Review: MLB 11: The Show (PSP)

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Every year you can count on the release of sports games to mark the new season for each sport. And while there may still be snow on the ground at my house, baseball season is here, and with it a new release of MLB ‘The Show’.

The MLB: The Show games are Sony-only platform games that have outshone the 2K games MLB series for the last several years. The games have been released across the PS2, PS3 and PSP, and have represented the pinnacle of video game baseball in recent years.

I have generally been critical of these types of games because to me they largely feel like a $40-60 annual subscription for a very slowly evolving release, making it feel like you are paying for tweaks and roster updates. My solution to this is to only get an entry every ~3 years. This works for me, as I can see true gameplay changes across that time period.

Well, until now! After playing MLB 11: The Show I came to two conclusions: (1) this is still the best video game baseball and (2) this could have been MLB 08 and I wouldn’t have known!

MLB 11: The Show has several game modes: exhibition, manager mode, home run derby, and Road to the Show. These are fairly self-explanatory, but let me describe them quickly. Exhibition gets you into a game quickly, choosing a team and getting to play through the entire game however you like. When the game ends you are done – it is a quick fix.

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In Home Run Derby, your goal is … well, to hit the long ball. Manager mode is more about guiding your team through the season than actually playing the games.

The main part of the game is ‘Road to the Show’. In this mode you start with a basic player, customize name and basic appearance, assign positions and then get into specific stats. You can emphasize pitching over everything else, or make a balanced fielder and hitter, and so on. There are no ‘steroids’ stats available, so pursuing Barry Bonds’ career is out!

Once you have your player created, you can choose a team or go through the draft. Then it is off to spring training, where you play through all of the games and try to make it on to the team! This involves playing offense and defense and meeting target goals to help your team win games. Controls in Road to the Show are slightly different than in exhibition mode, and can take some getting used to.

When you pitch, you can take the catcher’s suggestion or choose your own pitch. Then you use the analog stick to select ball placement, and throw using a three tap power gauge. This combines with your skills to make you succeed or fail. Think of it as a baseball RPG … I know BioWare would!

Hitting is similar: you can predict the pitches and zone, and then tap the right button at the right time. If you guessed correctly your hitting stats get a huge boost. You can bunt and swing for a home run – the choice is yours. If you hit the ball your player immediately starts to run towards first base, and then you can decide what to do.

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In the field you need to keep your wits about you, as everything happens in real time. If you are in the outfield you will barely be able to see what is happening until the ball is thrown, and then you have precious little time to react and get to the right spot. That said I like the view from behind in Road to the Show better than working from home plate in an exhibition game.

You can choose how much you want to play versus how much should be simulated or just happen behind the scenes. If you play all plays on offense and defense each game can last around 15 minutes, far longer if your are pitching! It makes for a huge and engaging experience.

One other cool thing – Sony has already released roster updates to bring the game in line with the actual line-ups each team is using. It is a simple download and well worth the few minutes.

If you have played a PSP version of MLB The Show in the last couple of years, you can easily skip this one and not miss a whole lot. So little has changed, and some things have been removed, and ultimately you will be disappointed. But if you have never played or it has been a few years, go ahead and buy – it is quite a solid game!

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Pros:
+ Road to the Show is engaging and engrossing
+ Quick modes and deep gameplay
+ Tons of hours will be lost playing this

Cons:
– Pretty much the same as last year … and the year before that
– Number of stances and other things actually decreased!

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PSP, also available on PS2 and PS3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEA San Diego Studio
Release Date: 3/8/2011
Genre: Sports – Baseball
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2 (offline only)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!