With spring training under way, it's time to brush off the cleats, dig into the batter's box, and step into another season of baseball video games.
The usual suspects are at it again: 2K Sports' MLB 2K11 and Sony's MLB 11: The Show. Both games introduce some new features and gameplay, so let's go head to head to see which game hits for the cycle.
As it's been for some time now, Xbox 360 owners will only have one choice for a baseball game: MLB 2K11. Because MLB 11: The Show is developed by a Sony property, the game is only available on PlayStation 3.
If you're one of the millions of players last year who didn't win a million dollars pitching a perfect game in MLB 2K10, the contest is back again this year, though we wouldn't be shocked if the promotion ends before this post goes live.
Marketing strategies aside, MLB 2K11 does make a few noticeable tweaks in presentation and gameplay to improve the overall realism of the experience. Fielders will respond a bit more lifelike this time around, though there still were a few unnatural-looking instances that just didn't make sense.
Regardless, it's clear that a fair amount of attention was devoted to correcting some of last year's fielding issues, and we're happy to report things are much better in 2K11.
Animations are markedly smoother in 2K11 and the batting and pitching elements feel more real-world than in year's past. MLB Today is back, too, arguably the game's most unique feature, allowing in-game players to reflect the seasons they're having in real life.
We also really enjoyed seeing the same camera angles used in-game as their broadcast-specific counterparts. Instead of a generic camera location, the 2K team emulated each team's local broadcast viewing angle. While certainly a seemingly minute detail, such an addition really adds to the overall presentation.
MLB 11: The Show
Last year's king of the diamond, MLB: The Show returns with a fair amount of its own tweaking that focuses on realism as well. However, the most notable addition this year has got to be the introduction of analog hitting, pitching, and fielding.
While a logical evolution of the game, the controls just feel too difficult when played on the medium setting. After playing eight games with the new system in place, we still felt frustrated when on defense. It appears the controls will take some time getting used to, something veteran fans of The Show may not be thrilled about.
You can still use the old button-press metered scheme, but the analog pitching system is easy enough to figure out and use proficiently, though it's hard to master, especially as you get later into a game and find your mind wandering a bit (there's a tendency in baseball video games to get a little bored of pitching). To make your pitch, you flip the right analog stick down for your wind up (power), then push it quickly forward to deliver the pitch. Where you follow through with the stick also helps determine how accurate your pitch ends up being.
With batting moving into the analog realm, you'll rock the batter back by pulling the right stick down and swinging by jamming it forward at just the right time. You choose between a contact and power swing and, as usual, have the option of trying to guess the pitch type before its delivered.
So why didn't SCEA just make it so you could swing with the Move motion controller? Well, it did. You can play with your Move controller in the Home Run Derby mode. It's actually pretty fun, though it's unclear if the way you swing--and the timing--truly correlates to how far and hard you end up hitting the ball. But it would be great if you could play the full game using the Move controller (at least for batting) instead of just the Derby mode. We get the feeling Move batting still needs some tweaks, but the potential is there for it to make the game more interesting--and fun--to play.
So there you have it; if you're lucky enough to own both systems, we'd recommend going with MLB 11: The Show. Xbox 360 owners won't be let down by 2K11, we just don't think it's a big enough jump from last year's effort. That said, neither game really makes any groundbreaking leaps. If anything, these anticlimactic offerings leave 2012 up in there air, a year where it'll truly be anyone's game.