Play Ball! Baseball season is back, the games are in full swing and Major League Baseball 2K11 is your ticket to the ball park. 2K Sports has released this year’s edition of MLB but does it hit a home run or is it a swing and a miss?
Major League Baseball 2K11 brings a lot to the table this year with tons of game modes and added extras. Admittedly, the game loads a lot of data before you get to the actual game. It’s great to have an extra like MLB Today to keep up with your favorite teams and activity in the league but the added load time feels a bit dragged out. However, the game makes up for the heavy loading with the quick menu system. Simply by flicking the right stick you pull up the main menu and can jump to any mode in the game. The convenience of not having to exit, wait for more loading and still have to navigate another menu is indispensable.
Getting to the menu quickly is also great since the menu has so many options. Outside of the traditional exhibition mode and franchise selections, you have Home Run Derby, Online Leagues, My Player and drills to help fine tune your skills. Although I had a lot of fun playing the drills, I really fell in love with My Player mode quite a bit. My Player lets you create your own character and draft him to your desired team. While you have to start in the minors, you work on improving your players’ stats by completing specific challenges. You can simulate the game up to your next at-bat or fielding situation and pending how you complete the tasks, you are awarded points for your performance. It helps ease the slow pace of a real game and you don’t spend the whole game waiting to be involved.
When it comes to a regular game, MLB 2K11 captures the feel of a baseball event well. The fields are complimented by a very lively crowd, no generic cut outs in these stands. The fans are always moving and making noise. They even fight to catch homeruns and foul balls. The players in the dugout dodge foul balls also. 2K Sports has also put some work into the uniqueness of individual players. The details in their batting stances are done so accurately you feel like you’re watching a live game. Aside from the well textured characters and home fields, the only noticeable graphical issues I found were objects moving through other objects. For example, at the end of a game, you can view press book photos from the game. While this does add another element of realism to the game, it does bring to light some of these faults. In the collection of great pictures, you see some pictures with feet going through bases and/or hands going through gloves. You might miss these problems in-game but the stills make them very obvious.
The gameplay is pretty challenging but does get simpler with the use of the drills mode. The learning curve isn’t too high when it comes to pitching but it will take some practice to do the gestures well. You use the right stick to throw your pitches while taking into account the balls path to the catcher. The pitching gestures range from simply down-up to a more complicated right-full circle. The movements take practice and the key to getting those strikeouts is timing. The batting is also done with the right stick and requires the patience of real baseball. It is challenging to hit a good ball but it is also very satisfying when you do. Fielding is easy and far less complicated then the latter. All you have to do is get use to switching players and running in the correct direction. As you know, incorrectly fielding a line drive single can turn into a game changing triple. Luckily for those of you without the patience to learn all the nuances for each area of the field, you can change the difficulty sliders in the options and fine tune the complexity of pitching and each other aspect of your baseball experience.
Major League Baseball 2K11 is a pretty clean simulation baseball game that has some rough edges. The commentary sounds like a broadcast game at first but after 9 innings you will have heard the same dialogue at least 6 times pending how many times your rotation has gone up. I also had an instance when a replay chose a camera way far from the actual play. On a lighter note, the ability to climb walls and rob homeruns is a fun addition and makes great replay saves. With MLB 2K11 being the only baseball simulation on the Xbox 360, baseball fans don’t have any other options in the genre. While this game isn’t perfect, it does capture some of the finer but greater points of the sport. 2K Sports has continued to improve the game year by year and 2K11 is a step in the right direction.