MLB 2K12 review for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3, Wii
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Sports
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

After last year?s nail biting finale to the 2011 baseball season, with 1 game tie breakers, amazing playoffs, and a comeback story by my beloved St Louis Cardinals winning the World Series, I was anxious to dive into the offerings of the only two baseball titles developed by 2K Sports and Sony.  Last season showed that 2K Sports had potential, and the race to the best baseball title was pretty close, but 2K suffered from some game killing bugs that didn?t get resolved until well after launch.

With a whole season to build on what they did right, I couldn?t wait to see the unveiling of MLB 2k12.  Unfortunately, the closer we got to the first screens and videos of the game, it seemed like the company was taking the news of this being their last year to heart and was very silent on what they were bringing to the table, not doing much to appease fans or draw in more gamers.

Was this a stealthy way of not showing their hand to Sony, or had they just decided to fix what was broken and bid this series a found adieu?  While I won?t say they phoned this one in, I can?t say that the team has put as much emphasis on whether or not this series impresses like their NBA series.  The result of the swan song is a fixed version of MLB 2K11, with the obvious additions of the new team and stadium, roster updates, and a new mode that really is an extension of an old mode with a season version of MLB Today.

Is this enough to shell out your 60 bucks?  If you are an Xbox owner, you really have no choice, but for PS3 owners, I?d give this a pass unless you?re just a fan of the game?s mechanics, amazing play by play, and deep modes, even if they?re not improved upon or changed.The visuals and presentation are marred again with a mixture that lies between the very impressive and the utterly disgusting.  The player models once again support a few more polygons, and like previous entries the star players look fantastic, but the unknowns and the coaches are just repulsive and look like melting latex.

The player animations have been improved as far as base running, swinging and fielding are concerned, but the game?s visuals take a turn for the worse when attempting to show emotion. There?s a particularly bad sequence at the end of an inning where the teams move off the field like filed line of military personnel.

The camera action still captures the game more like a TV style presentation, but no additional camera work or placements have been implemented, which makes the game look like old hat for those familiar with the series. The best bit of the presentation comes from the sounds of the game.  The crowds sound full and react to big plays, even if some off the cues are off in crucial moments.  The soundtrack and stadium customization impresses as always with the ease of custom soundtrack features.

Of course it?s the play by play that will keep your ears interested, much like NBA 2K12 sounds as close to hearing a live broadcast as you can get.  Sure, you will hear repetition early in the season or in exhibition games, but once the season gets going (or playing MLB Today), you will hear commentary that is fresh, new, and surprisingly relevant to the game and series you are playing.

The ball physics are better implemented as you will see more varied hits, loopers, and foul offs than before, but some of the game?s collision detections come in to question every now and again.  The stadiums are still the game?s most impressive feature as are all the intricacies of the stadiums, which are perfectly modeled. They really feel brought to life, including the various crowd animations and reactions.

In short, the game looks a little better and has had some refinements, but they will only be noticed by the hardcore followers as most will not notice the subtleties in the changes. The audio still serves as a benchmark, like their NBA series does, and that should be a staple of all sports games. The game play feels very familiar and not really touched upon.  You have your various control methods such as analog or classic controls for pitching and hitting, and while things have been tightened up and the A.I. makes smarter moves, you can?t help but feel led down by the been there done that feel of the game.

One plus is that most of the game killing bugs and issues have been addressed and feels very solid out of the box; lockups, odd injuries, collision glitches, etc., have didn?t pop up for this reviewer.  If I have to knock the game, it?s in the inability to innovate or progress beyond that last 2 years.

Baseball fans will find many modes to enjoy, including exhibition, full season, playoffs, franchise, GM Mode, My Player Mode, and online play, even if they are sadly untouched.  The only real addition to this year?s offering is the MLB Today Season mode, which takes the already fun and addicting idea of playing the actual day?s game with the proper rosters, line ups, and even hot streaks, but now adding a full season where you can change the outcome of actual games. This feature is great for those who want to not have to fool with the ins and outs of the franchise or GM mode, but still want a deep experience from just playing games.

The idea itself is cool and it?s the mode I?ll be playing the most, mainly because I?ve played my fill of the previous modes. I do worry what might happen if and when the servers go down.  You cannot play a previous or future game in this mode as you are meant to ?live the moment?, so what if I am going to work and the servers are down and I have to miss a game?

I?m not a big fan of simulating my games, and missing a game will simulate it for you.  I understand not being able to progress into a future game, but I wish you could miss a game or two and make them up on your own time, it?s not like the stats haven?t already been accounted for.  Otherwise, the mode works quite well and will give fans something new to look forward to.

So are these subtle changes good enough to check this out at full price?  Not if you are you?ve been following the series for years, and as a fan I feel we got snubbed here.  If you haven?t played the series before or at least for more than 2 years you?ll be happy with paying the full price, but something deep inside me wishes they would take this ?million dollars from the perfect game challenge? and use it to make improvements.

Whatever the case, getting mad about it now isn?t going to do much as this is the farewell offering by the 2K crew.  For PS3 fans you have a place to go, if you aren?t there already, but where will Xbox fans get their baseball fix next year is the big question as I don?t think Little League and Nicktoons MLB are going to satisfy the hardcore, let alone the casual fan.

So long 2K, nice effort, but as close as you came to making it big, you may end up being remembered mostly for being that team that always fell second fiddle to Sony?s MLB franchise, which is a shame as no one can touch you in the NBA department. If you put as much effort in this sport as you do the NBA 2K series, we could be talking a completely different story instead of about the last 2K developed MLB title.

Grade: C+