MLB 11 Road to the Show Impressions

Posted March 6th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Road to the Show in SCEA’s MLB series has always been one of the better sports gaming career modes. Despite that it has faced its share of issues and a tedious nature that has grown tired over the last few years. With MLB 11: The Show changes have been made to the mode and the result is a much more enjoyable experience.

The most significant change comes with the mode being performance based rather than goal based. I can’t understate how important the shift from one to the other turns out to be. It has always been frustrating being forced to approach each play by trying to get a specific pre-determined result. Now the idea is instead to get a positive result and the points awarded vary based on the level of success achieved.

As a pitcher getting a three pitch strikeout is worth more than getting a five pitch ground out for example. Points are taken away for negative results, so giving up a base hit stings less than a home run. Getting a double play would be even more valuable than a strikeout and so on.

The same general idea would apply to hitters in how the game treats point distribution. Positive outcomes are rewarded while negative ones are penalized. The other basic slant is towards pitch counts. A hitter will get more credit for longer at bats while pitchers gain extra points for breezing through them.

There are of course still “advancement goals” that tie into performance over a longer stretch and relate to upgrading specific ratings or meeting statistical challenges. Those make a lot more sense along with the performance based system than the micro-goals that had been forced on players in the past.

I’m also a fan of having the option to sim appearances without loading into the games. Though I want to play my appearances it is nice to have the ability to just sim outright, especially considering the lengthy loading times. This allows the opportunity to progress deeper into the mode much more quickly.

While setting up the mode is simpler this year, and with the ability to shift a slider set to the “type” of player desired, create-a-player feature is essentially unchanged. It still carries with it plenty of customization options.

Pasta Padre was drafted to the Rockies organization (relief pitcher) and began his career with the Tulsa Drillers. Enough points are distributed at the start of the mode to make a competent player. More points to distribute to various ratings categories are earned by completing training drills which have been revamped this year and performing well in games.

The biggest gripe with the mode once again relates to load times. While they are long throughout every mode in MLB 11 the waits in Road to the Show are more noticeable because they occur so often. With all the in-and-out of games and training sessions just as much time may be spent waiting for loading to complete as playing in-game. Loading into games takes approximately 40 seconds while loading back to the menus takes right around 36 seconds (that one includes auto-saving). The auto-saving though comes in handy like the time where the game got stuck in a never-ending loading screen and I had to reset the PS3.

The commentary also feels completely out of place as the “A” team would never be a part of a minor league broadcast. SCEA should either get a minor league commentary crew, which would make the games feel different and special in that sense, or they should strip out the commentary all together.

Overall the new Road to the Show in MLB 11 provides some fundamental changes that makes the entire experience more fun to play through. It will take some time to reach points in the mode such as being called up to the majors and progressing into later years where issues could crop up. However early on it looks to be a nice understated jump forward for the mode which had grown largely stale as of late.

Check out the gallery for more screenshots and Youtube for another video from the mode!