Review – MLB 11: The Show

San Diego Studio’s MLB: The Show series releases a new edition every year, and MLB 11: The Show hit store shelves just as Spring training is in full swing. Does it add to the franchise, or is it just a swing and a miss? Read our review after the jump to find out.

MLB 10: The Show released last year to rave reviews (including ours). MLB 10’s new additions included Road to the Show Catcher, pitcher warm-ups, improved player animations, and the MLB: The Show Movie Maker. The new add ons for MLB 11 continue towards creating the greatest baseball simulator on the video game market.

The newest addition to the series is the Pure Analog Control System. You can now use the right analog stick to control batting, pitching, and throwing. Analog batting allows you to control the hitters stride and timing by pulling back on the stick to start your stride, then push forward to swing. Timing is crucial and the analog control takes some getting used to. If you can master the timing, you can really control the bat and hit balls where you need to. Bunting just requires pressing up with no stride, and check swings can be done by just letting go of the stick.

Analog batting Control

Analog pitching is a little easier to use, and can turn you into a pinpoint master in no time. Select your pitch based on your repertoire, set your location, then pull back on your analog stick to start your wind up. Your meter will start downward. Once you reach the power line on your meter, move the stick up and towards your intended targeted location (i.e. move it up and left to go inside to a lefty). The new analog system is well done and really gives you the ultimate control.

When fielding a ball, analog throwing controls can now be used. Press the stick towards the intended base and how long you hold it pressed determines how hard your throw will be. Hold it too long and an errant throw may ensue (not always a bad thing since there is a trophy for air mailing a ball into the stands). Just tapping the analog stick towards a base will result in a lob, and these can come in handy when starting a 6-4-3 double play.

Home Run Derby returns, and now has PlayStation Move support. Be sure to strap that thing on though, as you may find yourself swinging for the fences as if you really had a bat. Bat speed, bat location, and contact are all spot on, and the faster you swing that thing, the farther that ball will fly. Your timing and location have to be correct, but pulling pitches into the stands is pretty easy once you get the swing of it.

Home Run Derby PlayStation Move View

New to MLB 11 is the ability to play co-op, both online and offline. You and a friend can play on your couch on the same team. You decide who the team captain is, then you decide how you want to approach game play. You can alternate between at-bats for hitting and for pitching. You can split up the field so one of you covers the outfield while the other covers the infield. You can be the battery (pitcher & catcher) together. There is a trophy for a co-op strike-em-out throw-em-out just make sure one player is pitching while the other player is covering the infield.

Co-op Menu Choices

In co-op you can play1 vs. 2, 2 vs. 2, or 2 vs. the CPU. In ranked matches online, you can’t team up with a player on another console, but in un-ranked matches you can. If you want to play 2 vs. 1 or 2 online, just have a friend play on your couch with you, and you are good to go. The player logged into the PS3 earns the stats and the online experience points (XP).

Decide Who Covers What

The online scoring system has been adjusted this year. You will no longer earn full XP for a short game, so don’t expect to earn 9 innings of XP for just a 2 inning game. XP is earned whether you win or lose (just not as much if you lose).

Road to the Show returns with its fifth generation (RTTS 5.0).  Changes to the way you earn training points have been made. With MLB 10, you were awarded the same points regardless of how many pitches it took you to hit a liner back up the middle. With MLB 11, the deeper you work the count, the more points you can earn. Work the count full, and drive one out of the park for a great at bat and earn mega points.

Training Points Earned

At the end of the game, you are be able to look back and see the summary of all of your at bats, and how you fared with each one. A one pitch home run is worth almost as much as a two pitch single. The idea behind this is the fact that the more pitches the opposing pitcher throws, the less effective he will be to the following batters. This is true in real life, and MLB 11 reflects that properly.

You can also look back at each at bat individually and see how you fared against right handed pitchers or left handed pitchers, how you fared against certain pitch types (i.e. change up or fastball), pitch locations, or by inning.

At Bat Breakdown

If that’s not enough data for you, you can now see how you did in your last 100 plate appearances by going to your RTTS locker room. Here you can see what your tendencies are and try to use that to better yourself at the plate.

Last 100 Breakdown

The new Performance Evaluator isn’t just for batting. It is just as helpful for your RTTS pitchers as well. You can break it down in much the same way, but from a pitchers perspective. You can view your Performance Evaluator and see pitches per inning, balls vs. strikes per inning, walks, hits, strike outs.

RTTS Game Summary

You can also head to your locker room and see your evaluation based on the last 100 batters faced. This can help you by showing you if you are relying too much on one pitch. A high percentage of fastballs will mean you are too predictable and allow the CPU to start getting more hits off of you. You can also see your ball to strike percentages, so make sure to check the evaluator out often. MLB The Show wants to help you succeed and the RTTS tools clearly show this.

Locker Room Evaluator

MLB 11: The Show is compatible with 3D TV’s, and we were able to get our hands on the game at GDC on a 3D TV. The image depth of the game in 3D was great. Playing Home Run Derby with the Move, and in 3D, really created a realism effect we weren’t expecting. The graphics for the game in 2D are as great as we have come to expect from the series, and add in 3D, and you have one of the best looking games on the market, regardless the genre.

The Challenge of the Week is a new addition that can earn you bragging rights, as well as real world prizes. The challenge generally only takes a few minutes (unless you’re really good and can stretch out long at-bats). Check out our previous post for more details on the CotW.

The bells and whistles that usually adorn a game in this series are all here. There are weather effects, stadium specific jumbo-trons, stadium specific in-game broadcast cameras, and an added announcer. The 1992 NL Rookie of the Year Eric Karros joins the team and adds to the overall experience by throwing in relative comments.

MLB 11: The Show is so deep and spot on that you just might think you’re ready to take on Roy Halliday in real life. What can San Diego Studios do next year to make the game even better?

If you’re a baseball fan, and a PS3 owner, you owe it to yourself to get this game.