This year, Sony mixed things up by making more changes to the MLB The Show series than they’d done before. An entirely new control scheme, a new game mode, 3D enabled graphics, and a revamped Road to the Show all pull together for what is arguably the best and most realistic baseball simulator to date.
This year, Sony decided to try its luck with thumbstick based batting and throwing, and they did a far better job with it than the MLB 2K series ever has. Rather than vary the movement required based on the pitch, they simply made speed and accuracy vary based on speed and straightness of your stick movement. It also factors in the rating of the player when determining how accurate and fast the pitch is. As for batting, simply pull back on the thumbstick to rear back and release it to swing. Pushing it forward gives the swing more power, though, and the angle at which you push it will help determine any pull the ball has. For those who don’t prefer the new control scheme, Sony has thankfully included both of their older button-based options.
The franchise mode is one of the deepest I’ve ever seen in a sports game, and should satisfy almost any fan of sports simulations. You can control everything, from the players on your 40-man roster to the regular season draft. You can control what kind of advertising your team has, how much you spend on scouting, training, and medicine and even what stalls and vendors you have in your stadium and how much they charge. There’s a Rule 5 draft you can participate in, salary arbitration and waiver wires. Anything you can associate with professional baseball is in the franchise mode (except for the steroids and work stoppages). All of this is great and amazing to find in a baseball game, but none of it is new.
The Road to the Show mode is back, this time with more customization than ever, along with a new training point system. After being drafted by a team, you’ll get sent to AA, with the goal of improving both your in-game stats and your overall stats. After each at-bat, you’ll be given points based on how “good” your performance was. For a pitcher, you’ll want to either strike out the batter or get them out with as few pitches as possible for the best scores, while as a batter you want to make the pitcher throw as many pitches as possible, and preferably get on base. Additionally, your stats have changed to allow 60 days of not being worked on before they start declining instead of just 30.
As far as online gaming is concerned, it is largely the same as it was last year. Connectivity and lag will always be a problem for games like this that require such precise timing. A new competitive online mode called Challenge of the Week has been added though, which is quite enjoyable. In this mode, a challenge is posed each week, and players compete in the same challenge for top scores. Real prizes are up for grabs each week and everyone gets one free chance to compete, with extra chances available for 25 cents.
The Home Run Derby is back again, this time with move support. This is a nice added feature for players who’ve been looking forward to showing how good, or bad, they are at actually swinging a bat at major league pitching.
Graphically, MLB 11 is the best-looking baseball game available. The players are very detailed and the stadiums look exactly like the real ones, right down to the smallest detail. This year Sony went an extra step and added 3D support as well, for those of who you own a 3D TV. They also added a third commentator, Eric Karros. Unfortunately, his lines are very sparse, with nearly all the commentary recycled from last year.
While it may not seem like it on the surface, MLB 11: The Show has a number of significant changes and additions that make it worth a purchase for any fan of baseball games.
Pros: Road to the Show is better than ever, franchise mode is very deep and detailed,
Cons: Online play is still laggy, commentary is largely recycled