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Level Up!: Play Ball!

We review MLB The Show and MLB 2K11

By Tim Janson     April 08, 2011

Level Up!
© Mania/Robert Trate

 This is a great time of year if you are a sports fan…the NCAA tournament just completed, the NBA and NHL playoffs are ready to begin, The Masters tournament is underway, and the NFL Draft is just two weeks a way…Oh but wait…there’s one thing I forgot…It’s Baseball season!   Level up celebrates the start of the season with a look at the two newest editions from the Sony and 2K Games franchies, MLB11 The Show and MLB 2K 11.  Plus we’ve got a lot in the news and a look at next week’s release schedule.



Bloodrayne Returns!

Majesco has announced today that BloodRayne: Betrayal will be released as a full-scale digital game on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network this summer.   Based on the best-selling vampire game franchise, BloodRayne: Betrayal stars the beautiful yet lethal dhampir anti-heroine as she fights and feeds in a bloody new hack ‘n slash adventure. The game is being developed by WayForward, the award-winning team known for bringing franchise favorites back to audiences in exciting new ways.


BloodRayne: Betrayal delivers stylish 2D side-scrolling action with a deadly dose of bloodshed.  Players become Rayne, the sexy and dangerous dhampir born from the union of vampire and human, blessed with extraordinary strength, speed and agility, but cursed with a thirst for blood and weakness to sunlight.  Begrudgingly recruited by the vampire hunting Brimstone Society for one final mission, Rayne teams up with a mysterious new friend to stop an evil vampire massacre.  Introducing new characters, gruesome environmental puzzles and a full arsenal of lethal weapons including Rayne’s signature arm blades, BloodRayne: Betrayal stays true to the fan-favorite vampire game franchise while incorporating challenging new enemies and surprises specifically designed for mature audiences.


Layoffs and Game Cancelations at Sony

Sony Online Entertainment has laid off approximately 200 employees at its studios in Seattle , Denver , and Tucson .  The cutbacks have also resulted in the cancelation of the “The Agency” an espionage MMO game that had been in development for some time.  Our best wishes go out to those folks who have lost their jobs.


Mega Man Universe Canceled

Capcom has canceled the planned Mega Man universe that was announced at the 2010 Comic Con.  The game was to be a downloadable offering similar to Little Big Planet where players could create their own levels to share online with other players. 


New Trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

We’ve got a new trailer for Dugeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, the soon-to-be-released digital download for Xbox Live and Playstation Network.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Call of Duty Black Ops Film?

Despite Doom being a miserable failure Actor and former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is open to doing another videogame-based film. Of particular interest to him is a film base on Call of Duty: Black Ops. Johnson was quoted as saying, “Black Ops… that'd be bad ass. Let's make it happen, let's do it." Considering the success of the game, can a film be far behind?

Majesco Announces Supernatural Thriller “The Hidden” for the 3DS

To be released just in time for Halloween, The Hidden puts you in the role as a paranormal investigator, searching, capturing and destroying supernatural entities hidden within your own surroundings.  As a member of the elite G.E.I.S.T. squad, Ghostly Entity Investigation and Strike Team, you must work with your team to track, capture, shoot and eliminate evil spirits, including fast-moving  Kamikazes and Tanks, solid phantoms armed with claws.  Explore different real-world locations to find and destroy new ghosts.  Battle and defeat powerful entities using a full arsenal of high tech tools and upgradeable weapons, including the Plasmatic Disruptor, Ectoplasm Sensor and Spectral Shield.

Zoo Mania coming from Ubisoft

Ubisoft announced that they will be releasing Zoo Mania this summer, the first zoo simulation game on the Nintendo 3DS. Zoo Mania, developed by Marvelous Entertainment and published by Ubisoft, will offer players a remarkably fun and realistic zoo management experience, thanks to the capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS.  Players will strive to build a world-class zoo destination by choosing their animals, building their habitats and training their animals to attract more guests to their park. Players can watch and virtually touch the animals as they practically jump off the screen, showing off their personality and skills. Plus, with more than 100 creatures, each with their own realistic 3D effects, movements and noises, Zoo Mania offers more than any other handheld zoo simulation game.


Motorstorm Apocalypse (Sony) Rated T  PS3

Welcome to the apocalypse, MotorStorm style! The ’Stormers are now bringing the extreme MotorStorm festival to a major metropolitan city that has been ravaged by a gigantic earthquake. With all of its unstable skyscrapers, fiery subway tunnels, twisting bridges and more, the almost completely abandoned city offers the perfect playground for MotorStorm’s electric brand of brutal street racing. And with tremors and aftershocks continuing to hit the city in real-time, you never know where the race will take you.

Heavy Fire Afghanistan (Mastiff) Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii

Enemy Contact. Open fire! Defend the base. Lock down the streets of the local town. Hunt down the enemy in the forests. Rescue the hostages from the caves. Sweep the enemies out of the mountains. Fly in helicopters. Ride in tanks and trucks. Take it to the ground and get up close and personal with the enemy. Your objective is simple: Grab the biggest gun you can find, and then knock out the enemy with your Heavy Fire!

Man Vs. Wild (SVG)  Rated T  Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii

In the Man vs Wild, players control their character under the guidance of survival expert Bear Grylls as they exercise the necessary survival skills in a wide variety of landscapes and climates.

Spongebob Squigglepants – uDraw (THQ)  Rated E  Nintendo Wii

Wacky Nanogames - Tilt, flick, tap and draw through more than 100 Nanogame challenges, frantically timed for laugh-out-loud and fast-paced excitement
NEW! Splashin' SpongeBob Looks - Never-before-seen SpongeBob art collections unlocked from the Nickelodeon vault and feat
Patchy the Pirate LIVE - President of SpongeBob's fan club, he serves as a guide for the game in a never-before-seen live action experience adding hilarity and under the sea silliness
Endless Creativity - Create, color and draw anything imaginable with custom paints, palettes, stamps and art tools to create a masterpiece worthy of a place in

Rio (THQ)  Rated E Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PS3, Xbox 360

From the makers of the hit Ice Age series comes RIO, a 3D comedy adventure about Blu, a rare domesticated bird who travels to the exotic land of Rio . In this multiplayer video game, Blu goes on the adventure of his life, with the help of his female counterpart, Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds.



Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga (Atlus) Rated M  Xbox 360



Get two adventures in one package and see the Divinity II saga to its true ending in this incredible RPG compilation that includes both the remastered Ego Draconis and its sequel Flames of Vengeance! As a Dragon Knight, you will explore the huge world of Rivellon and delve into the true nature of the age-old conflict between Dragon Slayers and Dragon Knights.
The long-besieged realm of Rivellon continues to be plagued by strife and conflict.  Decades ago, the divine prophet of a holy order was murdered by a Dragon Knight.  Blessed with superhuman power and the ability to transform into their namesake and take to the skies with the might of fire to aid them, these Knights suddenly became outcasts in Rivellon, condemned for the killing of the holy order's leader.  Hunted mercilessly by Slayers, followers of the Divine now vigilantly committed to avenging the assassination of their prophet, the Knights soon became scarce. 
During the final attack that would result in the extermination of the Dragon Knights, you-a lone Slayer separated from your group, stumble upon a dying Knight.  With her final breath, she grants you her abilities, insisting that all is not as it seems.  You arise the last living Dragon Knight, shunned by your former Slayer allies, gifted with supernatural powers, and tasked with exploring the true nature of your age-old conflict...


The surest sign that it is Spring is that baseball time is now upon us and with that, Level Up takes a look at the two contenders for diamond superiority, 2K Games’ MLB 2K11 and Sony’s MLB11 The show.  Now rather than do a stand alone review of each I’m going to spotlight some of the major points…and some of the bad points, of each game and then do a comparison between the two. First up we take a look at MLB 2K11. 

MLB 2K11.  (2K Games) Rated E PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, PS2, PC

 2K11 hasn’t changed drastically from 2K10 which ironed out a number of issues that had plagued the series.  Back this year are two features introduced in 2K10, My Player mode which allows you to create a player and guide him from the minors to the big leagues, and the MLB Today updates which provides the latest real-life scores and news from around the league.  The biggest addition to 2K11, and it’s a good one, is the Dynamic Player Rating System.  The DPRS updates a players ability with the last four weeks of a real player's activity, which will include slumps and hot streaks.  Thus your players in the game will reflect more accurately how they are performing in real life.  Now this is likely going to only factor in true management/simulation mode play which doesn’t depend on an individual game player’s skill with the controller, but it’s still a very cool addition. 

Besides My Player there are practice modes for pitching, hitting, and fielding, Home Run Derby, Exhibition single games, online play, and of course, Franchise mode that lets you take control as both manager and general manager of not only your franchise but also its minor league affiliates as well.  You have the option of doing everything yourself from managing the rosters of the big league teams to the minors, as well as injuries and player development or letting the computer do it for you as well as varying degrees in-between, depending on how much time you want to spend with non-field action activities.  But you can quickly fix your roster to match your favorite team’s current roster.  The injury system has been also tweaked so that a player may have a nagging injury that will make you have to decide to play him at less than 100% or give him a few days off to totally rest. 

Animations and characters likenesses have been visibly improved over 2K10.  Jose Valverde has his trademark goggle-glasses and Justin Verlander has his perpetual five o’clock shadow.  The players batting stances and pitching motions seem accurate, at least to those I am familiar with.  Individual player’s skills and abilities are captured quite well.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but after a fair amount of practice, I enjoyed the analog stick control for pitching.  Aim with the left stick, then begin your motion with the right.  Each type of pitch has its distinct motion.  Time it right with the control meter and release.  It takes some getting used to but I got a greater sense of a good motion producing a superior breaking ball.  There’s nothing better than making a batter look silly by getting him to swing at a ball in the dirt.  When the pitcher is in a tight spot, the controller rumbles making aiming more difficult to simulate the pressure of the situation. 
I actually love playing in pure simulation mode and just being the manager.  2K11 features a Super Sim option that lets you simulate a game in different increments such as each individual at bat, half inning, full inning, or entire game.  You can jump in at any point in the simulation to take control live and it’s a good thing because the AI isn’t overly sharp.  Instead of having my star closer in the game in the 9th inning of a close game, it had a setup man in there.  But you can take control and go to the bullpen and get the guy you want. 
The broadcast team of Steve Phillips, Gary Thorne, and John Kruk is very good and makes you feel like you are watching a true MLB broadcast although some of the dialog does get repetitive if you are playing with the same team.  The sounds of the game are solid but don’t blow you away however the soundtrack is downright annoying.  It’s weird mix of classic and modern rock grates on your nerves. 
Grade: B

MLB 11 The Show (Sony) PS3, PSP, PS2

You have to credit Sony’s MLB 11 The Show, they could have rested comfortably on their laurels with this year’s release but they’ve shown that they are going to continue to tweak and improve an already great game.  If there is anything “wrong”, and I use the term very loosely, it is that there is SO much in the game…so many options, so many variations on the controls, that it can be daunting.  The game is virtually customizable to any skill level making you able to pitch with a single button push, or a combination of button pushes using a power/control gauge, or with the new Pure Analog Control System which is basically the same as the control system in MLB 2K11.  These controls also cross over for hitting and fielding as well so you can make it as easy or as complex as you like.  The Co-op Mode allows up to four-players offline or online to split duties covering either the infield or outfield, while also switching off at the plate or choosing the specific batters they’d like to control.  There are also new weather elements, stadium specific Jumbotron screens and fireworks, and PlayStation Move motion controller support for the Home Run Derby mode. The Road to the Show mode where you create a player and try to get in to the major leagues has been improved with a more realistic points system that makes this mode much more fun.


The graphics absolutely dazzle.  This isn’t just the best looking baseball game ever but I’d say it’s perhaps the best looking sports game ever.  The player models are fantastic, the overall look of each stadium and their unique attributes is near-perfect, and night games under the lights strike the perfect mood.  But it may actually be the little things that grab you like fans battling for a foul ball in the stands.  The sound is no slouch either, from the crack of the bat to the roar of the crowd.  I love to sit back and listen to a stray fan yell out, urging their team on, or the PA announcer exciting the crowd with a special prize for a select row.  Although I will say I was underwhelmed by the broadcast team of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Eric Karros who are on the bland side. 

As mention there are so many gameplay options and tweaks it can be at first overwhelming.  Once you decide the level of controls you want you can also adjust your broadcast to fit your tastes such as the camera angles and presentation options.  One annoyance is that after an out or hit, the MLB 11 logo pops up and you get a slow-mo replay.  You can click out of it quickly but you can also turn them off completely.  In fact there is a fast play mode that virtually eliminates all the fluff such as replays and batters walking to and from the batting circle.
If you’re really serious about detail the always-enjoyable Franchise mode lets you control every aspect of your major league team and minor league teams. From advertising and marketing to food vendors and worldwide scouting, the franchise mode offers total control. In franchise mode you have several options to play a game. You can control it yourself, simulate the entire game, or play it as manager. As manager you get the sense that the game is in your hands. 
On defense you can instruct your pitcher how you want him to throw to a certain batter. Pitch him low and away, high and tight; pitch aggressively or pitch away from the star hitter. Call for an intentional walk, pitchout, or a brushback. Shift your infield and outfield; draw them in with a man on third base for a play at the plate. On offense you call for bunts, hit-and-run, steals. Have your batter take a pitch and work the count. As it seems for just about every baseball game, fielding and throwing requires some practice as I threw more than a few balls away but the training modes definitely come in handy here. 
Grade: A-
So let’s get down to it and compare the two games…
Graphics: MLB 11 The Show…A-                     MLB 2K11…B
Both games have great character and stadium models and animations. MLB11 The Show has a bit more dynamics with great crowd interactions and a bolder look.
Sound: MLB 11 The Show…A-                        MLB 2K11…B+
This one was very close. I preferred MLB 2K11’s broadcast team of Steve Phillips, Gary Thorne, and John Kruk as they were more lively and less generic in their call of a game. But in the overall scope from onfield action to the booth to the crowd in the stadium, MLB11 The Show gets the slight nod.
Control: MLB 11 The Show…A-                       MLB 2K11…B
Both games will take some practice, especially with the analog controls. Fielding seems somewhat tighter on MLB11 The show. What really hurts MLB 2K11 here is their loopy menu system that can be a pain to navigate.
Gameplay: MLB 11 The Show…A                    MLB 2K11…B
There’s just not much to NOT like about MLB 11 The Show…An exhaustive franchise mode, outstanding management capability, and fantastic action give this great replay value. MLB 2K11’s Dynamic Player Rating System and excellent simulation modes have made it a strong contender this year.
Bottom line is that the difference between the two games isn’t like comparing a major league team to a AAA team but rather comparing a broadcast on ESPN or Fox to a broadcast on your team’s local affiliate TV station. The national broadcast looks a little slicker and has more bells and whistles, but both are great to watch.




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