previews\ Jan 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm

MLB 2K11


Fans of baseball titles know that there's one heavy hitter game that comes every year: MLB 2K. Well, to be honest, they are the only heavy hitter is due to their exclusive contract with Major League Baseball, but that is neither here nor there. For the most part, MLB 2K titles have been a decent franchise, with some hiccups in the past.

Case in point is MLB 2K10. A good game that made some major changes to the franchise, it was mired with bugs and problems, such as poor fielding. With this in mind, developer Visual Concepts is making some big changes to some core mechanics, as well as applying a strong coat of polish to the game.

The first improvement is with fielding. Players now have more control of their fielders, and well known baseball players with unique ticks now showcase these stylistic elements. There is also a new throwing meter that will offer some dynamism to tossing a ball. When a fielder catches a ball and prepares to throw it, a sort of golf swing meter will pop up as the player charges. If tapped within a specific zone, their throw will be much more effective. Different players will have easier or harder meters to work with depending on their stats. Additionally, helping fielding out is a new landing shadow for fielders to best see where the ball is going to land. It'll change size as the ball descends, and it really does make fielding a bit easier. It's great, and these are two small areas that should really help out what was once a forgotten part of 2K10.

Other areas improved include pitching. MLB 2K10 was a little on the easy side, allowing for players to perform almost impossible amounts of great pitches. With 2K11, there is some variation to where the ball is pitched, even with very good pitching motions. It's an element that should make the pitching a little harder, but in a good way. Additionally, 2K is also running the $1 million Perfect Game Competition for players. However, instead of starting off the contest from launch day, 2K will allows for a three week practice period for gamers to practice before the contest starts. Better get those split changes perfected before you start competing.

Player stats and effectiveness will be constantly changed due to Dynamic Player Ratings through MLB Today, a feature that synchs up the game with real world stats.. As real-life players play through a season, their real-world statistics will be applied to their virtual counterparts with hot/cold streaks, injuries, improved or weakened performance, and more. Introduced in NBA 2K11, this feature should be loved by baseball sim fans. Unfortunately, 2K's reps wouldn't go into the Road Game and the Franchise mode of 2K11, but they did promise that there are some neat plans in store for those modes. The Dynamic Player Ratings will be heavily influential in these modes, however.

Another area that the Visual Concepts put some time into is animations. Whereas 2K10 was hampered with some visual bugs, for 2K11 they reanimated much of the players. They rerecorded much of the mo-cap for the motions of the players, helping reduce the chances of any nasty visual glitches. Visually, the game looks great, and the camera placement is great. Each arena will mimic the cameras of that field's local sports network camera, which is slightly different depending on the field. Players look and move great, replicating their real world stature and build, but the facial animations are still stiff. A little dead in the eyes, it's really not that big of a deal in the middle of a game.

Clearly, 2K11 is an attempt to fix its predecessors flaws. It doesn't shake up much, as the general play is very much the same as last year's game. However, with the improved animations, the better fielding, and the constantly changing stat changes reflecting real-world game, MLB 2K11 could be the baseball game we're waiting for.

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