The MLB is back in action with spring training well underway. Earlier this month, Sony's San Diego studio released the latest iteration of their MLB sim, MLB 11: The Show. Nathan reviewed the outstanding PS3 version recently, and I've since spent a few hours with the PSP version. Bottomline, if you're looking for an MLB sim on the road, you can't beat this year's version of The Show.
Not a whole lot has changed from MLB 10 from what I can tell. I didn't play 10 much, but from what I remember and have read, 11, at least the PSP version, is your typical annual update. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Not unlike the NBA 2K series, San Diego Studios has The Show polished and I don't know that there is much room for improvement left on the PSP. We'll likely get one, maybe two more versions of The Show on PSP before things go over to NGP.
Anyway, MLB 11 includes updated rosters and stadiums, improved AI, custom batting stances, two player ad-hoc mode, rivalry mode, and of course the return of the Road to the Show mode. The core game, the experience with full MLB license and multiple modes, is still completely intact and familiar.
Of all the modes, Road To The Show is the most interesting. You begin by naming your player and adjusting all kinds of attributes about him from age, to name, to appearance. There are dozens of pitching and batting stances to choose from as well. After assigning an initial batch of skill points, you enter the draft.
I got picked by the White Sox and jumped right into spring training. I actually find pitching more enjoyable than hitting. It was fun watching the signs from the catcher and then trying to mimic them, or going in a completely different direction. You can imagine the commentator's reaction when I did an intentional walk for the first at bat, ha. It ended up working out. Anyway, the game will give you simple goals whenever the opposing team gets on base. The goals include things like forcing a ground out, getting ahead in the count, and so forth. By completing these goals you get more skill points to spend on your character's attributes, but if you fail to meet a goal, you lose points.
Baseball is a slow paced game, but I liked how The Show allows you to zip ahead not only to your next game, but your next appearance. This isn't a new feature, but I thought it still worth mentioning. You can also enable the fast presentation at anytime to really speed things along.
Fast presentation is just one of the many sliders and toggle options at your fingertips. From rules of the game to frequency of injury, The Show gives you a lot to work with to try and create your optimal baseball experience. Multiple difficulty settings that allow more advanced control including more granular batting with the analog nub are also on the menu.
While there is plenty to keep you busy in single player mode, you can play with a local friend, too. I wasn't able to test this feature though, but it's nice to know it's there and I have no doubt it would work nicely.
Visually, MLB 11 is pretty basic; it's as good as it needs to be, maybe about as good as it can be I suppose, on the PSP. The animations are good but the texture detail and the colors lack detail and 'pop.' As for the audio, I didn't care for the soundtrack but the commentary is great.
Overall, The Show makes a solid, if not exciting, return to the PSP this year. Let's get to the summary...