Sony’s MLB series returns with revamped controls and some big changes to the Road to the Show mode.
What’s It About?
Having stuck with button controls long past the introduction of analog controls by MVP Baseball and MLB 2K, it’s great to see that MLB 11: The Show finally brings in analog controls for batting, pitching, and fielding. Move support is also included in the form of the Home Run Derby as a test to see if it should be fully implemented into every mode next year.
Batting will be familiar to those that have tried it out analog batting before, though The Show’s implementation has a bit of a steeper learning curve compared to 2K. Analog pitching is reminiscent of MVP 07’s style of pitching where you’re picking a pitch, deciding where to aim it, and then doing a down-and-up motion to windup and throw the ball. There’s a bit more nuance to that motion, as you’re holding the stick down to get a good release for accuracy’s sake and then pushing it up at an angle to aim for the spot you chose. Fielding will also be familiar to 2K players, as you’re pushing the right stick in any of the four directions to throw to a specific base while holding it in that direction to determine a stronger or weaker throw that can affect the accuracy of the throw in certain situations.
Road to the Show has had some of its parts revamped for MLB 11, mostly in regards to evaluation of your performance during the game. Rather than getting a goal before each at-bat, your performance in terms of getting solid contact on the ball, working the count, and not striking out is scored along with fielding performance to give you an overall idea of how you played. The same goes for pitching as any out will give you good points, but strikeouts will yield the best result. The big thing is that this gives you good feedback on how you played instead of just telling you whether you met the random goals that you were given in previous games, which is a big step forward for career modes in sports gaming.
Why Should I Care?
If you really want to learn the analog controls, Road to the Show offers an easier introductory period since you’re only facing off against AA-level talent rather than the professionals that make up the major league rosters for every other mode. Even with experience in MLB 2K’s analog batting and MVP 07’s analog pitching, the learning curve will still be steep enough when playing with a full team that you will definitely want to play a few spring training games to get a handle on how your teams handle since it seems to be a bit more realistic on that front. Since I am an Indians fan, the first few spring training games were very tough offensively while pitching wasn’t quite so hard, but switching to the Red Sox for a few more games made the obvious differences in talent levels apparent as scoring was much more abundant with Boston. Pitching didn’t have quite the huge difference since your pitcher’s statistical skill only further enhances the natural skill that you possess, so Cleveland’s top pitchers could shut down offenses since I was good enough with the new system to get outs without getting into trouble all that often.
The changes to the goals in Road to the Show mode do make a significant impact on the way I played through games, as the lack of those random goals really opens up your at-bats so that you can just focus on getting a good at-bat rather than just focusing on the goal. The way the scoring for an at-bat is handled really enforces waiting for a good pitch to hit, which resulted in a significant drop in strikeouts as a batter. The fielding has probably taken the biggest hit since the ability to control the camera yourself is gone and that messes with reactions to ground balls and grabbing ground balls as a pitcher, which doesn’t help when analog fielding controls as a pitcher are fundamentally reversed since you’re usually facing the outfield rather than home plate that the other infielders see.
The animations system sorely needs an upgrade as a number of infield plays in MLB 11 were ruined by the overwhelming need for animations to play out before you can resume control of your player that makes for a number of awkward moments that shouldn’t be happening at this point in the PS3’s lifetime. Despite the addition of Eric Karros to the commentary, the others have a lot of statements that repeat often enough to be noticeable along with making a lot of false observations that could be due to a lack of evolution to the commentary over the past few years. The autosave is another feature that seems to be especially bad this year since it takes about 25 seconds to regain control after finishing games, though saving manually doesn’t make it any quicker to finish.
The Move support in the Home Run Derby mode is probably the most surprising feature of the entire package because it’s surprisingly great on the first attempt. If you seen the simplicity of how batting is handled in Wii Sports, it’s on par with that while still having depth with the power and contact swings. The only issue is that you do have to bat left-handed with a lefty batter and right-handed for a right-handed batter, so you will have to pay attention to that when picking out batters. Depending on how the pitching is handled for Move, it seems like the developers have a great grasp on how it should be done that I’m hoping Move is fully implemented in MLB 12: The Show.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
MLB 11: The Show is still the king of the genre and has made some great changes with the new controls and Road to the Show that makes it a worthy purchase for those interested in those aspects. If you’re only interested in the franchise mode or online play, this year’s game hasn’t progressed much in those parts of the game to make it a necessary upgrade. Add in the aging commentary and animation systems and Sony San Diego has plenty of things to work on for next year’s game.