It’s often hard to tell the difference between one year’s MLB 2K and the next. Just about every aspect of this year’s 2K Sports take on the national pastime is the same as last year’s 2K Sports take on the national pastime. Some minor improvements on the field make for more realistic games, the player-ratings system has been upgraded, a new throwing meter is used when fielding, and some of the visuals have been fine-tuned. But other than that, this is just a baby step forward for the series.
Chicks dig the long ball, men fear the beard.
With all that said, MLB 2K11 is still a very good baseball game. This new game rehashes everything that made last year’s edition perhaps the best in the history of the series. Modes of play have been carried over with few noteworthy changes. My Player mode still lets you create a pro and role-play him from AA to the majors, earning skill points through being able to take part in every at-bat, pitch, and fielding attempt. Little work has been done to improve depth, though. In-game challenges are pretty much the same. Skill advancement is the same. Even the generic career advice offered on the menu screen is the same. It’s now a little harder to make it to the bigs, due to added criteria like having to achieve ratings in a range of specific skill categories before getting a phone call. Just knocking the cover off the ball for a few weeks isn’t good enough anymore. Skill points are freely handed out for about everything you do in games, however, so even with these added hurdles, it isn’t all that arduous to make it to the show.
Franchise mode still lets you take over an entire team and try to get deep into October for years into the future. A few adjustments have been made, mainly to injury tracking; players can now come down with minor nagging problems that reduce their effectiveness. You now need to make more managerial decisions, deciding whether your starter at 85 percent is a better bet than his backup at full health. MLB Today mode lets you track the real pros and play games day by day as the season progresses from spring training through the World Series. Other standard options let you get into exhibitions, online matches and leagues, a home-run derby, training competitions, and so on. The overall feature package is identical to last year, so if you’re familiar with the series, you know exactly what to expect. About the only noteable upgrade is stable and almost lag-free online play (there is an almost imperceptible delay when batting on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, so you have to swing a split second earlier in comparison to taking cuts offline), which is a huge improvement over the matchmaking bugs that made it tough to find games a year ago.
Your dreams of putting on the pinstripes can finally come true. Warning: they’re the Florida Marlins pinstripes.
A handful of minor refinements combine to make the diamond action more realistic in MLB 2K11. At-bats have been tweaked in subtle ways to provide more authentic pitcher-batter showdowns. It’s easier to read pitches this year in the batter’s box. AI pitchers are more authentic and can’t paint corners as robotically as they did last year. In other words, they throw more balls. As a result, you can work counts effectively, fight off tough pitches, and hang in there for walks. Running on the basepaths is also more accurate now. Last year, it was pretty much impossible to steal bases, or even move ahead on a hit and run without nailing a solid single or better. Now, it’s still tough, but it’s at least possible to swipe a bag every so often if you get a great jump. Pitching pretty much stays the course. Twirling and twisting the right stick to throw different pitches remains as accurate and innovative as ever. Pitchers respond a little more dramatically to pressure now, though, as the gamepad throbs and the cursor shakes with runners on. At times, this is a bit much, as when you see an experienced World Series winner like Josh Beckett practically having a nervous breakdown on the rubber after giving up a homer and a double in the first inning of a game in April.