Major League Baseball 2K12 Review for Xbox 360

Major League Baseball 2K12 Review for Xbox 360

Wait, I Already Own This Game

With the Major League Baseball season only a few short weeks away, it’s not surprising that the latest incarnation of baseball’s longest running video game franchise has landed on retail shelves. The real question is whether or not MLB 2K12 can overcome the franchise’s mediocre reputation and deliver the experience that baseball fans have been patiently waiting for.

Many of you might not know that the MLB series has been a notoriously sore thumb for Take-Two Interactive, the parent company behind 2K Sports. In 2010, Strauss Zelnick, the chairman of Take-Two, bad-mouthed the franchise to Reuters and suggested that the developer planned to walk away from the series when their contract expired in 2012. Well, if you know how to operate a calendar, you know that 2012 has arrived, but, in a lot of ways, it seems like another MLB title has not. Sure, MLB 2K12 is technically in my Xbox 360 as I write this, but it’s essentially just a slightly more polished version of MLB 2K11, which was a slightly more polished version of MLB 2K10.

Major League Baseball 2K12 Screenshot

Now, I typically don’t complain when a developer chooses to spit-shine an annual release rather than reinventing the wheel, but considering the lackluster response that MLB 2K11 received, you’d think that the developer would have dusted off the old drawing board. Instead, they’ve implemented a series of minor changes, many of which are so subtle that they will probably go undetected by even the most avid players.

The throwing system, for instance, has been given a somewhat minor, but welcome, overhaul. In the past, players were able to perfect a limited number of pitches and consistently use them to strike out opponents, but these days, batters have grown significantly more observant and will catch on to your patterns and preferences. So, unless you want to give up an easy home run, throwing that fourth consecutive fastball is probably a bad idea.

And if 100mph fastballs and increasingly eggheaded batters aren’t enough to make the pitcher’s job difficult, 2K Sports has also given players more decisions to make from the mound. In MLB 2K12, pitchers need to pay attention to how they cue up their throws and set their feet. Missed steps will result in smaller sweet spots and more errors.

Now, even though most of this year’s changes are positive additions to the gameplay, they are the type of things that you would normally expect to see from a strategically released patch rather than an entirely new game. However, if you were a fan of last year’s MLB title, then this year’s addition will probably tickle your fancy as well. Because, truth be told, MLB 2K12 is the series’ best effort so far.

Major League Baseball 2K12 Screenshot

As any little league coach will tell you, fundamentals are the key to a solid baseball game, and it’s obvious that the developers at Visual Concepts have been listening to their little league coaches. MLB 2K12 has clearly been refining and re-refining the most basic interface elements and using them as a foundation for their franchise. The controls, for example, are simultaneously esoteric and intuitive. They have a certain flexibility about them that allows newcomers to make incidental contact with a few passing curveballs. But they require an academic approach to truly get a handle on their intricacies. When you first pick up the bat, your only responsibility will be to time your swing with the approaching pitch. But as you grow more aware of the interface, you start to catch on to the subtleties that the MLB 2K12 interface is feeding to you. Soon, you’ll be able to differentiate between a fastball and a curveball and predict whether a pitch will land outside of the strike zone.

Pitchers, on the other hand, have significantly less information to go on. For them, the game is more about precision and curtailing human error. Once you’ve selected your desired pitch from a list of the player’s specialties, a characteristic swipe of the analog stick will execute the throw, and, hopefully, deliver it accurately to your catcher’s mitt. However, like I said, precision is key. A slight misstep in your analog stick’s movement could result in a wild throw and a stolen base—I say this speaking from experience.

Major League Baseball 2K12 Screenshot

Perhaps the most impressive feature from MLB 2K12 is the audio commentary. This year, the game features over 80 hours of unique lines from commentators Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk. The game’s engine specifically tailors each line to your ongoing matchup, which means that no two games have the same commentary, and repeated lines are very rarely heard.

The most interesting part, however, is how insightful the commentators actually are. New players will especially appreciate the ongoing dialog because they’re force-fed information about how to improve their performance. I was specifically treated to several derogatory remarks about the way I insist upon swinging at every single pitch. Apparently that’s not how a major leaguer should play. Screw you, commentators.

Fans of the preceding titles will also be happy to hear that the “Franchise” and “My Player” Modes are back this year, and that they are almost exactly the same as in previous versions. However, these days players are able to tweak their “player type” in the My Player Mode similarly to changes available in NBA 2K12’s career mode. This allows you to customize your character’s stats to be a slugger or a ground ball pitcher or whatever non-generic rookie player you’d like to be.

The only genuinely new feature that MLB 2K12 can brag about is the MLB Today Season Mode. This mode allows players to play a major league season at the same pace as their favorite teams. As they progress, players will be able to compare their own stats against those of their real-life counterparts. It’s a neat trick, but it will be rendered pretty useless once the 2012 season is over, which, I suppose means that we’ll all have to buy next year’s copy as well.

Major League Baseball 2K12 Screenshot

Graphically speaking, MLB 2K12 leaves something to be desired. The stadiums are impressive and realistic, but when you take a closer look, the field is rife with torn textures and jagged edges. And, I don’t know about you, but I wish that Visual Concepts had dedicated a little more development time the player’s faces. I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone on the field looks like a serial killer.

Just in case you were worried, MLB 2K12 does include the Home Run Derby and the online leagues. However, much like the multiplayer, nothing has really been tweaked for this year’s upgrade.

All in all, Major League Baseball 2K12 is a solid title that will give baseball lovers a respectable alternative to Sony’s MLB 12: The Show. However, considering how little 2K Sports has changed the title from last year’s edition, you’ll probably get more bang for your buck if you just check out the bargain bin at your local retailer for a copy of MLB 2K11.

Also, it’s worth noting that MLB 2K12 will be the last title ever released on the PlayStation 2. So, it might be worth owning, simply based on its historical value. Then again, since when do gamers care about history?

Passable, but not impressive. 4.0 Control
Very solid controls. Fans of the series will already be familiar with them. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great soundtrack. Amazing commentary. 3.5 Play Value
A ton of options, but very few improvements. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • MLB Today Season Mode – For the first time ever, play along with the real-life MLB season as it unfolds. Take charge of your favorite team and see how you stack up against the rest of the league over the course of a six month-long season.
  • Dynamic Tendency System – Just as in real-life, opposing pitchers and hitters will learn your tendencies from one at-bat to the next, challenging you to mix up your approach on both sides of the plate as each game unfolds.
  • New Throw Meter – A revamped throwing system presents a classic risk vs. reward situation every time you make a play. Will you queue up throws before fielding the ball to save time, or take a moment to set your feet for better accuracy?
  • Improved My Player Mode – Want to be the next All-Star slugger or ace starter? All-new player types let you decide your path to the Majors. Goals, expectations, ratings, and progression are all customized by position and player type.
  • Soundtrack – Tracks handpicked by SPIN magazine, featuring Cool Kids, Skrillex, The Joy Formidable, Grouplove, My Morning Jacket, and more.

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