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Getting schooled in MLB 2K12


I'm a creature of habit. If something works for me, I don't really change it. It's the same across the board, from the type of pizza I eat to the clothes I wear. If it works, why try to fix it?

But my habits have their downside. When it comes to MLB 2K12 and the franchise's previous installments, I found out I tend to telegraph my throws. When I'm in a pitcher's count, usually a 1-2, I tend to serve up fastballs right on the batter's hands. I like to throw my sliders low and inside. I'm not afraid to throw a circle change into the dirt.

As much as my fellow humans have allowed me to get away with these practices, MLB 2K12's AI refused to cut me any slack. 2K's latest baseball simulation wants to make me a better pitcher.

The classroom takes place on the mound in real-time, through a series of visual cues and comments from the game's commentators. If I'm overusing my fastball, MLB 2K12 tells me batters are looking for the pitch, and its effectiveness rating drops. A visual filter that changes from green to yellow to red provides clear indication of my erroneous reliance on any given pitch.

Improved graphical overlays also bombard virtual hurlers with more information than ever before, dissecting batter trends and success rates on certain pitch counts for any given hitter. It's empowering data that made me question every pitch before release, forcing me to rethink my whole approach.

Effort has also been made to make MLB 2K12 play more realistically. Not only have the game's physics been completely overhauled, but Detroit Tigers cover athlete Justin Verlander's influence in this year's product extends beyond his mug on the box art. According to 2K Sports, Verlander's pitching knowledge has caused some changes in what's possible when on the mound. For example, pitchers can no longer hang high curve balls and have them bite. In reality, it's impossible to throw a curve ball so high up and have it break dramatically. MLB 2K12 reflects this.

MLB 2K11 taught me I could get away with murder. MLB 2K12 taught me that isn't going to fly anymore.

MLB 2K12's new physics model is reflected in the batter's box, too. For one, it's much more difficult to bunt now -- players have to initiate the stance then use the left analog stick to move the bat to the ball. So now it's much more difficult to bunt down the line, let alone make contact, which should put an end to mechanic abuse. It took me two innings before I even connected with a bunt and even then the ball limply fell at the pitcher's feet.

I didn't have a lot of time to play with the new physics and mechanics, but my early taste was quite positive. Sports games are at an unprecedented level now. In the case of MLB 2K12, 2K looks to provide gamers with a visual and mechanical simulation of the sport, while teaching players the intricacies of America's pastime. MLB 2K11 taught me I could get away with murder. MLB 2K12 taught me that isn't going to fly anymore.

I've never been more excited to go back to school.

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