Mar 1, 2011

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Demo Impressions: MLB 11: The Show

Demo Impressions: MLB 11: The Show

For a few years now the MLB: The Show franchise has been the unquestioned leading baseball game. In fact, I would say that in the past few years, it is has also been the best sports franchise, period. That said, there haven’t been any “major” changes to the game in some time. But who could complain when the product has always been so good? For MLB 11: The Show, SCE Studios San Diego has made some pretty ambitions changes to the upcoming title. They’ve added new analog controls for everything from hitting to pitching, and completely revamped the player models and movements, and that’s just to name a few things.

The demo released earlier this week, and everyone finally got a chance to check out the some of new features in MLB 11: The Show. How did it work out? While I think it is potentially a step in the right direction, it’s hard to judge from a demo that is only four innings long, so there could be some issues that pop up during longer gaming sessions.

Many baseball gaming fans might know that the MLB 2K series was the first baseball title to feature an all-analog control scheme. It didn’t work out that well the first year, but it has improved every year since. Still, one of the issues I have with 2K’s controls scheme is that it can get a bit tiring. I like to play more than a few games in a row and after three games of pitching nine innings each, having to move the stick in a specific direction for a certain pitch all the time, I just don’t feel like pitching anymore.

Right away, you can tell that the folks at the San Diego studio looked at 2K’s control scheme and learned from them. At least in terms of pitching, the analog system works surprisingly well. Instead of having to move each pitch in a specific direction, all you have to do is pull the analog stick back, then forward. When you move your stick forward, you have to aim it according to which side of the plate you are trying to hit. You can also flick forward faster, which will make the pitcher try to “hump up,” and increase the speed of the pitch, but just like in real life, this can cause you to lose accuracy and will tire out the pitcher faster. For more on analog pitching, check out this tutorial video because they don’t teach you how to pitch in the demo.



The new pitching controls do work very well, but there could be some issues with it. Pitching was always pretty rough in previous iterations of The Show, and while this new system adds a small degree of difficulty, I am worried that it might make pitching a bit easier. The reason I say this is because you have more control over where the pitch goes than ever before. It all depends on your control, though, so if you can master the analog movements and get the pitch into the icon every time, than every pitch could end up going exactly where you want it to go. There are a lot of things to take into account when pitching: timing, speed, accuracy, and of course player attributes, which all factor into performance, but a lot is still up to user ability. This might make pitching boring because there’s less of a challenge, and it still remains to be seen if the analog controls will get tiring during longer gaming sessions.