Three Up, Three Down for MLB 2K12

2K has Jay Bruce in the best shape of his life, virtually.

This past Tuesday saw the release of 2K Sports’ MLB 2K12 (Xbox and PS3) and Sony’s MLB 12: The Show (PS3 exclusive). We will be reviewing both games here at Getting Blanked, highlighting three things we liked and three things we didn’t for each release.

We’re kicking off review season with MLB 2K12.

Three Up

Overall Gameplay: One of the first things anyone familiar with the 2K series will notice once they start playing the game is the improved ball physics and fielder AI. The ball jumps off the bat in much more realistic manner this time around and there are a lot less soft infield liners. The revamped throw meter is also a nice addition.

Fielding is much more fluid in 2K12 as well. Outfielders track down balls much less awkwardly and diving for balls has become less of crapshoot. Really, it’s all about the fundamentals and 2K has finally straightened out their approach in this area.

Pitching: A strength of the 2K series, since they first introduced it, is its analog pitching controls. The game’s gesture recognition is spot-on this year, which leads to less “bad gesture” pitches and complete control on the mound.

The addition of a ‘Pitch Track’ feature is long overdue, but really adds to the simulation experience as you can call-up the overlay to see how a given batter was pitched to in his last at-bat, what’s been thrown to left-handed hitters vs. right-handed, what’s been hit, what’s been chased and so on. It’s definitely something that’s been lacking in previous installments.

My Player: The ‘My Player’ mode looks a lot similar to previous incarnations, but this year you can choose a defined role for your created player (i.e. – slugger, strikeout pitcher, closer, gold glover, etc). The process of accumulating skill points is similar for all characters, but the amount and how you spend them are tailored for individual player types. My created player, Balthazar Getty-Images, is a strikeout pitcher in the San Diego Padres system.

The road to the Majors isn’t quite as easy as it has been in previous years. After finishing my first season in Double-A I was assigned there once again in my second year. My Major League call-up meter is more heavily weighted on strikeout goals, like finishing the season with a K/9IP greater than 7.00.

Maybe I’m nitpicking, but a “replacement level” option for a created player would be one of the most frustratingly awesome things ever.

3 Down

Choppy visuals: Overall, MLB 2K12 is a fairly well polished looking game. Uniforms and player models have been improved, and so too have many of the stadiums. Still, the game’s framerate will often drop as a pitch is crossing the plate or during a swing. It doesn’t necessarily mess with the outcome, but it happens far too often to go unmentioned.

Many of the same cutaways remain from last year’s game. Get ready for up-close shots of your favourite players looking lost in the field or moving around ever so awkwardly.

Glitches: Although the days of settling under a pop fly only to have the CPU inexplicably shift your fielder out of position at the last second are gone, there are still a few glitches that are sure to make blood boil. Base runners will occasionally stop dead in their tracks or return to a base unprompted, and it’s common for CPU outfielders to quit on some deeper hits. These are things that will likely be addressed in a future patch.

Hollow postseason experience: Is distinction between the regular season and playoffs too much to ask for? I simulated a full season using the Philadelphia Phillies to find that after a 162-game season [Ed. note: the new playoff format is included] the postseason presentation is almost indistinguishable from that of the regular season.

In closing: MLB 2K12 is far and away the best effort in the series to date. It could be all for naught as 2K’s license is set to expire, though. Its improved controls, glossier finish and upgrades to My Player mode give it moderately high replayability. The Franchise Mode’s Sabermetric tracking system and the last-second addition of MLB’s new playoff format both deserve a round of applause. Finally, there’s more to like than dislike from this franchise. Still, it’s more of double off the wall than a homerun. The good news for Xbox owners is that they have a respectable baseball sim option at their disposal this year.

Obligatory baseball analogy to finish: 2K Sports’ baseball franchise has finally ended its streak of losing seasons, but the team may not see the postseason until they’ve been relocated.