previews\ Jan 28, 2004 at 7:00 pm

MLB 2005 - PS2 - Preview

“A bit of Picasso,” announces Vin Scully.


Picasso? Oh, as in painting, as in hitting the corners of the plate.


MLB 2005, a pending release from 989 Sports for the Sony PlayStation2, dabbles along the edges of a masterpiece. The game previewed had a lot of issues, but this was a work in progress, and sent along for a first look at the newest title in the series.


So all that will be ignored and the meat of the game will be looked at.


First and foremost, if you are familiar with the MLB series, toss all you know or thought you did out the proverbial window. The 2005 edition of this title has been revamped and retooled to bring a brighter and more complete package to the PS2 console.


The game features a new franchise mode, which basically allows players to control all aspects of the game. When it comes to gameplay, so much has been improved.


The pitchers are privy to a batter’s hot and cold zones (forget listening to the announcers, they will often lead you astray, and locating a pitch where they tell you may end up in the cheap seats), and the game will feature pressure-sensitive pitching. By mashing down the X, you control the velocity of the pitch. As for batters, the game also sports zone-control hitting. You will see where you hot spots are and can sit on a pitch to that location. Of course, your timing has to be there for you to hit a dinger, but that has always been part of the game. Batters will also experience hot and cold streaks, and can charge the mound.


Fielding also sports the pressure-sensitive throwing, and outfielders will hit their cut-offs, and infielders can get baserunners in run-down situations.


With MLB 2005, fielders can make that spectacular diving stop, and can be position individually.


The game modes feature All-Time Greats, the promise of great online support, a new career mode, and incorporates the Eye Toy to let gamers put their face on players. Yes, you can create a player and work up from rookie to baseball legend.


Other new features include improved ball physics, a 60-frames-per-second engine, animated base coaches, player models, ballparks and game AI. This title really does a superb job of emulating the big-league game in look and feel.


While the audio portion of the game features the talents of Scully, Dave Campbell and Matt Vasgersian, it needs a little work yet to accurately describe the action. However, you are treated to stats and, more or less, an accurate play-by-play account of the game in progress.


The controls elements are simple to understand, and rookies will be able to launch into the game with little time in training. There is no tutorial, per se, but you can hone your eye for pitching by entering the home-run derby.


One of the problems graphically is learning pitch recognition. A pitch low in the bottom third of the strike zone, and one that is going to hop off the plate have a bit of a tendency to look the same when in the area where gamers have to determine whether to swing or not. It takes time, patience and a great eye to figure out whether to lay off a pitch that looks good coming in, or power through it as it enters your wheel house.


What is very impressive about this edition of MLB is the graphical upgrade. Watching a third baseman take three quick steps and then dive through the infield dirt, sending up a cloud of dust to come up with a hot grounder headed for the hole, is terrific eye candy. In fact, MLB 2005 is loaded with eye candy. This game looks very good, and the developers have taken care to ensure that this game will challenge players on any level of play.


The title screen for this preview featured the words “Work in Progress” rather prominently, and yes, it certainly was. But there is enough there to show that MLB 2005 will step completely away from what the series featured before and will be a series challenger for the pennant in the world of baseball console titles.


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