As Opening Day for the 2012 baseball season, we fans can can hope anew before reality sets in. If your team is doing poorly you can always turn to MLB 12: The Show, the latest installment in Sony’s baseball franchise. The game has some good mechanics that make it enjoyable to play, but Sony avoided letting the franchise grow stale and made some improvements and additions to the game. There’s nothing major, but what is included makes a good product even better.

The most noticeable changes are to both the pitching and hitting gameplay modes. In regards to pitching, the new system is called ‘pulse pitching’ and uses a pulsating circle, hence the name, that helps to determine a pitch’s accuracy. Thus the smaller the circle is when the pitch is released, the more accurate the pitch will be to where you want it placed. Though on the flip side if the circle is larger, the less accurate the pitch will be. This new system is relatively easy to grasp from the outset, but does require the player to properly time button presses in order to get the most accurate result. However, once that becomes second nature, it’s a joy to play with. To balance out the new pitching system, the hitting is now zone oriented. This means the player can focus their swing on a specific part of the strike zone. It adds a bit of realism in that like actual batters, players can choose how they swing the bat. However, like pulse pitching, the zone batting requires proper timing, though it’s harder to master.

The same list of game modes returns from last year, but the big headliner is the Road To The Show, which has its own set of tweaks. Now when you create your player, you begin as a stater in Double A and work your way up, competing against others in the organization and earning training points based on your in-game performance results. This leads to more customization and choice in how your ballplayer progresses, which makes reaching The Show that much more fulfilling, plus being treated as an important part of the organization from Day One powers that drive to succeed. The newest mode to the game is called Diamond Dynasty where you take a squad of fully customizable players and try to achieve baseball glory. You improve your team by playing against human and compter controlled opponents and the rewards vary based on what team you’re playing and also the difficulty. For example, beating the Yankees on the highest difficulty yields more then beating say the Astros on the lowest.

If there’s one aspect this franchise has always done well, it’s the presentation. MLB 12 has upped the realism to better simulate the feel of a televised game in reality. The variety of ways the camera cuts to different players on the field or in the dugout and the way players move realistically on the field give that particular feel. The three man announce team of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros are solid and knowledgeable, but when they start saying the same tired line about how your pitcher needs to find the zone or how there are plenty of candidates for player of the game, it does tend to dampen the experience.

The Show franchise had few flaws to begin with but this year’s installment improves upon what was already good about the games, while bringing it closer to the feel of playing a televised game. The new pitching and hitting systems, while taking some time to master, are nonetheless enjoyable, while the Road To The Show improvements are stellar and make MLB 12: The Show a very enjoyable and entertaining baseball game.