Major League Baseball 2K11 Review (Wii)
Ever since MLB 2K8 debuted on the Wii, each successive release has seemingly been treading the same ground. There are some tweaks here and there, 2K slaps on a new cover, and voila, out the door she goes. This year is no different. Besides a semi-complete roster update and a new "mode" being included, it’s really hard to tell just where the developers spent their time. There’s nothing in the game that suggests a hint of innovation, and everything -- from the graphics to the controls -- seems at least a couple years behind.
To be fair, the gameplay itself is actually not so bad. Out of the box, it is tilted to the arcade side of things, but experiment with the sliders a little, and it is not hard to get some simulation-style baseball going. The ball physics are fairly realistic, and there’s some variety in both player animations and the types of hits.
But fielding those hits is a pain. This is partly because the motion controls don't always register properly (or in time), and partly because there is very little assistance when you’re positioning your fielder, so it’s incredibly easy to overrun a ball.
Yikes. I mean, yikes.
The graphics are just bad, no two ways about it. The colors are gray and washed out, animations are stiff and choppy, and most of the (very jagged looking) players look nothing like their real-life counterparts. While the stadiums, in comparison, look more like the real thing, they still suffer from that early PS2 look that seems to dog the whole game. Crowds, as you might expect, are of the crudely drawn, 2-D variety.
Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips do a decent job calling the games, and the contextual lines work well in their given situations. However, there are still some occasions when the wrong line kicks in. For example, Thorne will call a foul ball a home run, or say that the game is over during the fifth inning. If you can stand these occasional snafus, the audio is actually quite tolerable.
The biggest question is why there is no MotionPlus support? Better yet, why still no MotionPlus support? It’s the one thing the game cries out for, because as it stands, the advantages of having a motion-sensing Wii are negated by the inaccuracy of the old technology.
The motion-control scheme seems like an alternative, as opposed to an enhancement, to button pressing. You select your pitch with the Nunchuk, point the remote at the TV to aim, shake it once to trigger a bullseye, and then shake it again to try to hit the sweet spot. All of this can be done on a control pad with just about as much satisfaction and less hassle. This is especially disappointing when you consider the PS3 and Xbox versions of MLB 2K allow players to simulate the pitches with their analog sticks.
Batting, too, is simplistic. A flick simulates a swing. That’s it. While that might save you from potential carpal tunnel syndrome in the long run, it’s almost comical to watch the ball clear the upper deck with a tame flick of a wrist. As far as I can tell, hitting is almost completely timing based. As long as the ball is in the strike zone, the only thing you control is the timing of your swing, with no aiming involved.
Check swing and bunts are mapped to buttons, possibly because the Wii can’t accurately detect these complicated gestures. While it’s not a bad compromise, it does take some getting used to since it’s counter-intuitive to hold up on a swing by pressing an extra button.
The game comes with the standard offerings -- exhibition, tournament, home run derby, franchise and mini diamond. There is still no My Player mode, meaning that the only long-term draw of the game is the Franchise mode. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, the mode should help you kill some time, as long as you don’t expect too much realism.
For example, many of the offseason trades are not implemented in the game -- and it does not have any online functionality, again, so good luck with your rosters. In addition, players rated 90-plus overall languish in free agency for seasons, and the baseball draft takes place in November. But hey, it’s still the best way to try to justify your $50 purchase.
New to this year’s game is the Mini Diamond, which is akin to the pond hockey in NHL 2K games. Basically, it’s a mini version of the sport played in some, uh, "funky" venues, like a low-gravity space station or a circus. The mode is best enjoyed with a friend or two, and maybe after a few beverages -- preferably adult ones -- because it’s basically a slugfest with very little strategy involved.
It took them a year to do all this?
If this review seems curiously similar to our review of MLB 2K10, that’s because the game is curiously similar to MLB 2K10. The whole thing just feels like it was hastily cobbled together with very little effort involved. The ironic thing is that the baseball simulation itself -- if you care to watch a CPU versus CPU match -- plays fine, it’s just that everything else surrounding it falls apart.
Learning Curve: If you have full command of your hands, you should be fine.
Control Scheme: A passable, if unsatisfying, use of the Wii remote.
Audio: Thorne and Phillips are decent enough, given the quality of everything else in the game. Some sound effects and background noises give the game just enough atmosphere.
Online: What online?
Score: 3.5 (Subpar)