For baseball fans who want something beyond the hot dogs and the cracker jacks they get at their favorite ballpark, The MLB 2K Sports games are the next best thing when it comes to experiencing all the behind-the-scenes action of professional baseball. This year’s Major League Baseball 2K11 offers a lot of what last year’s title offered with enhanced graphics and updates, but there is a lot that could have been improved upon as well.
Like last year’s MLB title, 2K11 brings back joystick motions for pitching. This means you’ll once again have to select the pitch you want to perform and move the right stick in the appropriate motion. You’ll also have a set amount of time depending on your pitcher’s composure and stamina to perform the motion or else your throws won’t be successful. As you pitch, you’ll also have to be on the look out for base steals, so like in a real game, you’ll have to concentrate on being defensive as well as offensive. These controls are fun and simple, but they manage to give the game some variance. If you’ve played fighting games, you’ll get used to the motions and you’ll learn the right timing for good pitches.
When it comes to fielding, the game cuts you some slack by letting the computer run after the balls, but you can switch to any outfield player closest to the airborne ball to manually control him. All you have to do is stand in the ball’s target area and you’ll catch it. You might want to control your players most of the time as the CPU isn’t reliable enough and sometimes makes bad choices like throwing the ball to someone at first base when the player is clearly closer to second base.
Batting is also just a matter of flicking the right stick or holding it down and then releasing it for more powerful hits. Like in real life, batting takes some getting used to and the game always tracks how fast the pitcher’s balls are flying or how close you were to hitting the ball. In fact, the game gives you so many stats, it’s a bit overwhelming. Numbers, percentages, and even win probabilities are all calculated after every out, point, and inning. It’s great for fans who truly care about their team’s records, but it may be a bit too much for novice players who just want to make it through nine innings.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the sounds you hear when you’re on the field. The sound effects are crisp and vary depending on where you’re playing. Fans will often yell out the names of the players on your home team and boo the opposing team. The impressive commentary by Steve Phillips, Gary Thorne, and John Kruk is fluid and very convincing. Sometimes you’d be surprised at the things they comment about. For example, if you’re keen on bunting every turn at bat and finally decide to swing, they will mention how you surprised them by not bunting.
Unfortunately, while the sounds are inviting, the graphics are not. 2K11 has more polished textures than last year’s title, but they still give the game a very flat and empty look. You won’t be able to recognize many of the player’s faces on the field unless you take a good look at them and even then, their features are a bit iffy. The stadium detail is nice and the fans in the crowd are individually animated, but their bright colors don’t blend well with their surroundings making them look out of place. If the game had perhaps focused more on its shading and color tones, I think it would given the environments a more realistic appearance.
The game’s My Player mode is back with more opportunities to train your rookie and make him a star. You’ll get a chance to make a name for yourself by passing various goals throughout a game depending on your player’s title and level up your skills with the points you get per goal. These clutch moments make a game feel very segmented and unconnected, but at least you won’t have to sit through a whole game of just waiting for the chance to make a difference on your team. When you customize your player, you’ll also notice how many unique animations the game has for each MLB player. Each player’s signature mannerisms and stances have been captured to a T and have been redone from 2K10. Overall, they’re quite impressive.
The game also features its traditional Franchise mode with added features like the ability to manage minor league divisions. You can also play other modes such as Home Run Derby, Tournaments, and modes that let you practice your managerial and batting skills. These modes are all right, but the best part is the game’s online modes that let you manage your own leagues, play in tournaments and take advantage of MLB Today which tracks and lets you play games that happened that same day in the real world. MLB Today also updates seasonal rankings and a player’s stats daily so that means if your favorite player gets injured in real life, he’ll be injured in your game too.
As you play the game, you’ll notice how robotic some of the overall animations appear, especially when players are up to bat. While the game could have used more fluid animations, they are a lot better than 2K10′s animations. Each player has his own gestures when pitching, but other than that, there’s nothing too impressive in the way they move. You might also notice some bugs from time to time, whether they be quick freezes or home runs that count as outs too. It will have you thinking someone didn’t consult a ref before releasing this game.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is very detailed when it comes to numbers and stats, but it lacks polish in graphics and animation. The menus are also cumbersome to navigate and the background music isn’t very good. Aside from its shortcomings in presentation, Major League Baseball 2K11 offers a solid baseball simulation experience any true MLB fan will appreciate. You’ll definitely be spending a lot of time playing the game now that baseball season has started, and the MLB Today feature will let you give your favorite team another chance to win big.
A copy of MLB 2K11 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review from 2k Sports.