I received both MLB 2K11 and MLB 11: The Show in the mail recently, and after a couple hours with each, I’ve concluded that no one knows how to make a sports game for the casual player anymore. If you’re new to either of these franchises, you’ll need to devote hours to figuring out what the hell is going on. Pick up and play just proves frustrating.
On the plus side, both games look pretty. 2K11 has a slick, TV-style presentation, impressive stadiums, and butt-ugly players and animations. The Show’s players are better looking, the animations are fluid and realistic, but the presentation feels dated and tired in comparison.
If you’re doing anything either than pitching or batting, the controls are obtuse and poorly explained, with little helpful feedback. The Show solves this by controlling every other aspect of the game by default, while 2K11 lets you suffer.
Early on, 2K11 earns the nod for pitching and batting. I grok the “motion-controlled” pitching they have going on. Players hold the right-analog stick in a specific direction to charge the power of a pitch, then make a motion—sweep around for a curveball, a straight shot ahead for a fastball—that determines the accuracy of the pitch. At bat, pressing the right stick up is a contact swing; back then up is a power swing; left or right is a defensive swing.
The Show has three different pitching modes: press X once, use a power bar (like a golf swing), or use the analog stick. The power bar and analog stick were too difficult to wrap my head around quickly, while the single button press seemed to determine your pitch location entirely at random.
I can only assume that The Show allows for more player control over pitches, but that was never explained anywhere. Practice drills exist in both games, but The Show gave very little useful feedback, while 2K11 features very few drills with no retry option, making them incredibly frustrating.
For pure gameplay, I would rather play 2K11, but the package surrounding the gameplay is convoluted, confusing, and annoying. No favorite team? Really? I like the 2K11’s integration of MLB Today. I like The Show’s huge variety of game modes. Unfortunately, 2K11 is a frustrating experience, and I feel like I need to spend several hours researching The Show. As someone new to both franchises, neither game hooked me.