Video Game Review: MLB 2K11
Through Spring Training there were a pair of posts here at BFTB with videos for MLB 2K11, the newest edition of 2K Sports’ baseball series. The series is one I have been playing for the past few years, ever since the sports video game landscape changed when EA Sports purchased “exclusivity” rights with the NFL. In addition, I had also been contacted about receiving a review copy of the game well ahead of its scheduled March release date. Accepting the offer was a no brainer considering I intended to purchase it anyway. Of course, when the game finally did arrive in mid-March I was still in transition with regards to our recent move back to Massachusetts. We were still sleeping on couches with our belongings in storage waiting for an address to be delivered to. Included within that storage was my tv and, more importantly, my Playstation 3. I couldn’t play the game for another three weeks.
Now, for the past few years 2K Sports has taken a great deal of criticism for the MLB 2K series for a variety of reasons. Some people find fault with the graphics. Others with the gameplay. Some feel the roster updates aren’t accurate enough or updated often enough. Then there are the ones who simply prefer the alternative, MLB The Show. For me, it was the little things that make the game realistic that were missing. Shortstops throwing the ball wide of first base. Outfielders dropping fly balls. Injuries. 1-0 victories. Stolen bases. There was always something lacking from the games and I was always hopeful the next year’s edition would show improvements.
The first few games are usually a good test. Had I thrown the game in right from the package and pitched a 2-hit, 9-0 shutout victory in the first game that would have been a sign of bad things to come. But so far, the game has not disappointed.
To get a feel for this year’s game I started a new season, with all 30 MLB franchises as a user controlled team so that I could play as, and against, everyone. And there have been some interesting results to my first 25 games or so. I lost my first five games. Then won the next six. Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus, two of the better defensive shortstops in the AL, each have had two-error games. Joe Mauer sailed a throw into center field while trying to throw out a runner at second on a steal attempt. Adrian Gonzalez and Seth Smith had four-hit games while Billy Butler and Mark Reynolds struck out three times apiece. Dan Haren and Felix Hernandez pitched 1-0 complete game shutout losses. Rafael Furcal (separated shoulder diving for a ball), Denard Span (torn MCL diving back into first to avoid a double play), C.C. Sabathia (sprained ankle while pitching), and Mike Pelfrey (torn shoulder) have all fallen to various injuries. I’ve had a few 1-0 or 3-2 losses. There have been numerous 4-2 or 3-0 victories. Nobody’s been blown out by a margin greater than 5 runs. Jorge de la Rosa struck out 11 Diamondbacks. Edinson Volquez struck me out 8 times as the Brewers.
Overall the gameplay has impressed me, after a few tweaks to the game’s sliders (a customary task each year that lets me fine tune the game to how I want it to play). The game’s AI is far improved from any previous MLB 2K game. Opposing pitchers throw the ball off the plate, forcing me to be patient and wait for a hittable pitch. Opposing batters work walks, causing pitch counts to reach into realistic figures as the game progresses into the later innings. Managers pinch hit and bring in relief pitchers more timely in this year’s game. The better players are tougher to face. It’s no longer irrelevant who’s at the plate, be it Hanley Ramirez or Adam Everett I’d typically have the same result in prior year’s games. Now, I have pitch more cautiously to Ramirez because he’s capable of much more than Everett ever was. The same goes for the opposing pitchers. Jered Weaver was tougher to hit against than Ian Kennedy was.
Graphically the 2K series games have never been the superior option. But, I’ve been ok with that. The game has certainly improved from last years as the stadium and player models are much more accurate. This is one area where MLB The Show reigns supreme. But, as I mentioned before, I prefer the stronger gameplay and that is what really sets the two games apart for me. What the 2K games lack in graphics, they make up for with the gameplay.
In a baseball video game I want something I can enjoy playing, has some realism to it, and provides a challenge rather than just being an endless string of easy victories. In the end, I’m happy with the game for what it is and would certainly recommend it for anyone looking for an enjoyable baseball game to experience.