MLB 2K12 Review (Multi-Platform)
Drew Millard explains why baseball games are basically RPGs for jocks.
Why did I make him a knuckleballer? I thought as I sent Deathcrush Millard, my dreadlocked, purple-sleeved create-a-player, down the path of yet another six innings of wild pitches, slightly-too-slow fastballs, struck batsmen and missed opportunities. As Deathcrush cowboyed up to the mound and faced down the leadoff hitter for the Huntsville Stars, I thought about the moment I fell out of love with baseball. I was seven years old, eight maybe, the floundering shortstop on a floundering little league team. My team lost what was like their fifth game in a row, and my manager—a gigantic, terrifying North Carolinian who chewed tobacco and probably should not have been allowed to spend very much time around children—ended up throwing a trashcan at the umpire, later threatening to fight him in the parking lot. I do not think Deathcrush would have liked him very much.
If there’s one thing that MLB 2K12 emphasizes over all else, it’s that baseball can be an intensely lonely experience. Its My Player mode sticks you inside the head of a player of your own design, tracing his moves throughout the Minor Leagues, grinding away in hopes of a call-up. In order to make it to The Show (not to be confused with Sony’s MLB: The Show franchise), you’ve got to improve your player ratings to a certain point, surpassing various goals in the process. It does not matter that sometimes it is not in your team’s best interest to actually meet said goals. They are in yours. If your goal is not to walk the batter, go ahead and toss a change-up down the middle. You might give up a double or seven, but hey, 20 Skill Points! You can save your tears for when you’ve gotten the fuck out of Topeka and are comfortably nestled in the middle of some Major League rotation.
With MLB basically bribing me to screw my team over, I began to consider Deathcrush’s life. His teammates probably hated him. I wondered if he had a family. Maybe he had a girlfriend, and maybe he missed her. I liked to think that Deathcrush would not have cheated on her, and if he did, it was more out of loneliness than anything else. I wondered what kind of music he listened to. Probably not the vaguely anonymous middlebrow indie-rock, alternahop and (I am not kidding) Skrillex that was on the MLB 2K12 soundtrack. Okay, maybe Skrillex. But Deathcrush had dreads, so I assumed he listened to, like, Bob Marley. Or maybe Bad Brains, if he were a bit edgier.
All of this is to say that as a whole, MLB 2K12 confirms my suspicion that baseball is as close as we’re going to get to an IRL RPG for jocks. Baseball is essentially a turn-based sport where the development of discrete packets of skill is rewarded—it’s easy to look at a pitcher facing down a batter, consider the relevant stats of each actor, and, much like going up against a goblin with a basic melee strike in Dungeons and Dragons, have the outcome essentially be determined by math and a little bit of luck. In this case, the “rolling a die” thing becomes the batter swinging his bat, and the goblin is whoever might have played for the New York Yankees at some point in their career.
While I know baseball as an abstract entity pretty well and follow the Braves with mild enthusiasm, I felt like I wasn’t requisitely “in” to baseball enough to warrant writing this review. So, I got more into baseball. I started looking into news from Spring Training (I’m worried about Chipper Jones, you guys!). I went into my backyard and practiced my pitching motion, trying to laser a ping-pong ball against my apartment building (Sorry, Roommate!). I even, to my utmost chagrin, tried chewing tobacco, because I thought that Deathcrush might have turned to it when he was bored in the dugout (It’s gross, even Skoal’s vaguely humane-tasting “Flavorflow Pouches!”). Because here is the thing: sports games are weird. They’re not meant for people who aren’t already into the thing they’re about. You can play Assassin’s Creed without caring about history, and you can put a significant dent in Mass Effect without giving a shit about having sex with aliens, but you absolutely will feel one hundred percent burned by a sports game if you do not care about sports.
Last night, Deathcrush got his due. In a move vaguely reminiscent of Dock Ellis pitching a no-hitter while on acid, Deathcrush and I threw ten innings of perfect baseball against the Carolina Mudcats after I had spent several hours drinking and watching NCAA tournament games, and he spent several hours doing whatever characters in videogames do when the console is not on. Not one wild pitch, not one of those “bad gesture” notifications that had been dogging me for days. Only flawless pitching, strikeout after strikeout after grounder after dead-end fly ball. The AI manager took us out in the middle of the tenth inning, because Deathcrush had been overthrowing a lot of pitches and I probably should have been going to bed. We ended up losing that game, which just goes to show that in MLB 2K12, you can’t trust your own team. But, hell. They can’t trust you either.
MLB 2K12 was developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports. Our review is based on the Xbox 360 version. It is also available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC.
Drew Millard is an undrafted middle reliever from North Carolina. He is an Associate Editor at Kill Screen and has a robust Twitter presence.