It’s never easy to play catch-up, and the gang at 2K Sports has been trailing The Show franchise for a few seasons now. The gap between the two isn’t nearly as wide as it was just two seasons ago, though, and in some ways the 2K franchise is on par with their Sony counterparts – but not enough to unseat the reigning champ. While MLB2K11 is built on a foundation that produces plenty of fun, the franchise appears to be jogging on a treadmill. Lacking any new substantial modes or “wow” factors, it’s not a gotta-have title.
Frankly speaking, we’ve grown weary of the same old grind with baseball simulations. While we don’t profess to speak for everyone, we’ve got to imagine that there’s a growing contingent of sports fans like us that would love something other than franchises, playoffs, online play, and generic “My Player” modes in their games. We know that’s why NBA 2K11 with Michael Jordan was such an amazing success – people love compelling new ways to experience their favorite sports. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: how engrossed would we be if we could step in the shoes of Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak or inhabit Ted Williams in his one and only World Series appearance? The sheer number of options in such a history-rich sport is exponential, yet they remain unexplored.
To be fair, 2K11 has plenty of bright spots. The presentation is top notch, and the commentary provided by the three-man crew is superb. Player attributes are updated daily based on their real-life performance – which can be a blessing or a curse. Pitchers show emotion when they get a big strikeout or give up a crucial run, and the updated fielding controls feel natural enough, too. The online play is relatively smooth, which is key, considering that playing against another human is always more fun that an AI opponent.
Even so, MLB 2K11 feels an awful lot like its predecessors. In some ways, such as the controls, this is fine; hitting consistently is relatively easy, and the pitching mechanics fit like a glove. In other ways, we’re closer to bored than ever. Perhaps it’s the inevitable result of playing dozens of 162-game seasons over the life of the franchise this generation, but it’s getting harder than ever to get excited about doing the same thing again. Even the My Player mode doesn’t bring the same juice it used to, despite some subtle improvements. It seems we’ve been spoiled by 2K’s hoops counterpart.
Some of the visual gaffes that occur each game don’t help matters much, either. The camera gets choppy sometimes in the transition from batter to fielder when you make contact with the ball (especially pop flies), and individual player motions aren’t always smooth. There can also be some downright ugly shadows on players that’ll make you do a double-take.
While we’re having some fun with MLB 2K11, we can envision a scenario where the “new baseball game” sheen wears off and we lose steam quickly. It takes a special game to keep our interest over the long haul, and 2K11 may not have enough to grip us tightly and never let go.
Mar 16, 2011