#4 of 2011 – MLB 11: The Show

Posted December 29th, 2011 at 10:30 am

MLB 11: The Show attempted to combat a growing sense of lack of advancement in the series by introducing advanced right stick controls – a tactic first completed by its competitor but done so here in a more refined sense. The Show edged forward in its already established areas of strength but still had its share of struggles where it has traditionally faltered.

The ranking of games in the best of 2011 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.

Related: Hits and Misses ReviewOnline Play Impressions Road to the Show ImpressionsFranchise mode bug – 2K Not Impressed With The Show’s ControlsSatisfaction analysis – All 30 broadcast camera angles

Sales may have dropped with MLB 11 – reflective of possibly having peaked and that growing perception of staleness – but a strong attempt was made to advance the series by bringing in right analog stick controls and it was successful to an extent in breathing new life into the game. The analog pitching was engaging and well-balanced, analog hitting a mixed-bag, and analog fielding and throwing problematic.

Of course authenticity has been The Show’s calling card and it thrives once again in that area with gameplay benefiting from subtle but recognizable improvements and some outstanding visuals. Road to the Show was much improved by shifting to a performance-based rather than goal-based method of rewards and progression that made the mode much more enjoyable.

Strong presentation value, and the introduction of 30 authentic broadcast camera angles, was accompanied by tired commentary – the switch from Rex Hudler to Eric Karros did nothing to improve it – and the soundtrack was one of the worst in recent memory. Load times remain frustratingly long and when going through Road to the Show mode that means potentially more time spent on loading screens than spent in active gameplay.

Online play is once again where The Show tragically stumbles. SCEA even attempted to avoid the mode factoring into reviews by not turning the online servers on until the morning of release. Severe lag was all too frequent and even when having solid connections the response timing favored pitching so drastically that the top leaderboards featured teams batting under .200 (and these were teams that were winning) with an average of 17 strikeouts a game.  Stubborness over “guess pitch” continued, and though it was finally turned off at one point, they later reactivated it. It took pressure in the way of an article to finally get the company to lift a two week wait period for online leagues.

By no fault of The Show online connectivity was lost completely for over three weeks as PSN was taken down due to the well-publicized hacking of the service. Sony plans to introduce the “Online Pass” for MLB 12 so the quality of online performance, features, and availability will be held to an even higher standard in the future.

The Show undoubtedly remains in the upper class of sports franchises but until the series produces a complete effort by delivering a suitable online play experience it won’t be able to broach standout status in any year where there are more well-rounded products produced. Still it’s one of the few games that consumers can be completely confident in what they are purchasing on a year to year basis – a fully featured and well supported product (with sub-par online) that accurately represents and respects its sport.

Earlier Year-in-Review Pieces
#4: MLB 11: The Show
#5: NBA 2K12
#6: WWE All-Stars
#7: NCAA Football 12
•#8: NHL 12
•#9: Fight Night Champion
•#10: MLB Bobblehead Pros
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