I don’t usually shoehorn two reviews together for games, because normally we only play a game on one system; that and there is normally not a real reason to bother.  Here though we have Sony’s flagship model of what the Vita is going to be able to do between games on both system, and it is only right to talk about them together.  If I had tried to do this one and then the other, I would have ended up referencing the opposite version too much anyways to have made it worth anyone even reading.  Both games will get their own scores at the end though – doing it this way is just a better vessel to talk about them.

While I never was a real big baseball fan (watching the game is downright boring in my opinion), playing a baseball game is worlds more captivating.  I know that might not make sense to some people, but I just can’t stand sitting there watching so little happening on the screen – at least when you are playing the game, there is plenty of action all over the board.  That’s the hook for me – give me things to do so it doesn’t feel like I am watching the infield turf grow, and I am a happy camper.  While most baseball games are pretty good at doing that, I think that this iteration of The Show is at the top of its game in that respect.

Most critics agree that The Show games are by far the best baseball games that you can get.  While 2K Sports might boast the most difficult pitching physics to master, The Show has that perfect mix of difficulty of technique, ease of play, dramatic moments, and sublime beauty.  Not only that, but just a few scant weeks prior, Sony pushed out the PS Vita, and they knew without a doubt that this was going to be one of the first defining games for the system.  While there might be other games that have a broader appeal, MLB 12 The Show is the game to play if you want to take full advantage of the Cross-Play functionality – but we will get in to that a little more in depth here in a bit.

In this version of The Show, like the previous versions, the AI behaves pretty much exactly like you would think it would.  At no time does an NPC gain some sort of super ability to hit everything out of the park, or gain the uncanny ability to throw a pitch that is miraculously unable to be hit – no, unlike in some other games, the AI doesn’t cheat.  You can come away from a loss without feeling like you were robbed, and you realize that the losses come from a mix of your own lack of skill and the lack of skill of the people on your team.  There might be some strange physics issues (balls changing speed oddly), but those are few and far between, and the sim aspects of the game really shine through which is good, because in the end that’s exactly what The Show is – a baseball simulator.

There are a number of nice upgrades in this year’s version of The Show that continue the trends here of excellence.  One of which is Zone Batting, which puts a transparent yellow box in the strike zone – you can then move this to where you anticipate the next pitch will be.  This adds a level of complexity that hasn’t been in a baseball game before, as you are able to super fine tune your swings and hits if you want to take advantage of it, but the beauty is that if you don’t want to use this feature you don’t have to.  At least this doesn’t force a system down a new player’s throat while they try to learn the rest of the game.  Another great new feature is in the pitching game, and it is called Pulse Pitching.  Much like the hitting meter in some golf games, Pulse Pitching causes a ring to appear where you choose to deliver your pitch; this ring constantly changes size, and hitting the button when the ring is at its smallest will result in the most accurate pitch you can throw.  Like golf games, this can add a lot of unpredictability to your game, and it is a feature that I have truly fallen in love with.

Diamond Dynasty is an odd little mode that may seem entirely too familiar to those of you that have tried Madden or FIFA Ultimate Team.  The basic thing is that you build a team with collectable cards, and take that team online to battle other player’s teams.  You can buy, sell, and trade cards online in order to make the best squad you can, and while this is all decently fun it doesn’t hold a lot of long-term appeal.  Also, the Diamond Dynasty mode isn’t a PS Vita feature (PS3 only) which is a shame since the Vita is made for the quick games that happen within the Diamond Dynasty framework.  It is at least a short and sweet distraction – something to keep you in the baseball mood when you need a break from hardcore baseball.

The biggest draw for The Show is the game’s namesake mode: The Road to the Show.  If you have never played this mode before, it is simply amazing.  You create a player – no matter what kind of a player you want (fat, balding, etc) – and take them through a stint in the minor leagues with the hopes that they get picked up by a major league team.  You have training goals – things designed to increase your skills not only as a games, but also for the betterment of your character – to meet that change weekly.  There are also other training exercises that pop up here and there to again, make the person you just made be all he can be.  It takes a lot of playing and persistence, but the feeling of getting this person that you created yourself into a major league team is really exciting.

Now as I said earlier, The Show 12 features a fully fleshed out Cross-Play ability between the PS3 and the PS Vita, however you do need both versions of the game (duh) which can make it somewhat expensive unless you are hardcore into baseball.  The Cross-Play feature allows you to take your save from the aforementioned Road to the Show mode (as well as Franchise and Season mode saves) and bounce back and forth between what console you are playing it on.  This is perfect for people who are passengers on long car rides, or people that take mass public transit like a bus or subway daily as it lets you keep playing during what would normally be your down time.  It isn’t quite as useful though if you are trying to get in a game on your lunch break at the office because of how long things take to load, but you might be able to squeeze in a few innings.

The touch screen on the Vita is phenomenal, making pitching a snap on it.  If you have time to spare, it might actually be beneficial to just switch over and do all of your pitching on the Vita and batting on the PS3 because of how much easier it is.  The problem with that though is that the load times on the Vita are horrid.  I am not completely sure what is going on there since a cartridge shouldn’t have load times like this, but literally I haven’t played a game on my Vita with worse loads (and I’ve played every Vita game to date).  The graphics though definitely show off what the Vita is capable, and this is by far the best looking (and most realistic looking) game that the Vita has out.

Editor’s Rating:

Playstation 3 Version: Rating: ★★★★½

PS Vita Version: Rating: ★★★★½

Both Versions are Excellent

The Bottom Line:  While each version has some different things that kept either from a perfect score, there is no doubt that these are the best baseball games on the market today – their competition might try to lure you away with a contest to with a million dollars, but The Show keeps its fans without the need for flashy gimmicks – pure and simple baseball fun abounds here.

Pros:

  • The Cross-Play functionality really shows off what the future of Sony gaming could be
  • The new mechanics do so much to make the game better that you will wonder why it took so long to add them
  • The Road to the Show mode will actually make you give a damn about the person you created

Cons:

  • Ont the PS Vita, the load times are really inexcusable
  • On the Playstation 3, the online play has a few kinks that need to be worked out
  • If you want the full suite, it can be extremely expensive

You can get the Playstation 3 version of MLB 12 The Show from Amazon for $49.99, and the PS Vita version for $39.99

 

 



Staff