Multiple game modes, including franchise and home run derby; decent waggle integration
No online of any kind; mediocre graphics; some dated roster and stadium settings
It seems like it just ended, but the great summer pastime is back. Baseball is once again alive, with 30 teams who all think they have a legitimate chance to win a World Series. As in most other major sports, the onset of the season coincides with the annual ritual of a slate of tie-in games, and, also as in other sports, one company more or less has a monopoly. (The exception is on PlayStation 3, where Sony also has developed MLB: The Show.) Major League Baseball 2K12, of 2K Sports, is the lone ticket to the ballgame on Wii, and while it doesn’t do anything incredibly foolish, it isn’t a brilliant sports title either.
The gameplay modes are pretty easy to guess: single game mode, season, franchise, home run derby, and the requisite arcade-style baseball multiplayer minigame. Whether it’s playing a quick bit against a hated rival team or getting a handful of friends to play through a season together, the game can be shallow or deep to a player’s liking. The franchise mode, with its front office considerations, is the deep end of the pool, and it certainly gives the game as much simulation as action.
It’s a good thing beauty isn’t just skin-deep, though, because graphically, this game isn’t a real looker. (This isn’t just a Wii thing, either, as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are also less-than-revolutionary when it comes to visuals.) Everything in the Wii version is decidedly last-gen, and while some of this may owe itself to Wii’s limited hardware and a baseball game’s graphical complexity, it’s still frustrating to see that other titles have managed to look better. The stadiums are blurry and sterile, the players are polygonal, and there is some unsightly “tearing” along the seams of some of the outfields. The framerate seems to hold well enough, though, so the gameplay itself runs smooth.
Welcome to baseball, circa 2005.
The sound is somewhat better. The music is garden variety sports game pop, but it works good, and the in-game ambiance of the crowd and the pipe organ works fine. The play-by-play and commentary, which draws from the excellent talents of Gary Thorne, Steve Phillips, and John Kruk, feels authentic most of the time, and Thorne in particular is a natural.
The best thing that can be said about the controls is that they work. Pitching and batting both use a combination of waggle and some timing, and while timing is not always precise with Wii motion, it works well enough here. Surprisingly, though, the controls do not seem to be superior to the 2006 Wii Sports baseball, and in some ways Nintendo’s pack-in title feels more fluid and responsive. Nintendojo did not see any way to turn off the waggle or customize controls, but for most players the scheme as it is works. It is also worth noting that the mapped buttons are generally intuitive and easy to use.
There is no online at all, which proves an irritant on a couple of levels. There is first, of course, the absence of online competition, which is present in other versions of the game but is absent on Wii. Second, without the capacity to go online, there is no hope of roster updates or any other information which might keep the game timely in a sport where players are moving. Granted, it is possible to do some of this manually, but even the tiny Wii ought to be able to do something as simple as a roster file. Instead, sitting at the top of the free agency list is Albert Pujols, who was signed by the Angels back in December. How a game released in the spring could fail to account for this is baffling.
And now for the mandatory, tacked-on, kiddy-looking Wii minigame.
That’s not the only part of 2K12 that felt dated. Nintendojo kicked the tires on the franchise mode, playing the game version of the April 4th league opener between the Cardinals and Marlins down in Miami. Midway through the first inning, the skies began to part (although at first it looked like graphical tearing) and the umpires conferred and called a rain delay. This would have been fine… except that the new Marlins Park has a retractable roof. Looking more carefully, it appeared that the new Marlins stadium was not actually in the game. Given that plans on the park have been publicly available for some time, the park’s absence seems sloppy.
The game has other irritants. One, there is no main menu; the game takes you right to an instant game and using any other mode requires navigating at least two layers into a menu. Two, Madden-esque ratings exist but are hard to access; trying to make roster decisions can be hard because it’s not always clear who is the faster, stronger, or better defensive bench player. Three, the menus are cumbersome and making simple roster changes is hard. Menus are IR-guided but the menu items are small enough that making mistakes is easy.
Overall, Major League Baseball 2K12 is certainly a passable game of baseball, and it is not a bad investment for the baseball fan who only has a Wii, especially given the fact that there are simply no other options for genuine MLB play. The game has enough collective minor problems, though– among them the absence of online, mediocre graphics, and dated roster and stadium settings– that it cannot be recommended without certain qualifications.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.