time (with ‘MVP Baseball 2005’ as a possible lone standout), one that – while a bit too familiar at this stage – remains the benchmark for 2K Sports to fall short of once a calendar year. (Drum and cymbal finish.)

Thus and for even a passing fan of the Jays plus PS3 owner: purchase a copy of ‘MLB 12: The Show (TS12)’ now. It’s the kind of title that wonderfully showcases the capabilities of the PS3, also – akin to ‘NBA 2K12,’ ‘NHL 12,’ and ‘FIFA 12’ – is both an incredibly playable and visually stunning representation of a major professional sport.

For newbies, the usual sports game suspects of Exhibition, Career and Season mode are alive and well, also Online Play plus challenges to Gatorade whet one’s baseball appetite. For vets, TS12 features some legitimate surprises, ones that make my copy of ‘MLB 10: The Show’ almost paleolithic (see: Jamie Moyer) in comparison.

To begin – and it’s about friggin’ time – a new pitching system (‘Pulse Pitching’) where accuracy logically correlates to a combination of skill, rhythm and luck. This mechanic - as it sounds - is literally a pulsating circle target, where ideal pitch release point is at circle smallest. Note this circle fairly sizable even when minimum, meaning throwing the perfect pitch is now appropriate versus a 100+ times a game occurrence.

Logically, pitching mistakes come semi-regularly and with it better plate utilization. Walks are more frequent (even for you, Colby Rasmus), also the ability to work counts. In tandem, Sony tightened the physics of ball movement and it shows. Breaking pitches dance realistically, fastballs with just enough movement to allow a batter – mid pitch - to pull or shoot for the opposite field. It’s also worth highlighting that said ball physics upgrades emerge once a ball is struck, with bounces, arcs, and throwing trajectories more randomly realistic.

Equally simple but wonderfully executed is utilization of SimulView technology, where batter and pitcher screens can be relegated to individual 3D glasses and/or players. When playing locally, this almost completely eliminates stealing of opponent pitch selections, also to focus on in-play elements native to controlled players only. Related and for years, I’ve lamented the ridiculous ease of thieving plays in ‘Madden’ via simple glances at opponent menu scrolls. TS12 finally beats the system, an approach I hope all sports games going forward employ.

Alas, SimulView is – at the moment - unfortunately limited to Sony’s 3D PlayStation TV, meaning 99% of TS12 owners will miss out on a great thing. Also – and once SimulView is active - 3D turns off. It’s one or the other…but never both. 3D is very much like NBA 2K12’s: a tad disorienting, subtle ghosting, with a heavy emphasis on layering. It’s not to say it doesn’t look cool, but TS12’s 3D mode isn’t a game changer by any means.

The same can be said for the much ballyhooed cross-compatibility (via Cloud) between the PS3 and PS Vita in sharing saved season and/or mode files. The method works (quality loss is surprisingly minimal from PS3 to Vita), but I wonder why exhibition games were excluded from this functionality. (Patch me, baby.) I’m fairly confident that many a TS12 gamer – especially Vita owners – will want quick-hit versus extended gaming. An inning here, one there, complete the game across the two systems. Sadly, not this time around, Mr. Portable Pujols.

Another new addition is TS12’s ‘Diamond Dynasty,’ the Sony equivalent of EA’s tried and tested Ultimate Team Mode. Perhaps a product of age (as I predated the card-based gaming phenomena), but Diamond Dynasty didn’t excite. Much like Ultimate Team, it requires enormous amounts of roster planning, online interactivity, plus potentially spending a decent amount of money to field a competitive team via player card purchases. Also and unlike NHL 12, for instance, where Ultimate Team matches fly by quickly, you’re staring at full MLB games via Diamond Dynasty.

Challenge Mode – updated weekly and featuring new feats of fame and fortune in tow – was surprisingly enjoyable…but simultaneously demoralizing in leaderboards comprised of Ruthian gamer scores. (Seriously, people: you scare me.) Still, Challenge offers a nice, quick deviation from longer form, TS12 modes. Plus it’s like a new set of sheets and pillowcases every week.

Road to the Show (RTTS) gets a subtle tweak of its own in TS12, in created players beginning at Double versus Single A…also in the starting lineup/rotation. This leg up is no training wheels, however, as my early season slump coincided with a nice seat on the bench only a handful of games in. Alluded to above, RTTS transferred well between the PS3 and Vita, respectively. I was also very pleasantly surprised that both my first and last names were announcer spoken. Small victories, people.

Last, motion controls are here…but unfortunately inaccessible for this reviewer (lacking proper technology at time of review). I bow humbly and regrettably.

What remains nearly the same continues its well-trodden, successful course down the first base line. Player and stadium models impress, subtle but noticeable upgrades spit shine already spiffy boots. New jerseys and ballparks are here, also always-current rosters via download.

Some irritating tweaks carry-over. Infielders still wind up and throw in a jerky, deliberate motion…a weird rush to throw out The Flash. If he played baseball and hit sharp grounders. Base runners also take off for no apparent reason and/or stick like molasses to starting points. Aforementioned commentary – while souped up with more relevancies – is still quite dry. The crowd is prettier but still not truly pretty. Minor league fields are graphically chunky in spots. Menu navigation remains cumbersome with a bit too much SELECT button implementation.

Related, not all new additions played perfectly. Pulse pitching yielded almost too much randomness, resulting in a slew of walks for what should otherwise be elite control pitchers. RTTS – despite its starting boost – is still formulaic. Non-pitcher players events can feel canned and/or forced.

While much remains the same, what is new in MLB 12: The Show truly shines. Pulse pitching and SimulView implementations are terrific additions to an already strong franchise. Still, some minor annoyances of The Show past remain.

  • Pulse pitching
  • SimulView multiplayer
  • Portability to/from the Vita
  • Much of the same
  • Diamond Dynasty is not for everyone
  • Return of earlier The Show annoyances
Quote: "While much remains the same, what is new in MLB 12: The Show truly shines. Pulse pitching and SimulView implementations are terrific additions to an already strong franchise."
Reviewed by Paul Stuart - 04.13.12 - Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3

Similar Games: MLB11: The Show PSP (7.5) | MLB10: The Show (8.8) | MLB09: The Show (9.0)


MLB 12
The Show




US Release
March '12



Players 1-4
Online MP 2-8
3D Compatible
Cross Platform