MLB 11: The ShowESRB:
Players: 1-4 (Online 4 Players)
Playstation Network Compatible
Online: Ethernet Broadband Required
Required Hard Disk Space: 5GB
HDTV: 720p, 1080i, 1080p
The Major League Baseball season has arrived. Teams have made their final cuts, fantasy baseball pool drafts are wrapping up and opening day celebrations are in full swing. Yes this time of year is always filled with optimism. The same goes for fans of the Sony’s long running MLB franchise The Show. Long heralded as the crème of the crop in the baseball video game world, Sony’s MLB 11: The Show arrives leaving many, including myself, wondering what more could be done to make this a better game. Last year’s game was simply stunning and was once again considered the ‘must-have’ baseball game. Well after spending some time with Sony’s latest MLB game it is clear the core game remains unchanged. This is not necessarily a bad thing as some of the new features included in this year’s package only serve to enhance the experience.
Visually MLB 11: The Show for the PS3 is stunning, but is it an upgrade from 10? Perhaps a little; but let’s not forget 10' provided plenty of eye-candy for ball fans as it was a stunning looking game. This year's game is a bit of an upgrade in the graphics' department as it features more player animations, much better looking fans, and the ball parks feature more detail than ever before. There are also new weather elements, stadium specific jumbotrons and fireworks. I think it is safe to say there is no question that MLB 11 is the best looking baseball game in this next-generation era. Aside from a couple of graphical glitches, everything from the players to the ball parks looks phenomenal. All in all, no real complaints here.
When it comes to the sound, MLB 11: The Show delivers and it sounds great in 5.1 surround sound too. From the soundtrack to the commentators, this latest installment in Sony’s best selling franchise does a wonderful job at creating that MLB big league atmosphere. Everything from the chants from fans to the sounds of the bullpen pitches smacking the catcher's mitt are awesome and spot on. All the sounds you would typically hear in an MLB game are in MLB 11: The Show and for that the developers get plenty of kudos.
If you played MLB 10: The Show on the PS3 last year you will probably agree that MLB 11: The Show feels awfully similar. There have been some new wrinkles added to the mix, including some new dual stick analog controls, but right of the box and playing the game in default mode, MLB 11 feels almost identical to MLB 10. For those new to the franchise there is a steep learning curve, but veterans should be able to start striking out batters and hitting the ball on regular basis right from the get go.
The core game however is also back with your typical exhibition, 'Road to the Show,' Home Run Derby and season modes. New this year to go along with the new analog controls is a co-op mode, some ‘Road to the Show’ enhancements, 3D support and online mode enhancements. I will get to some of those new features more below. For those of you who are new the franchise I will just briefly recap the variety of core modes featured in the game.
Exhibition mode is back and is great for jumping into a game right away. Pick two teams and off you go. This is generally my first stop as I usually want to see how the game plays and feels before I get into a full MLB season. Also, when playing a buddy at home, exhibition mode is generally where we set up a game. My next stop is usually the season mode. Here you pick a team and work your way through a full 162 game season, or a shorter game season if you want. One of these days I will play an entire season but when a game takes 45 minutes to an hour — you do the math. Who has that kind of time? The ‘Road to the Show’ mode is where you create a player in an effort to make the 'Big Show' (Major Leagues). You guide your player through spring training, spend some time in the minors, and eventually gain a spot on a major league team roster. This year 'Road to the Show' includes an interactive slider forcing you to decide what skills are important to your created player. Your advancement in the organization depends on your stats versus players around you. If another player on your team is producing high home run and RBI totals then you better step up your game in order to get the call to the big leagues. Finally, the Franchise mode returns and remains unchanged from last year.
Overall, all the modes that we have come to love about the game are back and are just as good if not a bit better, than last year. Additionally, the default controls are nearly identical to last year's game. Arguably the most important aspect of any baseball game is the hitting and pitching mechanics as well as the offensive and defensive controls. Out of the box, many will be pleased to know the pitching and hitting mechanics are very similar to last year. So if you are a Show veteran and you prefer more of the same old in terms of the controls you will be pleased. But if you do stick with the default controls you are missing out. As I mentioned above, MLB 11: The Show features the Pure Analog Control System, which includes analog controls for hitting, pitching, and fielding. The “Pure Hitting” control system allows the player to stride and swing using the Right Analog Stick. Overall, it feels natural and smooth. It does not take long either before you will start to prefer this method of hitting over the default controls. The “Pure Pitching” controls on the other hand have a bit more of a learning curve. They incorporate a Pitch Meter and your timing with the right stick is as precise as ever. The “Pure Throwing” can be used to make defensive throws by simply pointing the Right Analog Stick in the direction of the base. It also allows for fake throws to keep runners honest. All in all, MLB fans will love the control scheme as the game feels much more immersive than ever before.
Some of the other new elements to the game include stereoscopic 3D functionality, which unfortunately I never had a chance to check out as I have yet to purchase one of those high end 3D TV sets. There is also a customizable camera editor that is very cool for customizing the size of your pitching meters, which are a tad too big on the default settings in my view. There are also stadium specific broadcast camera angles for all 30 MLB teams that brings the game one step closer to reality and a truly authentic experience. There is also PlayStation Move motion controller support for the Home Run Derby mode.
The multiplayer component of the game is once again decent and the new co-op mode is also a delight. The co-op mode allows up to four-player offline or online cooperative play. Players can split duties covering either the infield or outfield, while also switching off at the plate or choosing the specific batters they would like to control. Admittedly I did not spend nearly the amount of time online that I wanted too; however the time I did play was lag free and enjoyable. The online leagues received some enhancements including an XP system where you earn XP whether you win or lose. At the end of the day, winning generates the most XP but logging in lots of online innings will also earn you XP. Overall pretty impressive stuff.
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