MLB 11: The Show
System: Playstation 3
Developer: SCEA San Diego Studios
Release Date: March 8, 2011
One of the biggest reasons I bought a Playstation 3 last year (other than for Blu-ray and a handful of exclusives) was to finally be able to play MLB: The Show in its full-fledged glory. I had played the pint-sized PSP versions in years past and heartedly enjoyed them, but I knew its PS3 big brother would deliver all of that and more. It is rare that I buy new sports games, but I made sure to pick up MLB 11: The Show right before the actual season started.
This year’s edition boasts brand new analog controls, a huge change to the series and something that seemingly all sports games have been moving toward. For the most part, these analog controls work well. Pitching in particular feels more natural than ever before, and it’s about as close as you can get to actually throwing a baseball with a video game controller in your hand. The hitting and fielding controls take some time getting used to, especially the hitting, which has a steep learning curve that is bound to frustrate all but the most patient gamers. Still, even if you end up disliking the new controls, you can always revert back to the traditional style of gameplay. The allowance of a change in control schemes is just one of many, many tweakable options that MLB 11 provides.
Basically, this is a baseball simulator in video game form. While not entirely as in-depth as text-based PC titles such as Out of the Park Baseball, MLB 11 still offers detailed statistics, including several that are mainly only of interest to sabermetricians. This is a game that is catered toward hardcore baseball fans, although it remains accessible for the more casual as well.
Typically in sports games I spend most of my time building a franchise and watching it progress over the years. While MLB 11’s franchise mode is excellent and worthy of many gaming hours, I found myself playing Road to the Show more than anything else. In this mode, you create a player of any position and then work your way through the minors before hitting the big time. Along the way, you can train and build up your stats via in-game experiences. If you’re a hitter, you can gain more “XP” by not just getting base hits, but by working the pitch count and getting a strong at-bat out of the situation. This is similar for pitchers as well; getting an MVP-caliber hitter to single after a long at-bat is better for you than letting him do so on the first pitch. It’s a lot of fun watching your created player work his way up to the big leagues. Just like in reality, once you hit the big time you never want to go back.
I would be remiss if I did not mention MLB 11’s stunning presentational values. This is a gorgeous game, and it’s easily one of the most lifelike sports titles ever. Every player is modeled after their real-life counterparts, complete with accurate batting stances and pitching mechanics. The stadiums are simply beautiful, and the game really makes you feel as if you are there. The game’s announcing crew of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros is solid for the most part, although their comments sometimes feel disjointed and a lack of chemistry is apparent.
For baseball in this generation of video games, you cannot do any better than MLB 11: The Show. While the game is not without its flaws — namely, the steep learning curve for hitting/fielding and an abundance of lengthy loading screens — it is still a great effort that will please any and all baseball fans. If this is your first time playing Sony’s franchise, you are in for a treat.