March 29, 2011
The MLB series from 2K is certainly no stranger to the PSP, with an entry every year for at least the last half decade. Kicking it off, the game is simple enough. You can hop into any of the modes, pick your teams and get the ball rolling. There really isn't anything complicated about it. 2K11 features modes like Seasons, Tournaments, Home Run Derby, The Farm and a lot more to wade through in the menus. It's great on the surface, but it's a whole other ball game once you start playing.
Gameplay just feels really gimped. Pitching is easy and you'll almost always strike out the opponent with a well placed fastball. The system is quite easy to grasp, you can choose where to pitch and what kind of pitch to throw - such as Slider, Sinker and Fastballs - with the analog nub and face buttons. Hitting the pitch button will bring up a circular prompt that will grow and shrink, indicating the pitch's sweet spot. It's a system that works almost too well as the only time the other team manages to hit the ball is when you miss the prompt.
Batting, on the other hand, can be really frustrating. It's tough to predict the opponent's pitch as each one seems to follow the exact same trajectory, but somehow manages to land somewhere different within the strike zone, which is, in some form or other, a kind of challenge in and of itself. The animation doesn't help either. There is very little variety or subtlety in player movements. Each swing of the bat looks exactly the same, an issue that doesn't help in a game where precision and accuracy is of utmost importance.
Fielding doesn't get any better either. You'll be able to throw the ball to whichever base with the corresponding face buttons. There's also a Smart Throw mapped to the R button, but it doesn't work all that well, usually skipping the cutoffs entirely and simply throwing a really long ball across the field instead. Players run, turn and jump extremely slowly, making it very frustrating and difficult to hit a base as a batter and to even catch the ball as an outfielder.
The one good thing about the gameplay is the camera. The camera is pulled back to show both pitcher and batter at an angle when players are pitching, making the game feel more like an actual baseball game. The replays are nicely presented, although it would've been nice to include the option to skip the big ones, as some will replay twice over. It's really too bad that the sluggish motions and controls hinder the experience. Playing both Tournament and Season modes can be quite engaging when the mechanics actually work properly.
Visually, the game is average at best, with very simple backdrops and character models. As previously mentioned, the animation is really sluggish and lacks the subtle movements of the human body. Some might argue that the PSP limits this, but that certainly wasn't the case with MLB 11: The Show. Character models also appear to share the same faces, I swear both mine and the other team's pitchers looked exactly the same. It's also great that the Red Sox's Junichi Tazawa looks like an Italian mobster.
Audibly, there appears to be very few variations in what the commentators say. The same line can be said twice consecutively, making for a good chuckle, but it gets irritating after the fifth time. Other than that, the soundtrack is relatively forgettable and doesn't do much to get players engaged with the game. The sound effects work for the most part and the sound of the ball and bat clashing is always a satisfying one, as is the sound of the catcher catching your pitch, cueing the strike for your opponent.
Major League Baseball 2K11 for the PSP is a major disappointment. Fans of the sport that are dying for a baseball game on the PSP should look to other alternatives, like MLB 11: The Show, which isn't all that great either, but at least better than what 2K11 offers. From the gameplay to the presentation, almost every aspect of 2K11 simply falls short of decent. The gameplay showed promise, but was severely hindered by shoddy animations and sluggish controls. It would be best to simply steer clear of this portable sports title.