Video Game Review: MLB 11: The Show [Playstation 3, 2011]

MLB 11: The Show [Playstation 3, 2011]

MLB 11: The Show
System: Playstation 3
Publisher: SCEA
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.

MLB 11: The Show [Playstation 3, 2011]

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.

MLB 11: The Show [Playstation 3, 2011]

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.

8.5/10

Quick & Dirty #3

MOVIES

Dog Day Afternoon [1975, Lumet]
After hearing of Lumet’s death, I wanted to visit some of his well-regarded movies that I have missed. This is about a couple of guys (Al Pacino and John Cazale) who attempt to rob a Brooklyn bank but prove to be incredibly inept at doing so. Soon they are locked into the bank with a group of hostages, and a full-blown media circus erupts. Things get even crazier when the police/media find out Pacino’s character is robbing the bank to pay for his gay lover’s sex change operation. Very, very entertaining film, although a little could have been trimmed off the running time. 8/10

It’s Kind of a Funny Story [2010, Boden, Fleck]
A suicidal teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental hospital. He befriends another patient (Zach Galifianakis) and falls for a teenage girl (Emma Roberts). A bit slow paced, but the acting is strong and the movie balances both comedy and drama with good results. Plus it has one of the better Queen & David Bowie lip sync performances you will ever see. 7/10

Restrepo [2010, Hetherington, Junger]
Powerful documentary that follows a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan. The movie gets its title from an outpost named OP Restrepo, named after PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo who was killed during the campaign. Part of the film follows the platoon on the extremely dangerous Operation Rock Avalanche mission in which a number of people, both soldiers and civilians, are injured and/or killed. A very emotional movie, although it is a little slow in the early stages. 8/10

The Lady Vanishes [1938, Hitchcock]
The first British Hitchcock film I have seen. I liked it, but not as much as others. The movie starts off a little slow as Hitchcock introduces us to a variety of characters, but it picks up once everyone is aboard the train. This was funnier than I expected, with a lot of witty dialogue and interactions between characters. 7.5/10

The Parking Lot Movie [2010, Eckman]
A documentary focused on a Virginia parking lot and its employees. Basically it is a bunch of guys bitching about people and their cars. Some entertaining banter, but this felt utterly pointless overall. It makes me wish I made a documentary about my pizza delivery days — I had far more interesting encounters doing that. 6/10

VIDEO GAMES

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360, 2010]
I’m not sure what took me so long to pick this up, especially since Fallout 3 remains one of my favorite games on the 360. New Vegas is basically FO3 with a new story and new areas to explore. It’s basically more of the same, but I couldn’t be happier about it. It seems the game-breaking glitches reported upon the game’s launch have been fixed, so that is a relief. I am still working my way through it, but a full review will be coming at some point.

MLB 11: The Show [PS3, 2011]
I am very happy that it is once again baseball season, and I had to pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show. This year introduces new analog pitching/hitting controls, which is quite an interesting change. I love the analog pitching since it makes you feel like you are actually throwing a baseball (well, as close as you can get with a controller in your hand). The hitting has a steep learning curve and I am still getting used to it, but it feels fluid as well. I am loving the game so far, although I am getting frustrated with my “Road to the Show” closer who is dominating AAA but still hasn’t been called up to the majors. Full review will be coming soon.

Out of the Park Baseball 11 [PC, 2010]
On the simulator side of the baseball gaming spectrum, I started playing my old save file from last year’s Out of the Park game. I picked up right where I left off, trying to defend my championship. For whatever reason, my starting lineup got hit with a nasty injury bug near the end of this season. At one point, I only had two of my starting batters healthy! I was still able to hang onto first place thanks to some strong performances from my role players. The new version of OOTP is coming out very soon, and I can’t wait to try it!

BOOKS

The Book of Basketball [Simmons]
Holy hell, this book is huge! Bill Simmons is a basketball nut; I’m not sure many other people could write a 700 page book about the sport (and have it be entertaining, no less!). There have been some pretty fun chapters so far, including a detailed discussion on Chamberlain vs. Russell and a number of interesting “what if?” scenarios. Simmons’ Boston homerisms are a little much at spots, but this has still been a great read.

Watchmen [Moore, Gibbons]
This is my very first graphic novel, a present I received for my birthday last week. I am nearly halfway through and I am loving every page so far. I can’t wait to read what happens, and I could see myself picking up more graphic novels in the future. Does anyone have any recommendations as to what to read next?