Unlike football or basketball, there is a healthy competition between baseball game franchises on the market this year. Take Two Interactive's 2K Sports has done a fairly good job with the MLB 2K series across all platforms since EA Sports lost the license in 2005, but Sony's relative newcomer The Show has been creeping up the standings. This year, MLB 2K11 and MLB 11 The Show go head-to-head in a one-game playoff to win over baseball fans as their favorite way to belt a 3-run shot, or strike out the side.
Since Sony's San Diego studio makes The Show exclusive to the company's consoles (PS3, PS2, PSP) while 2K 11 is console agnostic, much of your decision on which to purchase will be based on which platforms you own. If you have access to both Sony and other consoles though, figuring out whether The Show or 2K11 is better for you will likely come down to personal preference. Instead of giving each game an independent review with its own score, I thought it would make much more sense to tell you how each game handles each discipline and aspect of baseball. Here's how they matched up in pitching, hitting, fielding, game modes, and overall presentation. With baseball season in full swing (heh) starting yesterday, let's start comparing MLB 2K11 and MLB 11 The Show in case you want to bring that action to your gaming console.
The ad campaign for 2K11 is all about how hard it is to pitch a perfect game both in the videogame and in Major League Baseball (even though there were 3 last season, er, sorry Detroit, 2). While having 27 up and 27 down in 2K11 is definitely hard, I thought the mechanic for pitching made it really easy to hit your targets. Maybe that's because pitching is a complete abstraction: To throw a pitch, you choose what type like fastball or slider and the desired location. Two concentric circles appear and you must time a gesture made with the right analog stick when the spokes of the two circles match. The gestures are different for each type of pitch, and some like that pesky 12-6 curveball are harder to achieve than others, but with practice you can easily paint the inside corner of the strike zone or tempt a hitter to swing at breaking ball just outside the zone. I did like when I had runners on base, the pitcher's composure makes the "cursor" for choosing location bounce around and the gestures must be completed faster pitching for the stretch. More than once, I threw a wild pitch if my gesture wasn't completed correctly or in time.
I thought that pitching felt way more authentic in The Show. After picking a pitch, you pull down on a vertical meter until you hit the shaded sweet spot and then push up to meet your release point. It's pretty easy to throw a fastball down the middle, but gets increasingly difficult to paint the corners of the strike zone by pushing up to the left or right to hit the inside or outside. If there's a runner on base, pitching from the stretch gives you even less time to place that pitch exactly where you want it. Matching the release point to where the pitch ends up makes pitching more of a learned skill analogous to real baseball than meaningless gestures in 2K11.