MLB 12: The Show PlayStation Move Impressions

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Last season, MLB 11 was the first game in Sony’s The Show baseball sim series to integrate PlayStation Move motion control. I played around with it and shared my impressions, which were mostly positive about the accurate tracking and natural 1:1 feel of swinging a baseball bat. However, the one cited drawback was a big one: Move could only be used in Home Run Derby mode. That was it. I was disappointed.

This season things are different. Move has been fully integrated into every aspect of MLB 12: The Show, meaning you can ditch the DualShock and bat, pitch, field, and run the bases using only a Move controller in every available play mode, save for online multiplayer. There’s not a need (or even support) for a Navigation controller. The question now becomes, how well do the Move controls work now that they’ve gone full-scale?

The short answer is, they very much do work. The long answer is, Move works fantastically well overall but certain aspects could still use improvement. Let me run through the individual areas of play.

Batting: Batting is more fully implemented this time. Last season in Home Run Derby mode, you swung an autonomous bat floating in the air over home plate, as if the invisible spirit of Babe Ruth had come back from the dead for one last chance to crush homers. This season, you see the player model holding the bat as you traditionally would playing the game with a DualShock, which helps boost the immersion factor. Another addition is force feedback, a feature I was sorry to see missing in MLB 11. Unfortunately, the rumble’s force is pretty timid and doesn’t have varying degrees of force based on contact, which would have been an immersive way for the game to give you feedback on how well balls are hit. I still want my hands to feel the impact when I knock one out of the park or the arm-numbing shock of a clunker clipped off the edge of the bat, but this game just doesn’t deliver on that.

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Stepping up to the plate, you get a few moments to see your personal pre-swing waggle stance directly reflected on the current batter, before the animations lock back in as the pitcher winds up. At that point, it’s all about swinging with proper tempo and timing. Swing strength is supposed to determine power, but I found that the harder I swung, the more I’d hit pop-flies and bloopers into double plays. I also noticed that swinging too forcefully caused the PlayStation Eye camera to have a more difficult time tracking the Move as I’d see the red light blink momentarily indicating it was out of view. Swinging with a firm but smooth tempo is the best way to go, and there does seem to be a sweet spot in terms of the height and angle at which you follow through. If I dipped too low or swung too high, the results weren’t very good. But if I fell into that perfect slot right in the middle, I was able to make great contact and eventually fall into a satisfying, natural rhythm.

Batting is by far the toughest area in MLB 12, whether you play with Move or any of the regular DualShock schemes (or on the Vita), but Move does make things a little more approachable. Two modes are available: Full Control, which requires the full process of back swing and follow through, and Swing Only, which allows you to play more casually by simply brushing the Move forward. Pitch guessing remains available as well: Hold down the trigger button and press the face button for the pitch type you’re expecting, then point the Move towards the strike zone to choose the location. Bunting can also be done by holding the Move button as the pitch approaches. According to the video tutorials, you’re supposed to be able to hold the controller horizontally to adjust bunt angle, but every time I tried to do so the batter would return to his regular stance. I couldn’t quite figure it out.

Pitching: Standing on the pitcher’s mound with PlayStation Move in hand is my favorite part of the entire game. Pre-throw setup is the same as playing with a stock controller. You tap the face button assigned to the desired pitch type and place a ball marker within the strike zone to set the intended pitch target. At this time, after selecting a pitch but before committing to the throw, you can swipe the Move quickly or slowly towards the base of choice for a pickoff attempt. A quick flick performs a quick toss, while a slow wave causes the pitcher to throw a deceptive pickoff.

Once committed to a pitch, the process of throwing towards home plate is a lot like playing a golf game. An arced meter pops up, at which point you hold down the trigger, wind up to set maximum achievable power indicated by a red line on the meter, and then throw forward in time with the pitcher’s animation and release the trigger as the meter returns to the release point indicated by a white line. The closer to the white line upon release, the more accurate the pitch. And the velocity of your tossing motion, in relation to the power initially set by the wind up, determines the pitch speed. The meter is also color coded; it flashes red if you didn’t throw with enough force, or green if the delivery was spot-on.

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Like batting, pitching comes in two styles. Easy Pitch mode lets you throw full power without needing to wind up, while Full Pitch puts complete control in your hands. What I like about Full Pitch is the way it really forces you to go through a real pitching motion. You can try to fudge it some by raising the Move over your shoulder without getting your entire body into it, but it’s difficult to get full power without winding up, leg raise, hip turn, and all. Also like batting, once you get the hang of timing out the throw meter and everything clicks, pitching has a rhythmic groove that immerses you in the role of a big league Ace.

Baserunning: For many players, baserunning is probably going to be the toughest area of motion control to grasp. It was for me at least. With the Move, you become the base coach rather than the runner, using arm gestures to signal when to run or stop. Swinging your arm in a broad circular motion tells the runners to round the bases, or to attempt a steal when the ball isn’t in play. Holding the controller sideways, as if holding your hand up in a stop sign, lets the runners know they need to stop at the next base. And waving the controller back and forth stops runners in their tracks, sending them back to the previous base. Holding down an individual face button issues commands to a specific base runner, while holding no buttons gives the order to all runners.

The motions track accurately when you’re squared up, and force feedback lets you know when your command has been accepted, which is a nice touch. However, the tricky part is the transition from hitting to running bases. When you’re hitting, the side of your body is aiming at the TV and camera, but when running bases, it works best to face the screen straight on. Getting into a groove of hitting, turning to square up with the screen, viewing the field and figuring out which runners to move, and then giving the correct signal can be a lot to digest. Of course, if you can’t get the hang of it or are feeling especially lazy, baserunning decisions can be automated from the options menu.

Fielding: Opposite to baserunning, playing defense has the easiest control setup to master. While out in the field, player movement is completely automated. Since you’re only playing with a Move and the game doesn’t support having a Navigation controller, there’s no analog stick to use for movement. Instead, control switches over to the fielder at which a ball is directed, the fielder automatically runs into position, and you simply pull back on the trigger to catch the ball as it comes in. Timing is key here. If you pull the trigger too early or too late, you’ll let the team down with an error. When the circle around the player turns green, that’s your cue to catch. If it’s yellow, you may still catch the ball but the chances for an error increase. And if it’s red, an error is a sure thing. Color-coded systems, gotta love ’em.

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Once you’ve secured the ball, throwing is as simple as gesturing towards the target base and releasing the trigger to let the ball fly, the strength of your gesture determining the power of the toss. You can’t be lackadaisical about it, though. If your throw motion isn’t a clear up, down, right, or left, accuracy will take a hit and you may wind up throwing over a baseman’s head or flubbing one into the dirt. If you don’t want the responsibility, options for automated catching and throwing are a menu screen away.

Like playing the real sport, playing MLB 12: The Show with PlayStation Move does take effort and practice. Fortunately, Sony has done a fantastic job providing extensive training material within the game, in the form of full video tutorials for each control type as well as practice modes for batting and pitching. I love all the newfangled pulse pitching and analog stick-based throw and hitting control options, but even with a few quirks motion control has taken over as my preferred play method. I wouldn’t play MLB 12 any other way.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!