MLB 11: The Show

Sony Computer Entertainment and developer Sony San Diego are back again to give us our yearly dose of MLB: The Show.   While taking a quick glimpse at the cover athlete of MLB 11: The Show, things may not look so different considering Joe Mauer was on the cover in last years game.  But do not let that fool you.  Sony San Diego has made quite a big change in this years iteration.   With one of the biggest changes being the all new Pure Analog Controls for hitting, pitching, and fielding.  In the past, The Show used the face buttons to control every aspect of the game.  While you still can switch the controls back to it’s original settings as the previous years, it is something fans should experience first, before hitting the pause button and going to the gameplay options.

The Show series has always had the reputation of being the most realistic baseball game on the market today, and with MLB 11: The Show it is no different.  It’s been the type of game that if you are knowledgeable about baseball, it can be quite an amazing experience.  But if your the type of person who just wants to swing the bat and hit everything out of the park, well your going to have a frustrating time.  MLB 11: The Show is in no doubt a true baseball fans dream come true.

As I mentioned before, the biggest change Sony San Diego has made this year is with the new control scheme.  With the right timing and precision, you will feel rewarded for just hitting a single right up the middle, or pitching a one, two, three inning.  Hitting with the analog stick can be a frustrating experience at first for someone who is a novice to The Show series.  I had some of my experience with this kind of control during my days playing the 2K series, who has had the analog hitting for quite some time now.  It is something you have to practice at to master, but once you do it becomes a very fun way to play the game.  By using the left stick you pull back to take your step towards the mound, then by pushing up to take your swing.  It really is all about getting the pitchers timing down and how long it takes him to come to the plate.  I really enjoy the new hitting mechanics.  It adds more realism to the sim experience, and all in all Sony San Diego has done a pretty good job with it.  I have noticed times where it wouldn’t seem like it was registering when I pulled back on the left stick.  Which is extra frustrating when by simply pushing up on the left analog stick your player bunts the ball.  But with some tweaks It is a welcomed change to the series.

Pitching is also completely revamped.  In past games, you used the four faced buttons to select your pitch, while you hit the X button for your power and accuracy via meter bar.  MLB 11: The Show uses the same back and up motion on the left analog stick, but focuses more on accuracy rather than timing.  By pulling the stick back this will set your pitcher in motion.  This is where your power comes from. As you come to the plate, you move the analog stick up towards the location of your pitch.  It is very important to be accurate with your pitch, because if you leave one hanging across the plate a good hitter will knock it out of the park.  If you happen to make a good pitch with perfect location the top of the bar will become yellow.  It may sound easy but it really does take some practice to get your pitches close to perfect every time.  The new pitching controls is actually my favorite part of the game.  Yes it may need a bit of tweaking, but overall I think they did a great job with it.  It really makes you focus on the hitter your facing and his tendencies.

Fielding and throwing the ball is also completely taken over with the left analog stick.  This is probably the one area Sony San Diego could of spent maybe just a little more time with to get the throwing aspect done just right.  When your throwing the ball, your player will have a meter to tell you how accurate your throws will be.  If the circle lights up green, then your throw should be perfect.  If it flashes red, then you could be in for some disaster.  The only problem I have with this is that the throwing sensitivity is way too high.  It is sometimes very tough to judge how perfect your throw will be.  You basically just want to flick the analog stick instead of holding it down.  I like the new concept, I just hope they spend some more time on getting it perfect for next years game.  It’s quite obvious that the hitting and pitching were at the top of the to-do list more so than the fielding.

For people who’ve played last year’s game already know how beautiful the game truly looks.  Everything from the lighting during day games, to the almost creepy realistic look of the players.  The Show always shines in the graphics department.  I can’t tell a huge difference in visuals from this year’s game to  last, other than maybe the players facial animations or maybe how they stand in the batters box. But by no means is it a downgrade from the previous year.  Even the stadiums look slightly more detailed, and crowd animations are a step up.  It still remains the best looking baseball game that is out for this console generation.

The most popular aspect of The Show has always been it’s Road To The Show mode.  This is basically your RPG for core baseball fans. You can either pick your favorite team to play for, or you can enter the draft and have it determine what team your going to start at AA with.  Throughout the games you play you will earn XP that you can spend to improve your player any way you want.  Do you want to be more of a contact Ichiro type player? Or do you want to have power and knock the cover off the ball like Ryan Howard?  Whatever you decide, it sure is a time killer and a fun way to play the game.  Their are a million ways to shape the player that you want to be.  Throwing, fielding, and speed are also important if you want a shot at the Major Leagues.  You will be rewarded on anything positive that you do during a game, not just hitting homeruns.  Hit a sacrifice fly or have a long pitch at-bat are some the other things you will be rewarded for.  Doing some of the little things will earn you big XP.

Additional added features to this years MLB 11: The Show are quite scarce.  They added a co op mode that you can play with a friend against the A.I.  and the online play isn’t much different as last year.  It still works when it wants too but at times can still have lag.  They’ve also made a little bit of changes to the online leagues to make things easier and more accessible.  For the most fun that the game has to offer, stick offline with a Road To The Show character or start up a 162 game season with your favorite team.

Even though the game doesn’t offer much more than last year, MLB 11: The Show still remains the most surreal experience you are going to have on the baseball field without actually being on it yourself.  With the additions of the Pure Analog Control, beautiful looking visuals, and slight upgrades to the RTTS mode it is in no doubt worth your time and money.  Sure, you may put some wear and tear on the analog sticks by the end of the season, but the feeling of hitting a walk-off homerun in the 9th with the new controls. Priceless.

[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]


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