MLB 11 The Show Review (PS3)
We recently changed how we do our reviews. Read about the new process here, then check out the new scoring guidelines and revised scoring rubric.
Article 1: Initial Impressions
Article 2: Initial Online Impressions
Article 3: Mid-Review Update
Article 4: Franchise and Road to the Show Impressions
If you have played an earlier version of The Show, you will feel right at home with the 2011 iteration. Things like the opening music and splash screen, or the commentary and in-game animations remain largely familiar. And to some, that will translate -- understandably -- to a feeling of staleness.
However, if you can remove that particular context from the equation, you will discover one of the deepest, most accurate and fun sports simulations available today.
The biggest addition -- and the best argument against anyone calling this a $60 roster update -- is the addition of analog controls. I broke down why I liked this innovation in my initial impressions article, and after a week, my opinion has not changed. This new control system effectively changes more than just the way you input your actions. It makes you think a bit more, which heightens the tactical and decision-making elements of baseball.
Outside of the analog controls, fielding has been improved to better take into account player ratings. Small additions, like balks and fake throws, may not be used that often, but certainly push the game closer to the real thing. And I find things like hit variety and CPU AI to be as good or better than they were in the past. All said, this game is a challenge and a joy to play.
As good as the gameplay is offline, it’s almost that bad online, at least in the first week. My experiences have not been good so far, and I have not seen much improvement since then. The game just seems to play differently online, especially while batting.
Additions to online modes include exhibition co-op and weekly challenges, but I don’t see myself spending much time with these additions, and they certainly don’t make up for poor player-vs-player gameplay.
(Ed. note -- we will be taking a closer look at co-op and the new league additions at a later date. It's more time-intensive than what we could do in just the first week.)
This is the area that probably gets the most criticism from the OS community, and it's not without reason. Not much has changed for at least three years in this area, outside of Eric Karros. Still, it is good presentation, with real-time cameras, nice replays and on-point (if repetitive) commentary.
The biggest addition, in my mind, is the custom camera editor and broadcast cameras. I detailed my feelings about these things in the mid-review update article, but just to reiterate, broadcast cameras help make the game feel more authentic while the camera editor helps tailor the experience to the user. Here’s hoping this feature becomes an industry standard.
While every sports season can play out differently, the few I simmed looked pretty good at the end. Most player stats were in line with their 2010 numbers, with some breakout or slump years scattered in, too. In one sim, Zach Greinke ran away with the NL Cy Young and MVP, while veterans, like Jimmy Rollins, continued a slow decline.
On a game-to-game basis, the numbers also hold up pretty well. Personally, I strike out too much and give up too many hits, but that should get better as I play more and eventually fiddle with sliders. On the default Expert mode, I am challenged and end up with around 6-12 hits. Pitch counts seem sound as well, and I tend to burn out my pitchers faster than the CPU.
Franchise mode is still a great mode to play, but it has not been significantly upgraded. In addition, it is held back by some seemingly bad trade logic, call up/down problems and a crippling free agency bug that has been detailed in painstaking detail by our amazing users (a patch is in the works for this issue, according to Sony). However, it does contain some nearly text-sim-level options, including arbitration and a Rule 5 Draft.
Road to the Show, on the other hand, is much different, and for the better. The new scoring system is more indicative of your overall performance instead of merely outcomes. The training exercises are also beneficial and fun to play. However, the load times make this mode a tough one to jump in and out of at a moment's notice.
MLB 11: The Show is not a perfect game. Clearly there are some issues while playing online and within Franchise mode, and some might still argue that the series is starting to feel stale. However, it is this writer’s opinion that this game is a significant upgrade from the already stellar MLB 10. What is still the same is usually still very good. What has been changed -- analog controls, RttS, broadcast cameras, etc. -- helps to make this version of The Show the best yet on the PS3.
It might not be a Halladay perfect game, but it's at least a one-hit complete game shutout.
Learning Curve: The analog controls will take some getting used to, but they are worth the time. The practice drills help ease the learning curve.
Control Scheme: It took SCEA a while to implement the analog controls, but for the most part, they are simple to grasp, effective at creating authenticity and fun to use.
Visuals: Superb lighting, improved player models and dynamic weather make this one of the best looking sports games on any platform.
Audio: The commentary is not bad, it just gets repetitive. I love that custom audio is now more configurable than ever.
Stadiums: They look great, and the individualized broadcast cameras make each one feel a bit different, too.
Animations: You will occasionally see the same one too many times in one game. But, separately, they are well done. Even the cut scenes and player interaction before and during games are nice. Clipping is still a bit of a graphical issue.
Score: 8.5 (Great)