Being a Canadian, I know that I’m supposed to have hockey in my veins. It’s April. The NHL playoffs are going to full-tilt.
And I couldn’t care less.
Whether my work as a sports writer or three years of coaching hockey recently have just pushed me over the hockey edge, I’m truly hockey-ed out. My sports focus is on baseball and football these days, specifically the Toronto Blue Jays and Buffalo Bills.
And right now, I’m in full-on Jays mode.
Thankfully, as a gamer I can get a virtual fix courtesy of Sony’s ever-improving MLB franchise. This year, MLB 12 The Show (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) has somehow managed to once again top itself to stand firmly atop the virtual baseball mountain.
Let’s start with what The Show added to the mix a few years back: The Road to the Show mode. This time around, you can start at AA and play actual baseball, working your way up to the majors by playing well in any situation, rather than having to complete little in-game tasks that could take away from the flow of an actual game. For instance, as a pitcher you would often be tasked with striking out the side in order to score points. With a man on, it made no baseball sense to go for the strike out when a double play ground ball was what you needed. Yet you would be punished for doing that. Not now. And the mode is so much more true to life for it.
The season and franchise modes remain outstanding, thanks to amazing graphics and a revamped broadcast style presentation that makes use of multiple camera angles to try to give you the feel of taking in a real TV event. The broadcast play-by-play remains one of the weaker elements, but the game is so damn good that you can easily tune out the announcers and just enjoy the action and visuals.
Controls have been augmented, with more Move support added. I’m not a huge fan of this thing. If I wanted to burn my arm out, I’d reach for a Wii Remote. But if you want the gimmick of trying to swing or pitch like a virtual big leaguer, this game will give you a chance.
A new Diamond Dynasty mode that lets you build a franchise from the ground up with real and created players, having them for set amounts of games and short seasons is promising, although I didn’t spend much time with it. I’m more into The Show and the franchise modes.
Overall, MLB 12 The Show is a beauty, from top to bottom. It is truly one of the best sports games ever released and other developers would be well-served by taking note of Sony’s attention to detail.
You can also save a game to Sony’s Cloud system and continue playing on either the Vita or PS3, so you don’t have to play separate seasons anymore if you own both systems. Love this.
The score: 5 stars out of 5. Rated E.
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Here’s a quick look at some other sports titles currently available:
* Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 (Xbox 360, PS3; Electronic Arts): This year, it all comes down to two things: The good aspects of the new swing mechanics … and the bad aspects of it. How well you adapt to the more realistic swing mechanics will determine whether you enjoy this or not. It’s not easy, but once you get the hang of it, you are definitely more involved in the game. Shots feel a little less random. Not crazy about paying for all the extra courses, but that’s life in a DLC world. Avoid the Kinect function. Pretty weak The score: 3 ½ stars. Rated E.
* Grand Slam Tennis 2 (360, PS3; EA): A decent game for fans who want to learn how to play the virtual sport. Too simple for the hardcore, who are still best served by the TopSpin franchise. It’s solid, but unspectacular. The score: 3 stars. Rated E.
* SSX (360, PS3; EA): Realism in sports games usually isn’t a bad thing, but this snowboarding series is hampered by a distinct lack of fun and silliness. SSX used to be about insane tricks and cool moves. That’s been toned way down in favour of more realism and the game suffers greatly. The score: 2 stars. Rated E.