Reviewed: March 26, 2011
Released: March 8, 2011
Opening day is here and along with it comes the smell of fresh cut grass, sunflower seeds and hot dogs which have been cooking since last baseball season... same ole same ole... well, this season we have progressed from just having a steroid scandal to actually having a slimmed down Barry Bonds in court trying to save his needle scarred butt from prison time.|
Once again we have the yearly battle between 2K and Sony for MLB gaming supremacy. This year 2K has invaded Sony turf by offering their game on the PS3. But given last year’s nearly perfect MLB 10 The Show, how much hope does 2K really have this year? How does a company improve on a game that got such great ratings last year? The risk lies in playing with the good so much that you mess it up, and in that you can only get worse. Or can you?
Sony appears to have read every single review for MLB 10 and focused their attention on the little things. Every little thing. Minor changes come in the user interface. In MLB 11 The Show, you can pick your favorite MLB team and the menu system will reflect your choice with the appropriate theme. Probably the biggest change in MLB 11 The Show is the addition of “Pure Analog Control”. Messing with the controls is usually suicide for sports games. People know what they like and any variation from that would have to be justified by some serious advantages. Sony tweaked the controls enough that it provides a level of control and realism that makes it well worth the slight learning curve. EA tried something similar with NCAA Baseball a few years ago and it didn’t work very well, but so few bought the game that it didn’t matter.
Sony has opted for their “Pure Control System” where you use the right stick for hitting, pitching, and throwing. Pure Hitting is accomplished by pulling the stick back to load, and pushing forward to swing. Pure Pitching brings back the pitch meter but your timing with the right stick has to be dead on. You start the delivery by pulling back then set the speed and release by pushing forward. Your accuracy is determined by your aim on the target. Using the right stick to throw means you hold the stick in the direction you want to throw and you hold it there to determine the strength of the throw. It does take a little getting used to – but after a couple innings I found the new system to be much closer to the feel of a real game and much more accurate.
Also added in 2011 is a new Co-Op mode in both offline and online play. You and a friend can team up for some 2 vs. 2 action where you can play against the CPU, one or two other players. It can be a little frustrating but there are settings you can tweak to narrow down who is playing which positions. User settings are much more robust. You can chose from the usual settings from beginner to pro, or create your own custom settings. You can create and save an amazing 30 different custom configurations to meet your every need. Additionally, Sony has become the first sports game to support the Association for Disabled Virtual Athletes, an organization to help those with limited range of motion compete in sports games.
More changes come in Road to The Show this year. The “create a player” mode now has interactive sliders which make you decide what skills are more important. Every little facial and uniform type can be chosen and tweaked. A big change comes in the way you can get called up to the bigs. Your call up will depend on your stats compared to the other players around you. If the first baseman is a hitting machine, your stats have to be better than his to get called up.
Home Run Derby has even been tweaked a little, with the addition of PlayStation Move support. As with most sports games that have attempted to support Move, it’s kind of neat, and it kind of works, but it ends up feeling like this was thrown in just to say MLB supports PlayStation Move. Sony wisely left it only in the Home Run Derby mode. Having seen a developer’s version supporting Move and Kinect, it didn’t look fun at all. It was repetitive, inaccurate and ultimately left players sweating before the 7th inning stretch. That said, Home Run Derby is still a fun way to get your quick baseball fix, but it’s not up to the arcade fun of The Bigs.
Once again Sony has set the standard in MLB 11 The Show by including all the Major League teams plus AL and NL All-Star Teams, and 30 AA and 30 AAA Minor league teams from the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Unfortunately Sony has chosen to remove the two classic teams that were in last year’s MLB which is a major league disappointment. MLB 11 The Show is licensed with the Cooperstown Collection and National Baseball Hall of Fame so I’m not sure why the classic team fun has been removed, but it is a major loss in my book.
Last season Sony really didn’t do much with their online game system. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that amazing either. In MLB 11 The Show, Sony has improved a number of items that bring online play to a new level. The “Create League” function has been greatly improved with flexible divisions, a new schedule creator, and the ability to use custom rosters in your league. Online league commissioners have more features than ever, including the ability to add AI controlled teams, reset or simulate games, and much more.
Sony has also added a new online Challenge of the Week where you compete in fast paced one player events. Leaderboards keep track of everyone’s stats and prizes are awarded to the top performers. Also new to online play is a revamped XP system. Players can earn XP whether you win or lose, and the amount of time you invest in a game also affects your points. Players who play a full 9 inning will get more points than those who only play a quick 2 inning game.
Graphics is an area where Sony couldn’t really do much to make MLB 11 any better than last year. But they found a way, and baseball fans will love The Show even more. The majority of the changes are in the realism of the stadiums and weather. Sony added a new rain and dynamic cloud covering model to MLB 11 The Show. Rain is based on stadium location and the weather affects the on-field play of both players and the ball. Cloud coverage also varies from game to game. Skies can range from dismal grays of Chicago to amazing sunsets at dusk in Arizona.
The added controls of a Camera Editor helps gamers tweak even more on screen graphics than ever. You can customize the pitching and batting camera views, using any of 35 presets or making your own by adjusting any of 30 home broadcast camera views. MLB 11 The Show also supports 3D in all game modes. You have to be hooked up to a 3D television to check it out. I’m $3,000 short of reaching that status in my household, but the general buzz on the internet is it’s nice to include support for 3D but it doesn’t really improve the game in any significant way.
Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersian, and Dave Campbell return to the broadcast booth and provide an even more comprehensive commentary than last year. There is a “progressive commentary system” which changes the dialog by adapting to current actions and situations. I'm not a huge fan of their particular style of delivery, but for a video game this is as good as it gets.
You can also assign music or a recording to an entire team this year (not just to a specific player). You can edit tracks to assign batter walk-up music or record your own voice and assign it to a specific team or player during the situations of your choice. This can be dangerous in itself. I found it hilariously fun to assign sound clips from the movie Bull Durham to certain events. If you want to spend all day assigning audio clips from Major League, Field of Dreams and other classics you can make the game a lot of laughs when you have friends come over to play. Additionally, you can now record yells and chants to assign to your teams.
Sony has included the usual 16 page manual which I highly recommend reading to get the most of the new control system. There are 36 trophies to set your sights on – ranging from diving for a catch to the dream of all Cubs fans. “The Billy Goat” trophy must be completed in Season or Franchise mode. You must win the World Series as the Cubs. You must play full 9 inning games. You cannot simulate any games or it will invalidate the trophy. There are some other baseball inside joke trophies for you to win that are much easier.
Shocking as it may be, Sony has found a way to improve their franchise with MLB 11 The Show. It provides the best, most realistic baseball game on the market that others can only imitate. The only bad point in this game is the removal of classic teams, which is minor but will be missed by those of us who remember the legends of the game. MLB 11 The Show remains the best baseball game on the market and is a worthy upgrade for any baseball fan.