Due to lack of baseball action or just shear boredom, once in a blue moon I’ll occasionally bust out a video game review post (see the half-assed Bases Loaded review).
Since there’s ample time between now and Opening Day, I’m sure a lot of my free time will be spent playing MLB 11 The Show.
For some odd reason, I get a new baseball game every other year. First it was MLB 2K7, then MLB 09 The Show, and now MLB 11 The Show. So the 2009 version is my last jumping off point as I’ve never played the 2010 version of The Show.
The Show took a big leap forward by adding analog pitching to their arsenal and I have to say I quite enjoy it. It feels much smoother than controlling a plate coverage indicator and just pressing contact swing or power swing.
Also, it feels much more like an “actual” swing. Since you also control the stride (or backswing), timing the pitches is paramount. If you don’t have a smooth transition between your stride and your swing, there won’t be as much power. It’s tough to master at first, but once you do get the timing down, it adds another layer to the game.
If you’re expecting to walk into the The Show and start tearing the cover off the ball, you’ll be brought down to earth very quickly. This game preaches patience, working the count against opposing pitchers and waiting for your pitch.
New this year to The Show is analog pitching. It allows another dimension to the game play and makes the pitching a little less tedious compared to the metered pitching. However, I find there is much more room for error with the analog pitching.
It’s not to difficult to time your release point, put the location is a different story. And pitches that are off-centre I found very difficult to get the location down. Analog pitching could use some work and fine tuning, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
You can choose from three different pitching settings: analog, meter or classic. Analog and meter are explained above, and classic is actually the toughest to master because there are no meters to gauge your speed. You just have to watch the pitcher himself to determine where to release the ball.
Fielding and Baserunning
The Show not only introduced analog hitting and pitching to the game, but basically took it across the board and incorporated analog controlled fielding and baserunning as well.
The fielding is simple enough, just flick the stick towards the base you want to throw towards. You also have a throw indicator which shows you how strong or soft a throw your fielder will deliver.
Under-throw the ball and your teammate will either be pulled off the bag or will have to scoop the ball out of the dirt. Other-throw and the ball will sail over their head. Once you get a little practice and get a feel for how hard to throw the ball, it becomes second nature.
In regular fielding game play, the controls are pretty easy to figure out, but once you try from the fielder’s perspective in Road To The Show, things get a little bit tricky. Basically, all the fielding controls are then reversed.
As I was playing shortstop, it took me a while to ingrain into my mind that pulling the stick backwards meant throwing to second base, and pushing the stick to the left meant throwing to first base.
When it comes to analog baserunning, I am not really a fan of the controls … and here’s why; when you’re on base, it’s very easy to mistakenly flick the stick in the wrong direction and get picked off. Personally, I’d rather have it on one of the four dedicated buttons so it’s not as easy to make that mistake.
Also, multiple times I found after I legged out an infield single, my runner would bolt off towards second base for some reason or another. Once again, laying off the stick will prevent that, but a simple tap of the stick can inadvertently send your runner towards the next base.
Road to the Show
Road to the Show is definitely one of the selling points of MLB 11 The Show; it’s back once again and more thorough than ever. Personally, I’m just through my first season as a shortstop in the Blue Jays organization.
Whether you decide to be a pitcher or a hitter, right from the get-go you can basically determine what kind of player your guy is going to be. From a position player’s perspective, you can choose from power, defensive and contact points.
As games progress, you accumulate training points for good at bats, scoring runs, fielding assists, turning double plays, and a multitude of other things. These points are used to boost your player’s attributes.
I’ve read that some folks have had to play as many as four seasons in the minors before getting called up to The Show. I guess it all depends on which position you choose; if you try to break in as a closer when there’s already an established closer on the team, it makes your journey to the show that much more difficult.
One qualm I have with the Road to the Show mode is the lack of direction from your manager when it comes to hitting and running. Occasionally, if you are unsuccessful in stealing a base, then your manager will chastise you for being too aggressive.
However, your manager never actually calls for a stolen base in the first base, so it’s up to you to proceed cautiously when trying to swipe bags.
The same goes for bunting; I have yet to encounter a situation where my manager called for me to lay down a bunt, yet the ability is there and sometimes you have to increase your bunting points to meet requirements.
Jose Bautista’s Beard (or lack thereof)
This isn’t a huge selling point on the game, but I thought it was interesting how the game developers decided to model Jose Bautista. He has his perpetual five o’clock shadow, but no full-out beard.
Brian Wilson on the other hand, looks like Grizzly Adams.
Other Game Modes
In addition to Road to the Show, there are several other game modes such as Exhibition Play, Franchise Mode, Season, and Home Run Derby. To be honest, I haven’t really dabbled much with these games modes because Road to the Show is taking up most of my playing time.
I guess if you’re a baseball sim fanatic, Franchise Mode would be perfect for you. There are so many options when it comes to customizing your team that it’s enough to make your head spin. You can even use your money to upgrade the concession stands at the ballpark.
The Show gets high marks for presentation and realism; the pictures above alone are proof of the attention to detail in the character models.
The analog controls are a welcome addition to the series, but there are still a few kinks in the game play that will hopefully be ironed out in future versions of The Show.
Having never played MLB 2K11 (or 2K10 for that matter), I really can’t say for certain whether MLB 11 The Show is the preeminent baseball game on Playstation 3.
But when it comes to MLB on the PS3, I can’t imagine things get much better than this game.
Overall Rating for MLB 11 The Show: 8.5 out of 10
Related: check out Mop Up Duty’s review of MLB 11 The Show