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MLB 2K12: Improved pitching, hitting and a sweet challenge

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MLB 2K12 kicks off baseball season with a Tuesday release date featuring Detroit Tigers pitching ace Justin Verlander on the cover.

The game, $59.99, will be available on just about every system out there: the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS and PC — though not on Sony’s new Vita. That honor goes to MLB 2K12’s rival, MLB 12 The Show, which debuts on the same day.

With games like this one, it’s easy for developers to stick only to what works, but 2K Games has done its best to add in new innovations and improvements while staying true to the franchise. The new installment has plenty of improved features. For example, a revamped throwing system that requires pitchers to vary their throws a little more, as throwing the same batter the same pitch will decrease its effectiveness. One nice feature that will help you improve is the ability to take a look at their overall statistics to see where pitches have landed — a feature that let me know that I was letting my opponents get too comfortable with the fastball.

Hitting is also more varied, and the game’s physics react more realistically, varying trajectories by how the pitch was thrown and the angle at which it was hit. Gamers will also be able to add a little more personality into the “My Player” Mode, making the custom players’ strengths — and weaknesses — more prominent.

Gamers whose loyalties lie with a particular team will likely enjoy MLB Today Season Mode, which lets you play the season along with your team from opening day, April 4. So even if your team isn’t doing so well in real life, you’ll be able to step in as manager in the digital world to actually do all those things you yell at the television during game time. For even more control, 2K Games has left in franchise mode, which lets you control a team over multiple seasons, sign free agents and trade players to your heart’s content.

Of course, it wouldn’t quite be a launch for this franchise without the Perfect Game Challenge. As we outlined in January, 2K Games has tweaked the challenge this year to make it more than a race to the perfect game. Now, after players submit their perfect games from their consoles, eight finalists will be selected for a final tournament. The winner will get $1 million and admittance into the “Perfect Club.”

2K is already heavily promoting the challenge, in part with a short film that makes light of the fact that Verlander — Cy Young award winner, AL MVP and the man behind two no-hitters — still hasn’t thrown a perfect game. So while the winner of the tournament may be able to boast a membership to the Perfect Club, Verlander’s only option is to dress like baseball legend Randy Johnson.

Gamers will have about a month of practice before the challenge starts on April 4.

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