MLB: The Show has been in an interesting position for the last few years. Despite having a constant competitor in MLB 2K series, it has really been a non-issue as the 2K series has had serious problems providing a solid and competitive product. Needless to say, the makers of the Show have still strived to make a phenomenal baseball experience, and yet again they succeeded. When it comes to baseball, the most important elements that will make the game successful are the minute ones, and MLB 11 the Show does not skimp in the slightest.
The biggest change this year is the addition of analog controls for all elements of the baseball experience. Fortunately it does not take analog controls to the extreme of the MLB 2K series, but it does require quite a bit of getting used to for those familiar with the more conventional power and accuracy button pushing method. What's especially cool is how the amount of windup you're asked to use changes depending on how many players are on base and where they are located, which makes pitching feel just a little bit more realistic. Once you acclimate to the control scheme it feels even better, as it makes it slightly harder to pick the corners, which was always a little too easy in the previous iterations.
The fielding has been greatly improved due to a real emphasis on physics and the fielder's reaction rating actually making a difference. This means that having a golden glove winner on your team actually makes a serious difference in what you can expect in certain situations, which allows you to truly appreciate and enjoy the management aspect of the game. The biggest issue that fielding has is that it feels like the overthrow rate is a little too high even if you figure out a good balance for how to use the analog commands. This can lead to the scenario on tight plays where a rushed throw is required, the ball ends up going completely awry. It does happen in pro ball, but it feels a little too frequent in MLB 11: the Show. However it is only slightly too high and therefore is not a major problem.
The hitting feels amazing with the analog control as it actually simulates the full hitting motion and not just the bat swing, which is great for long time players and fans who truly want the full simulation experience. As with real life, it all comes down to your understanding of the situation, what the count is, what the pitcher's tendencies are, number of players on base and where they are. All of these things now matter as much as they would in real life which is exactly what fans have been demanding for years.
Road to the Show is the hallmark of the franchise and it is truly the most in-depth and realistic "play as a pro" styled experience being offered in video games today. You begin as a double AA draftee and try to take your career to the pros and then on to the hall of fame. This mode has been around for several years and the constant improvements to make the training modes more interesting and the different positions more fun to play is a true testament to the team's desire to improve the product for the players. A fun little feature is that now when you play any mode, your stats appear on your PSN name. It's pretty cool for finding out how your friends are doing. My only complaint is that as a southpaw, the ability to play as a southpaw second, shortstop or third baseman is removed, and while I know it is extremely uncommon to nonexistent for this to be the case in the major leagues, I'd love the option in the game.
The game has always been and is still one of the best looking games on the market with phenomenal attention to detail and individual stadium detailing that makes you feel like you're truly there playing the game. The facial modelling is still a little bizarre at times especially if you watch a lot of games on television and know what the players look like, although the tools provided for creating your own player in RTTS are incredibly detailed. The presentation is where the Show as a franchise has always shined; each ballpark has all the features of the actual ballpark right down to mascot celebrations and seating placement. The presentation moments, such as when a player goes up to bat and when a pitcher comes in, are so well done that it truly feels like you're watching them come onto the field in a real game. Also if you're the type of person that really wants that experience, it can easily be done by keeping the players intro songs up to date with the real songs the players are using with the easy to use music editor.
The show is by far the best baseball game available and quite possibly the best sports game on the market. While all the new functionally in this year's game has allowed users to go analog, the option to play the old fashioned way is still there and still works as well as it always has. The commentary is the best in sports by a large margin, although it is still not perfect and can lead to some pretty funny lines. The amount of time and effort that has been dedicated to the smallest most insignificant parts of the game truly shows the commitment by Sony San Diego to making the game the best they possibly can and continuing to set the bar high on how a sports game should look and feel.
|» Analog controls are very precise and add an extra element to the game.|
|» The game is absolutely beautiful and the presentation moments are incredibly realistic.|
|» Road to the Show is still the best be a player experience on the market.|
|» The number of overthrows is ever so slightly too high, which can be very frustrating when it does happen.|
|» For southpaws, not being able to play southpaw as a second, short and third base player seems somewhat dumb.|
|» The commentary, while often great, still has a few odd moments.|