Major League Baseball 2K5 – PS2 – Review

The on going soap-opera of contract negotiations,
exclusive publishing deals, and feuding fans, which were synonymous with our
football franchises, has now managed to invade our beloved baseball games. After
landing a huge contract that gives Take-Two Interactive the exclusive rights to
licensed third party baseball games starting next year, they somehow manage to
offset the success they’ve accumulated from the past by allowing EA to swipe the
ESPN contract out from under their feet. If this makes little or no sense to
you, it boils down to this. At this point in the negotiations, despite landing
rights to the ESPN style presentation, an MVP baseball game by EA will not
happen next year. However, Take-Two and Visual Concepts will have a major league
baseball game next year, only without the ESPN style presentation. No disrespect
to EA, but this couldn’t have come at a worse time for Take-Two and Visual
Concepts, considering this year’s game has been improved upon immensely and
features the best presentation of any sports game… ever. While this may not be
enough to knock EA from its perch, it is enough to provide an excellent, if not
phenomenal baseball experience.    


“The details in the environments are amazing”


This year’s game sports the usual list of game
modes. I’m not sure why, but the hysterically named “In Your Face” mode is
basically just exhibition play with a fancy new name. There’s also Home Run
Derby, Season Mode, Franchise Mode, and the new all GM Career mode which lets
you take a struggling franchise and try to turn them into a contender. New
choices like improved contract negotiations, full salary tracking of players and
coaches, as well as interest from other teams help round out a very well done
career mode. While this is a welcome addition to the series, it still lags
slightly behind in overall depth when compared to EA’s latest effort. It would
have been nice to maybe build new stadiums, relocate my team to a new city, or
even set the prices of my concessions in hopes of turning a profit, but
nonetheless it’s still a very good job and should keep most fans happy for a
very long time.


This year the
developers have assembled a new pitching system
known as the K-Zone, and I’ll have to admit, it’s brilliant. After picking the
location, and type of pitch, you will have to align two moving bars at just the
right moment. Failure doing so will usually result in your pitch drifting more
closely into the strike zone than you initially planned. One of my favorite
aspects of the K-Zone is the precision and attention that it requires of you.
Your ace, or lets say Randy Johnson, will have no problem lining the
perpendicular grid up and more than likely executing a near perfect pitch. Use
the fifth or sixth pitcher from your teams rotation however, I won’t
be naming any names here, and you’ll find it much more difficult to accomplish
you’re goals, causing awareness to play a bigger factor when it comes to
throwing the ball against certain batters. This much-needed change really adds a
sense of realism in the pitching department. In years past, it didn’t seem like
it mattered very much who my pitcher was, but thankfully, that is over with, and
the K-Zone ends up being one of the best new features of any sports game this


Pitching isn’t the
only part that has implemented new features. Along with last year’s normal, and
power swing buttons, the Slam-Zone makes its debut, and adds a unique, if not
arcade-like element to the game. Batters can now guess where they think the
pitcher will try to place the ball, which usually depends on the hot and cold
zones of each batter. Guessing incorrectly will result in a complete miss, but
guess correctly and an in-suing mini-game will commence.

Time will suddenly
slow down as the ball leaves the pitchers hand, forcing the batter and pitcher
to furiously tap the buttons in turn causing a power meter to fill up. Fill your
meter first, and you will win the duel. Winning this battle will result in one
of two things. If you’re the batter then you’ll definitely score a hit, but more
than likely a home run will be the result. If you’re the pitcher, as you might
have guessed, you’ll blow a pitch right by the helpless batter. Most Gamers will
look at this in one of two ways. Some will see it as an arcade-like distraction
that takes away from the realism of the game, while some will see it as a
welcome diversion that adds excitement and breaks the monotony of gameplay. For
me, it’s more of the first category, but that’s only my opinion, and you’ll
ultimately have to decide for yourself. 


“Over-throws and errors are a big part of Major
League Baseball 2k5’s realism.”


I’ll be honest with you here; fielding is one aspect
from last year’s game that needed to be improved greatly. While Maximum Fielding
has been introduced this year, it isn’t quit the savior Visual Concepts had
planned on. You now use the right analog stick, much like every other sports
game these days, to make incredible game changing saves. Whether it’s climbing
the wall to relieve someone of a sure home run, or making a game changing catch
at shortstop, you’ll have no problem this year thanks to this easy to use
system. While this addition is a welcome one indeed, it’s not without its
problems by any means. Hitting the analog stick the wrong way, or at the wrong
time, can send your player diving in the opposite direction, or leave him
haplessly lying on the ground as the ball sputters by.

Possibly an even better feature this year, and one
that I’m sure will be “borrowed” in the future, is the new Smart-throw button.
By simply tapping the L1 button while fielding; your player will make the
correct decision for you as where to throw the ball. This can really help out
the casual fan that may not be sure which base runner takes priority when in a
sticky situation, and can really save your behind if you absolutely need to make
the right throw in order to save a run from scoring.

I really wish that Kush, and Visual Concepts, had
taken more time correcting the actual fielding experience, instead of giving us
a slew of new features. It often feels like the computer does all the work when
you start the fielding process. Instead of feeling smooth, and seamless, it’s
almost as if the motion capture is off just a bit. The animations the players go
through are somewhat clunky, and just seem a bit robotic. The same problems
exist in the batting portion of the game. Frequently during replays, you will
notice the ball actually never touches the bat when a hit takes place, almost
like there is a hidden-wall or “forcefield” surrounding the ball and the
players. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on the motion capture, but when the ESPN
style presentation makes replays such an important part of the game, it’s hard
not to notice these little nuisances.

The new base-running system, or On-Command
Base-Running, is a new feature that allows players to control base runners with
the flick of the analog stick. Instead of showing the base runners as round dots
overlaid on the baseball diamond, you can now see each of the runners in
individual pop-up windows and know exactly what they plan to do. This is one of
those systems that when you see it, you’ll find it hard to believe that no one
else thought of it first.  It takes a little getting used to however, sometimes
I found it difficult to get my players to stop running, or they wouldn’t run at
all. This is more of a control issue though, and that department should be held
accountable, not the On-Command base running system because it actually works
very well. You also have the option of choosing to control the runner and
letting the CPU take over the batting duties. This was actually my favorite part
of the new control scheme, which adds a completely new strategy to base running
that we haven’t seen in the past. While you’ll admittedly have to put your trust
in the computers ability at the plate, it’s well worth it considering this
really feels like you’re the actual runner and is an absolute blast to try to
steal a base from the player’s perspective. There are some flaws in this system,
as in any game, but it’s nice to see some extra thought go into some areas that
may other wise grow stale and outdated. 


“The all new
On-Command Base running system lets you experience life from the runner’s

Well here it is, the hands-down best part of the game.
Presentation-wise, it just doesn’t get any better
than this…really. Every aspect of the presentation is flawless, and it’s hard
for me to imagine how it could get any better. Never before have I felt like I
was actually playing a real broadcasted baseball game until now. The entire
experience mimics an ESPN broadcast to perfection. Whether it’s the replays of
the K-Zone strikeouts, or the sweeping camera angles that catch fans and players
in almost every situation imaginable, you’ll find it here…and then some. The
Hall of Fame commentary featuring the likes of Joe Morgan, John Miller, and Karl
Ravech have set a landmark in videogames that all companies should strive for.
You’ll often here them reflect on fabled story’s from the past, talk about why
teams don’t like playing double-headers, and even speak of a player’s past
success or failures. While still repeating some of the dialogue just a bit too
often, this group rarely misses a beat.


The player models have also received a slight
face-lift; players no longer look disproportioned and are pretty close to there
real life counterparts. You will actually be able to tell the difference between
players now, which hardcore fans will truly appreciate. While the crowds are a
minor improvement over the ones we’ve been forced to deal with for years, they
do look pretty good when the camera zooms in on them which helps make up for the
lack of realism they display during normal gameplay. Each stadium and its
surroundings are cloned to perfection and are serious improvement over last
year’s game. I’m very familiar with The Great American Ballpark, and the
similarity between the game and its real-life counterpart is astonishing.


Well I will have to say, for the mere 20 bucks this
game cost, it shouldn’t be much of a decision. If you love baseball, and even if
you have already purchased MVP Baseball by EA, do yourself a favor and pick this
one up also, you won’t be disappointed. With EA only charging 29.99 for its game
this year, and Take-Two’s effort costing only 19.99; you can literally have two
games for the price of one. While it may not blow away the competition, it does
indeed offer some new features that can’t be found anywhere else, therefore
allowing Major League Baseball 2K5 to become a must own game for any fan of the


Review Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.9

Modes like an all-new fielding, batting, and
base-running system help keep the gameplay from growing old. Minor issues with
the controls do unfortunately bog down some brilliant new features.


Graphics: 9.4

some of the best stadiums and player models around, sending this title into the
upper echelon of sports games.


Sound: 9.5

The best
presentation and commentary by any sports game…ever.


Difficulty: Medium

Tons of sliders
help you customize the difficulty level that is right for you.


Concept: 8.9

While I can do
without the first person baseball option, things like On-Command base running
make for nice new additions. Also major props for Take-two for utilizing the
Hard Drive (Yes, some people do actually own this), which allows for quicker
load times and game saves.


Multiplayer: 8.5

Here you will find
the usual display of features. Online leagues and tournaments, stats, and friend
list make an appearance, just do not expect anything new, but hey, gameplay is
fairly lag-free and works really well.


Overall: 9.1

Take-Two has
managed to churn out an amazing experience. Despite all the minor shortcomings,
this is a necessary own for every baseball fan, and at 20 bucks, why not?