Spring Training may be in full swing, but you can jump right into the season as MLB 11 The Show is here! How does MLB 11 stack up to previous iterations of the premiere baseball franchise on the market, though?
Quite simply, this is the biggest and best version of The Show yet. It’s hard to one-up yourself every year with a sports franchise, but even if they all don’t work as well as they should, it’ll give them something to work on for next year.
What you’ll notice first about MLB 11 is that the crystal clear look of the game has only gotten better. As hard to believe as that is, there is a huge new difference as the jumbotrons of each stadium have been redone and made stadium accurate to help give your favorite team that little extra home field advantage. It just adds to the overall ambiance of going to a ballgame. T he look of MLB 11: The Show is as strong as ever, and many features that can affect the outcome of a game have returned like dynamic weather.
The biggest changes to the game though come in the actual gameplay. The first is the highly touted new �Pure Analog� control system. As someone who played baseball growing up, I know how many moving parts there are to make the proper baseball swing or the perfect pitching motion. To help give you that sense of realism, Sony has added the use of the second control stick to help give you the feel of all those moving parts.
Unfortunately, if you just want to jump in and play a quick game, then you’ll have to turn off the Pure Analog system because it is going to take some time to master. Pure Analog really is only for those who are willing to devote a lot of time to The Show. There should be a warning put on the Pure Analog system: �Casual players be warned! Avoid at all costs!� The pitching’s accuracy is very touch to gauge and I threw more balls away in three innings than I did in an entire season last year. And never mind trying to hit the swing button at the same time as directing what zone you want to swing the bat through while also trying to follow through with the right stick.
Fortunately, these are just options and if you don’t have the patience, time, or talent to master them, you can always just turn them off and switch to a �classic� style.
Another big feature are all the upgrades done to �Road to the Show,� such as: new logic upgrades to the Minor League substitution system, stats comparison, competition within the organization, new training modes triggered by the Player Performance Evaluator, and a brand new interactive slider system for the Create-a-Player process. If you thought moving through the minor leagues was real before, your jaw might hit the floor as the only thing missing from this year’s Road to the Show is the feeling of your ass being stuck to cheap leather bus seats as you move from game to game.
The multiplayer and replayability for the game has gotten a facelift as well. MLB 11 is one of the few simulation baseball games to institute a co-op multiplayer mode. You a buddy can go against the computer or against two other friends as you alternate at-bats in the lineup and take turns pitching and playing the field. Although it can get a little boring on defense if your buddy is sitting guys down every time he pitches, it is still an interesting experiment that helps give the game that real baseball feel, short of swatting of gnats while you stand around in centerfield.
There is also a new online mode called �Challenge of the Week� where players can be given opportunities to either mimic real-life events or win crazy challenges dreamed up by the developers. Only the best of the best will come away with real baseball prizes like autographed baseballs from real major leaguers.
The only flaw I found with this year’s version of The Show was the audio. The music playlist is outdated to say the least and I can’t stand Matt Vasgersian’s play-by-play. He sounds unnatural to begin with and it comes through on his calls here. Dave �Soup� Campbell and Eric Karros do great jobs on color commentary, though. I’m really grasping at straws when I call the play-by-play man the weakest part of a sports game.
Despite this minor complaint, MLB 11: The Show really shines through in every important category you’re looking for in a baseball game. The Pure Analog system lacks the pick up and play most players would prefer to see, but since it can be turned off, I can’t hold it against the game. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that will take the time to learn it. MLB 11: The Show is still the best baseball game out there and your only realistic option if you’re a PS3 owner looking for a baseball game this year.
- Ray Carsillo