SCEA’s MLB series has arguably been the most consistent sports franchise this generation. There is a reason why baseball gamers have flocked to it, and it isn’t just because the competition has struggled so mightily. For MLB 11: The Show the introduction of new analog controls represented the most significant shift for the somewhat risk-adverse series in years. Continue on to check out where the game succeeded and where it misstepped in this “Hits and Misses” review.
Of the new analog controls it is the pitching that is far and away the best. There is quite a bit of control given to the user in both location and velocity that can be determined based on the movement of the stick. It is more fun than the just pressing buttons on the meter while not going as far as to make each pitch a “process” to complete with the stick.
Check out full detailed impressions of Road to the Show. The performance based system is an immense improvement over the goal based system of previous years. That on its own makes the mode much more enjoyable and worth spending time with, despite the nagging issues of slow load times and out-of-place commentary.
The graphics are simply stunning, with amazing stadium lighting, well represented player faces, and improved player models. The authentic broadcast cameras look great and add an additional challenge to pitching. The one glaring flaw comes with the lack of collision detection which just stands out more and more in such a detail-oriented game as the rest of the visuals advance.
Once again this is the area that The Show always nails and why it is so popular with hardcore baseball fans and not just fans of baseball gaming. Though MLB 11 just builds on what was already present that doesn’t change the fact that it represents the sport beautifully. The gameplay experience is realistic and reliable and the flow of the games just feels right.
Check out full detailed impressions of online play. Though marginally improved online remains a weakness of the series. Connections are completely hit or miss resulting in either smooth games or ones that are crippled by lag. Regardless pitchers have a distinct advantage over batters. Just check out the leaderboard where even the top players hit under .200 and average 17+ strikeouts a game. The insistence of guess pitch being on in quick matches and league participation being prevented for two weeks after buying the game remain head-scratchers. Some very welcome options were added this year but until the performance is ironed out and better design decisions are made the online play for the series will not meet today’s standards.
While the analog based pitching system is a complete success, and the analog hitting more polarizing, the analog throwing system is where the changes to controls falls short. Errors are frequent and in many cases the outcomes don’t make much sense. Safe throws can go off line inexplicably or display as though they were risky throws and there is really no explanation of why it happens or how to handle the system efficiently.
The commentary has quickly become very tired and bringing in Eric Karros for Rex Hudler was replacing one bad contributor with another. While baseball game soundtracks are typically my favorite of all the sports the soundtrack for MLB 11 is one of the worst in recent memory.
Having plagued the series for this entire generation the slow loading times can be frustrating. This is no more evident than in Road to the Show mode where just as much time could spent loading as in-game playing. It could be that the mostly static loading screens make the waits feel even worse than they are.
MLB 11: The Show is one of the few sports games these days that consumers can feel confident they know what they are getting when they buy it. The game will accurately represent the sport, have top notch visuals, and provide a full feature set. Unfortunately where the series has struggled has been consistent as well. The analog controls at the very least breathed some new life into the series, and going forward it will do well to improve on overall presentation and online performance.