Platform: PS3 (PSP)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sony San Diego
Review by: Archie Easter
With baseball season in full swing, it’s also time for baseball games to make their seasonal trek to consoles. With that, MLB 11: The Show is hitting the mound this year with a few changeups to the series formula. Past entries of the franchise have sometimes been short on additions and new features, but MLB 11: The Show assuredly slides home as more of an evolution than last year’s turn at bat.
First off is the new emphasis on analog control. Billed as a way to give fielding, batting, and pitching more precision and direction, the game’s controls have been completely revamped this year and mapped to the analog sticks. While this new play-method may not be for everyone — and thankfully, there is an option for the series’ classic controls for those that don’t want to make the switch — I did find it fairly rewarding after the initial learning curve. Players can also divide up which control scheme is used for each position. For instance, while I like the new analog controls for batting and pitching, I usually prefer the “classic” digital fielding done through the controller’s face buttons.
While on the subject of the game’s controls, even though it’s displayed prominently on the case, Playstation Move support is limited to the game’s Home Run Derby mode. While a bit limiting, it’s a nice bonus nonetheless. Fans of the series that were hoping for full-on Move enabled control options in the game proper are likely going to have to sit out until next season, as its implementation in the game this year feels like a both fun and brief experiment with the controller and nothing more.
That’s not to say that players will have to rely on motion controls to be pulled into the game, as MLB 11: The Show has enough atmosphere and depth to do that all its own. As in previous incarnations, the sounds of baseball are excellently reproduced with top-notch play-by-play calls and announcer banter, along with believable personalized crowd reactions. There are tons of play options in the game, from the returning Road to the Show mode, to the brand new Co-op mode — unfortunately only available in exhibition games — that allows two players (either local or online) to play on the same team against one or two other players.
Speaking of online, taking one’s favorite team out to the virtual big leagues is as satisfying as ever with the addition of more robust league creation options and weekly Challenge of the Week content to keep things fresh. It’s a shame then, that it’s also online that one of the main issues that has plagued prior games starts to rear its head. I’m speaking of course about the game’s instances of network lag. While it’s definitely not to the point of being game-breaking, it can be annoying nonetheless when pitcher and batter timing are thrown off because of the odd network hiccup. Although it won’t always occur, in a game so focused on timing like baseball, it’s one of those things that could potentially change the course of a game if it strikes at the right moment.
Network quibbles aside, in terms of overall presentation, the MLB series is untouchable. This is by far the most immersive baseball game currently available on the market. The visuals are second to none, and with the combined feature sets of previous games, the team at SCE San Diego has created a franchise that only seems to get better each year. With improved controls and more robust online options that its predecessors, this year’s game definitely feels more refined than previous incarnations. Even with its minor flaws, MLB 11: The Show keeps the series tradition of reaching for perfection alive, even if it hasn’t quite touched it yet.
For more info, us.playstation.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.