March 19, 2011
The game is easy enough to get into, with multiple modes for players to enjoy, from Exhibition, Season, Manager and Home Run Derby, as well as the franchise's exclusive Road to The Show modes available to play. On top of that, there are multiple settings that can be customized by players so long as they understand their baseball. It becomes especially overwhelming for newcomers with the amount of stats and numbers thrown at them. Then again, this is a game where the only vested interest comes from baseball fans.
Games are paced much like the real game, with nine innings in a game where teams alternate pitching and batting roles. It's an easy concept to grasp and getting into it isn't all too challenging. However, the real problem lies in the game's controls. Pitching and batting are mapped to the face buttons and analog nub, with players able to guess the pitch, influence the ball, check a swing and even bunt a ball.
Pitching seems random at best, even when following the in-game prompts. You can select the type of pitch as well as where within the strike zone to throw. A strength gauge determines how well you throw, with the highlighted blue zone demarcating the sweet spot. However, even then the pitch will often times fall outside of the strike zone, resulting in more balls than strikes. As for batting, you simply have to analyze and guess when to swing. The pitcher AI seems to work very well, almost too well, usually pitching well between the out and inside of the strike zone and leaving you guessing when to swing
Up to this point, it doesn't sound all that bad. Pretty simple stuff. Pitching itself is quite tolerable even when the throws don't work as you intended, so long as you have the patience of an oyster. The worst bit is when you're in actual control of a player and attempt to catch a ball, as running and turning feels incredibly sluggish. Even when you clearly reach the ball, you won't necessarily pick it up, even though the game automates catches when you're close enough. It's not an issue that occurs once every so often, but almost every time. This results in a lot of lost time and bases, becoming increasingly frustrating and ending with an alarming amount of rage quits.
All things considered, MLB 11 isn't all too different from MLB 10. There are a ton of features and all the game modes return. Features like an in-game jukebox, roster control, player creation and whatnot are included. In addition, players can hook up and play together through the PSP's ad-hoc mode. Granted the PSP may not have as many button configuration options as the Dualshock, but it would've been nice to see the Pure Analog controls scheme implemented in the PSP version as well.
The game's visuals aren't the worst, nor are they spectacular, with relatively bland looking stadiums and simple looking player models. The high point of the presentation would be the animation and sound. Players move and react realistically and the commentating can be entertaining without becoming an annoying distraction. Although, admittedly, some lines are repeated once too often. I'm not a particular fan of the soundtrack, but baseball fans might enjoy it.
Like the games before it, MLB 11: The Show is a game made specifically for a selected audience, and that's the baseball constituency. Anyone else will probably have zero interest in the franchise, let alone the PSP version of it. Of course, if you have a slight curiosity that needs satiating, you might find the game interesting. However, problems with the controls and core mechanics keep it from being fun. If it weren't for the sluggish movement and poor catching mechanics, MLB 11: The Show might have been a game worth recommending, but as it stands, only baseball fans might enjoy this, and even then, it'll most likely be the PS3 version that's being enjoyed.
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