As a baseball game, the MLB 2K series has always come up with silver. This year's incarnation doesn't innovate as much as it could have, but it does build a solid base for the future.
- Franchise mode is insanely vast
- Pitching and hitting are deviously hard but satisfying
- Familiar 2K Sports interface
- Yawn-inspiring graphics
- Lack of tutorial or fundamentals guidance
- At times looks like a port of 2K11
An emerging pattern, it seems in sports games, is that one dominant franchise innovates constantly while the other desperately plays catch-up. 2K Sport’s entry into the baseball world has historically been that lacking title; however, this year’s incarnation is undoubtedly the best entry in the series, and a warning shot fired over the bow of the competition. Though it’s not a revolutionary game by any stretch of the imagination, MLB 2K12 represents a significant improvement and may finally be a MLB 2K game worth buying.
Who’s on First…Player?
As someone who fell in love immediately with NBA 2K12, I was excited to again see the familiar interface for MLB 2K12. Although it was not much different than last year’s set-up, I thought there might be the same sweeping improvements to My Player mode. Such was not the case. Unfortunately, the My Player mode in MLB 2K12 is nowhere near as fun as its basketball counterpart.
Perhaps it’s simply because being a baseball rookie isn’t as fun as being a basketball rookie, but something just seemed lacking. Even the character creation fails to offer much customization; your character will look like an amorphous blob no matter what you try to do to make him stick out. Thankfully, the game only places you in the field when a ball may be coming your way, but in most games this is too few and far between. Getting up to bat is always a highlight, but again, it’s depressingly infrequent. The base mechanics in My Player feel laggy and unresponsive. Too many times I found my player stealing second…when the ball was on second.
This brings up the issue of learning curves. For those who may have avoided the MLB 2K series in the past, 2K12 will not be a soft introduction. Beyond very brief one-time in-game tips, there is no discernible tutorial or practice mode. There are drills that are so limited and useless in building skills, they almost make the situation worse. During a base stealing drill, I was supposed to steal second, but for some reason my batter wasn’t hitting a single pitch thrown his way. Whether this was a glitch or whether I was doing the drill wrong was completely unclear because the game offered zero explanation beyond “Steal Second Base.” Had I no prior experience with MLB 2K, the lack of tutorials would have been debilitating.
You Are Moneyball
I soon discovered that the franchise and team management modes far outpaced My Player in both depth and entertainment. Hitting every ball and covering every base is just much more fun for such a slow-paced game. Further, managing teams is so detailed that someone could spend a World of Warcraft amount of time on just one season. I in no way had enough time to explore all of the management features, but they are vast enough to keep any Brad Pitt fanboys busy for years.
The game is nothing special visually, but it gets the job done. More than once I saw a lone bat floating near home plate. I suppose it was meant to have a player attached to it. Characters look okay, but you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from last years’. Regardless, the graphics get the job done, and no one is really going to be bitching because one player’s moustache isn’t quite as defined.
Pitching is more fine-tuned this year and hitters will pick up on your patterns much quicker. Ignoring your catcher and throwing a fastball when he calls for a curve will almost certainly lead to a hit. Though it’s hard to get the hang of, nothing is more rewarding that striking out a hitter with a perfectly thrown switch-up. In the field the game is tight and responsive. Catching pop flys, tossing them in, tagging runners; all look great and play better. The game doesn’t change much when you’re at bat, and this is fine. It’s still just as fun and difficult as ever, with an appropriate success rate.
The Less Things Change…
If you’re looking for a game changer in the baseball video game world, MLB 2K12 is not it. Though it brings 2K Sports’ impressive arsenal of gameplay modes and features, the game will simply fail to grasp the average gamer with even a solid interest in baseball. Much of the appeal of NBA 2K12 is its accessibility; even a passing basketball fan with limited knowledge of the game can easily pick it up and start shooting hoops competently. MLB 2K12 fails to do the same.
In trying to capture the inherently difficult nature of baseball (it has been said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in any sport), 2K has failed to grasp the fundamentals of making a video game. Sure it can be hard, but people beyond a hardened fanbase should be able to play it. Otherwise you’ll always be just second best.
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Editor's Note: MLB 2K12 was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.