MLB 2K11 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted May 03, 2011

The folks at 2K Sports have been really trying to bring the heat over the past couple of years, but with MLB: The Show distancing itself from the baseball gaming pack, it's time to take a look to see what Major League Baseball 2K11 is doing to try and keep the pace.

The Pros
  • Solid, if not spectacular, gameplay.
  • Not so difficult to the point of being frustrating.
  • Good Hitting Mechanic.
The Cons
  • AI glitches and makes bad decisions.
  • Not a whole lot in the way of tutorial.
  • Lots of pieces don't necessarily add up to a satisfying whole.

MLB 2K11 Review:

The first thing you'll notice about MLB 2K11 is that there's not much in the way of change, which is both a good and bad thing. The place where the game really shines, and the thing they hang their hat on, is the pitching function, which remains much the same here as in last year's edition.

Toeing The Rubber

Phillies hurler Roy Halladay graces the cover, and a lot of the emphasis has been placed on pitching, which is an analog system that requires some work to get your pitches right. It does, however, work a lot better at this point than MLB 11: The Show's brand-new analog pitching system, owing primarily to the fact that they've had a couple seasons to get it right.

If, however, you're not used to the MLB 2K11 pitching mechanic, there aren't a lot of ways to learn, other than actually playing a game, which is going to result in you getting pounded out there, throwing wild pitches and serving up gopherballs with alarming regularity. In other words, be patient. There are drills, which are supposed to help you, but they're equally frustrating, as they don't really teach you anything and come with a scoring system that doesn't seem to make any sense.

Hitting, on the other hand, is a refreshing change from The Show, where trying to guess where the ball will be is a rage-inducing experience. Your batter, for better or worse, has a much better eye in 2K11, which means you'll be making contact a lot more. That sort of visceral joy can't be discounted, and goes a long way toward your enjoyment of the game. What to do when you get on base is another story altogether. Thanks to a completely non-intuitive running system, you'll be banging out a lot of singles and then furtively trying to advance your runner.

This is sort of the overall story with MLB 2K11. As Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat so eloquently put it, they take two steps forward and one step back. Batting is good, but why do I need a grey box obfuscating the ball as it comes to the plate? It makes it seem like your batter has cataracts. Fielding is fine, but do I really need my AI to airmail throws when winning a game is hard enough as it is?

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Working Out of the Stretch

The presentation of the game itself is adequate, if not spectacular. Steve Phillips, Gary Thorne, and John Kruk do a nice job with the voice commentary, just as they do in real life, and the ballparks are nicely rendered. Some of the animation is a little glitchy, though, with people sort of floating through space without any weight and such, especially when it comes to fielding.

As seems to often be the case with 2K Sports games, some of the menu navigation is confusing and things aren't always where you expect them to be. Also, if the drills are the way to tutor yourself about the game, why can't I repeat them until I get them right, instead of backing out to the main menu and having to navigate my way back into it? Would it be too much to ask for a "Try Again" function?

He's A Good Looking Prospect

Some of the game modes you'll recognize from MLB 2K10 are back, including My Player, which lets you guide a player through his career, playing only in his body on offense and defense, which, in theory, is a good idea, but can lead to some mighty lonely moments if you've chosen to play as an outfielder, for example. Also, Franchise Mode has taken a nice little step forward, allowing you to manage your minor league teams as part of your franchise, so you're running the show from top to bottom. Both modes still have a little way to go, but they're improved, and can add some depth to the game. For you fans of the long ball, the Home Run Derby is always a good time if you just want to lie back and smack the ball around a little.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of the great hooks of MLB 2K11, which is their Million Dollar Challenge. That's right, if you're 13 years old or older, and you're the first to throw a perfect game in 2K11, it's worth a million real-life dollars to you. That really ratchets up the stakes, doesn't it? At least until some 13 year old kid makes you feel foolish by accomplishing it in about three days. Still, there aren't a lot of games that offer up that kind of achievement, and it's definitely a sales point.

Warning Track Power

Overall, MLB 2K11 has done enough to close the gap on MLB: The Show, and has delivered a solid, if not exceptional game experience. They still have a way to go to make it a truly great baseball game, but I do have to commend them for not trying to take on too much and just trying to improve and expand on some of the things they're already doing. Too many times, you'll see a developer add bells and whistles when their foundation isn't solid, and 2K Sports has avoided that trap.

At this point, there are a lot of decent pieces here, but they don't necessarily add up to a wholly satisfying experience. It's easy to see, though, how those dots might be connected in the not-too-distant future to make for a really good baseball game.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?