Baseball gamers can't go wrong with '2K11,''The Show'


I once wrote that various Olympics competitions should not be considered sports (I'm looking at you, archery and the 50-meter rifle), because participants could smoke cigarettes during competition and it wouldn't change the outcome. Any event in which theoretical smoking could be had is not a sport.

Similarly, baseball players could smoke during a game, and it wouldn't vastly alter performance. Proof? Baseball players used to smoke and chew tobacco simultaneously in dugouts. That's a true story.

On the other hand, if athletes smoked during basketball, football, hockey and soccer, they would perish. Even handball players would keel over.

I bring this up, since a similar bias exists against video game baseball, which is this:

The object as a pitcher is to relax and calmly, methodically, patiently choose your pitch, then decide where to place your pitch, and figure out how fast to throw the ball. You could totally smoke during that process.

As a hitter, you take your time choosing how hard you will swing and which field to aim at, then you wait, calmly, methodically and patiently for the right pitch. If you're talented, you watch many "junk balls" fly by, without swinging at them.

I do recognize baseball is athletic. But it should be considered a form of athletic chess. Video game baseball sure feels like chess, in which the score may be 0-0 after much relaxing, toiling and hopefully not smoking.

Fortunately, this season's baseball games are huge winners -- entertaining and challenging -- overcoming that lackadaisical, baseball relaxation process.

My favorite is "MLB 11: The Show." It is as close to a perfect baseball game as I've seen. It looks unbelievably close to photorealism, if you squint your eyes just a hair.

Players look and move like real people when they're pitching, hitting, running, fielding or just walking around. It's incredible.

"The Show" wants to be a simulator, and it nearly is. Which is to say it's slow and incredibly difficult to hit the ball.

Options are excellent. You can play all positions and batting by using only the analog joysticks for movements, or you can revert to old-school button-pressing.

You can play against the computer; or you and a friend can play against the computer, taking turns at batting and pitching; or you can play two people vs. the computer.

I like "The Show" by a coach's breath more than "Major League Baseball 2K11," which also is fantastic, and mostly realistic-feeling. "2K11" also serves great options for camera angles, analog sticks and difficulty levels.

The difference is, "2K11" seems mildly more like a game than a simulator, with choppy animations at times, and an ever-so-slight arcade feel. Visuals aren't as crisp as in "The Show."

Frankly, it's just easier to bat in "The Show." I can hit home runs in "The Show." I'm lucky to hit a bloop single in "2K11."

Bottom line: You can't go wrong by playing either game. Also, smoking is bad for you, so don't smoke. It's unsportsmanlike.

("Major League Baseball 2K11" by Take Two retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $30 for PC; $20 for DS, PSP and PS 2 -- Plays entertaining if slow as baseball. Looks great. Very challenging. Rated "E" for mild lyrics. Four stars out of four.)

("MLB 11: The Show" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3; $30 for PS 2 -- Plays fun, like a baseball simulator. Looks incredible. Very challenging. Rated "E." Four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

NEW IN STORES

"Homefront" will remind some gamers of the old Cold War movie "Red Dawn," in which the U.S.S.R. invaded small-town America, because this game's story also is set in a paranoid death future.

Korea unifies under the North Koreans and takes over Hawaii and San Francisco, while America declines under financial downfall and sky-high gasoline prices.

The action of this first-person shooter starts in 2027, in suburban Colorado. You portray an American resistance fighter armed with machine guns and other weapons, slaying enemies on American soil, beset with internment camps.

The story was notably co-written by John Milius, the gun control opponent and very successful filmmaker who co-created the movies "Dirty Harry," "Conan the Barbarian" and ... "Red Dawn."

The game-making studio behind "Homefront" (Kaos via THQ) is notable for making the 2008 war outing "Frontlines: Fuel of War." I can barely remember the solo, offline campaign of "Frontlines," but its online multiplayer was one of the most fun online multiplayers ever released. Truly, it was spectacular.

And so, "Homefront's" biggest sight-unseen promise lies in its own online multiplayer, which serves matches up to 32 gamers at a time in an infantry-style, large-scale battle, in which you earn team points to spend on drones, tanks, airstrikes and other items that speed up spawning and blow things up.

The game retails for $60 for PS 3 and Xbox 360. It's rated "M" for blood, strong language and violence.

-- By DOUG ELFMAN

 

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