Major League Baseball 2K11
After playing much of Major League Baseball 2K11, I wonder what happened to the development team on the 2K series. For years, 2K managed to pull off some tremendous competitors to entries from publishers like Sony and Electronic Arts. Last year, MLB 2K10 seemed on track and has some promising features that were attempting to compete with the phenomenal MLB 10 on the Playstation 3. Of course, an Xbox 360 owner doesn't have that luxury of choice and has to rely on 2K for their baseball goodness.
My biggest complaint with 2K11 has to do with altering the pitching control and moving it to the right thumb stick. The raised difficulty curve has made it extremely hard for any of my buddies to sit down with me and play a game. Stitching between pitches is easy, but altering rotation and nailing the timing is extremely tough. I probably pitched about 5 full games before I was comfortable with a couple pitches. Hitting, on the other hand, has gotten easier by moving the controls to the right thumb stick. You can jump between different types of swings in a snap, even after the ball has left the hand of the pitcher. It requires a quick eye as well, but the automatic mechanic to predict pitches also comes in handy and helps the novice player. There's just a lack of balance between hitting and pitching when new players are introduced to the game.
There hasn't been much work on expanding the game modes compared to 2K10. The most substantial tweaks have been focused on the My Player mode. For those unfamiliar, you take an aspiring player and mold him into a superstar from Double A ball to the Majors. You earn skill points along the way based of your performance on the field, both offensive and defensive. If you are playing as anyone except a pitcher, you seem to earn points faster than last year's version, but getting to the big show is tougher. Some aspects that haven't changed are the canned career advice and the challenges to complete.
Unfortunately, much of my time in the game was spent pondering ridiculous A.I. leaps in logic. Too often outfielders would slowly trot to catch a pop fly, but be off by a few steps. Why wasn't he running faster? Why do managers try to pull out a starter if they are still relatively loose and have some pitches left in them? I had a manager try to pull a pitcher after he gave up a home run in the 4th at about 40ish pitches in. Players also have a tendency to make their best effort to get injured during a season. I can understand normal injuries, but players chased foul balls all the time that were never going to be in their reach. There's also a stupidly nasty bug that counts both a run and an out if you climb up the wall to rob a player of their homer.
Online performance has improved significantly compared to last year's version, namely it feels much more stable and lag free. You will still run into from lag issues with fielding, but they rarely alter the outcome of the game. Similar to last year, there's also support for online leagues if playing through a full season of games is your idea of fun. Beyond the online multiplayer, you also have 50 achievements to tackle and the set is fairly fragmented. There are no set group of tasks for each mode, but rather varied tasks based on types of plays or winning a game in a certain game mode. Unfortunately, you can still game the achievements by using custom sliders making the achievements like 'Throwing a Perfect Game' a walk in the park. It's really unfortunate that 2K continues to cheapen sports achievements when such a simple fix could be put in place to halt it.
Compared to last year's version, Visual Concepts has greatly improved the on-field animations. Unfortunately, there's still a variety of choppy frame rate issues that plague fielding pop flies and occasionally ground balls. The player models haven't been improved much either and the majority of players that aren't superstars look ugly. However, the field and surrounding stadium seems much more lifelike due to higher quality lighting effects. But compared to MLB 11: The Show on the Playstation 3, Major League Baseball 2K11 looks like a game that's a couple years behind.
The trio of John Kurk, Steve Phillips and Gary Thorne is a fantastic group and works extremely well in 2K11. You won't notice a tremendous amount of new dialogue though and it's more directed at light commentary on the game rather than statistical analysis. The sound effects, while muted, are as effective as any other baseball game. Crowd noise seems a bit quite though, especially when the home team needs the support. If you like hard rock, you will probably dig the soundtrack. You will hear bands like Trenchtown, We Are Scientists, Pearl Jam and The Willows during the game. I'm somewhat ambivalent on the music as I don't think it really effects the presentation greatly.
As mentioned earlier, you don't have any other choice for a baseball game on the 360 this year. Major League Baseball 2K11 is a poor effort in updating last years game by 2K and it feels like they are cashing in on the lack of competition on the Xbox 360. I'm also scratching my head on why it was even developed for the PS3 with the stellar MLB 11 up against it. When you add in the bugs, you have a game that's probably best left on the shelf this year. I would recommend renting Major League Baseball 2K11 if you have an Xbox 360 to get a feel for the game and see how much you are willing to put up with. If you have a PS3, you obviously need to buy MLB 11: The Show instead of this game.