MVP Baseball 2005 – PS2 – Review

I have a
confession to make so I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’ve played MVP Baseball
until there were blisters on my fingers and somehow the early evening
became early morning. Yes, I’ve spent many an hour taking the Cubs through a
most brutal campaign in the game’s amazing Dynasty Mode. I’ve locked eyes with
Randy Johnson as he stepped up to the pitcher’s mound and pitched a perfect game
against the Yankees. Now with MVP Baseball 2005, I’m prepared to gladly
lose more sleep all in the name of bringing you this review. So is it as good as
last year’s game, you might ask? All I can say is that I haven’t seen daylight
in quite awhile.


MVP Baseball
is the
stuff virtual baseball dreams are made of and that’s not easy to say considering
the fact that Visual Concept’s 2K series is nothing to sneeze at. Yet
somehow, in this reviewer’s opinion, EASports delivered a game that has all the
appearances of a thoroughly detailed baseball simulator without the strict
regulations that hold gamers back from actually enjoying the game. In other
words, all the sights, sounds and rules of Major League Baseball are present and
accounted for, but thanks to the gameplay we’re looking at a seriously fun and
addictive game. 

All the
returning game modes are back such as Exhibition, Dynasty Mode and Home Run
Showdown, but this year’s game sees some new additions such as Owner Mode and
Mini-Games. There’s even Manager Mode here and, of course, online multiplayer
action. The real meat and potatoes here, though, is once again the game’s
Dynasty Mode that puts you in control of your team and its season schedule so
you’ll be taking your team to the very top. On the other hand, the new Owner
Mode puts you in charge of an entire staff that ranges from hitting coaches to
managers and talent scouts. As owner of your own dynasty you’ll even get the
chance to build your own ballpark with the Create A Ballpark editor. Yet don’t
expect to go wild with plentiful creation options since the game’s few options
just allows you to add turf and decide on the color scheme of your seats. You
will, however, be in charge of making sure the fans are satisfied with the
service of your ballpark so you’ll be paying close attention to their reactions
to what types of concession stands you purchase or if you include T-Shirt Night
Thursdays every month.

The new
additions just don’t apply to the game modes themselves but the actual ballgame
as well. You’ll be able to climb the fence to steal a home run and read a pitch
far better than last year’s game. You’ll be able to send out a manager to argue
a play with the umpire (a meter will appear, allowing you to control the
pressure you can place on the umpire). New to the series is the Hitter’s Eye
function that allows players to read the pitch before the pitcher releases it.
You’ll be able to tell whether you’ll be faced with a fastball or even a
knuckleball just by the color the ball changes before the pitch. You’ll even be
treated to a replay of the pitch, which is a good indictor of how the pitch
managed to find itself in the catcher’s mitt. The Pitch Meter is back again …
thankfully. For those who aren’t familiar with it, when you’re pitching a curved
meter pops up and with the press of a button you’ll attempt to hit the green
zone otherwise your pitch will go wild. Trust me when I say that the Pitch Meter
works beautifully.


If you’re having
trouble pitching or hitting, the Mini-Games mode serves as a Spring Training
mode. Here you’re faced with a few challenges to beef up your batting skills,
for example, so you’ll be hitting some dingers across an elaborate field
complete with ramps and rusted vehicles you can hit for points. Pitching offers
a few challenges that will help you throw curveballs, fastballs and sliders so
when you’re going up against the likes of cover boy Manny Ramirez you’ll be able
to pit him against an appropriate pitcher.

When you’re up
to bat, a picture-in-picture view of the mound allows you to check out your
runner on first and second so you know what they’re up to before you attempt to
swing. You’ll also be able to move in the batter’s box, which also moves your
hot and cold zones. This basically means that the pitcher won’t be able to
easily target your cold zone. 

My biggest
complaint is the online multiplayer mode. I love the fact that you can play the
game using Broadband or Dial-Up and the use of a USB Headset just makes my day.
However, using the Dial-Up connection often knocks you out of the game or will
treat you to some slowdowns that ruin the game. Broadband plays a lot more
smoother but you’ll still encounter some framerate problems. If you’re looking
for online baseball action, Major League Baseball 2K5 is the clear winner
this year.

As far as the
graphics are concerned, last year’s game didn’t exactly get the faces right.
Sure you were able to point out your favorites but then again players like Jason
Giambi didn’t look, well, lifelike. This year, though, the faces look downright
amazing to the point that you’ll be impressed with the expressions and detailed
facial features. There are new animations so you won’t see the same player step
up to bat the same way he did back in the first inning. Even the fans look great
and the ballparks themselves are amazing. 

The sound isn’t
bad at all either, but when it comes to the soundtrack I’m afraid this is where
EASports failed. Forget the fact that the musical talent comes from some unknown
artists (well, except for the Dropkick Murphys), the tunes are basically just
generic rock. Still, the commentary team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper do a
great play-by-play and color commentary that just go nicely with the flow of the
game. The stadium sounds are also amazing and you’ll hear a vendor calling out
his wares while a heckler or two has a thing to say to Mister Jeter.

EASports hits
another homerun with MVP Baseball 2005, making this the most solid and
wonderfully addictive ballgame on the PS2. With various improvements and some
very neat additions to the game, there’s just no denying the fact that this is
the closest to baseball gaming heaven we’ll come this year. Do yourself a favor
and pick this one up right away, sports fans.

Scoring Details for MVP BASEBALL 2005

Gameplay: 9.6
It seems like
EASports was well aware of the little blemishes the plagued last year’s near
perfect game because they’re nowhere to be found in this year’s game. The Pitch
Meter is back again and the new Hitter’s Eye is a welcome addition to a game
that now plays like a fan’s dream come true. Really, I don’t want to put the
controller down.

Graphics: 9.0
This is one
amazing-looking PS2 game and even more so now that the player faces have been
neatly polished to the point that all your favorite players can be instantly
recognizable. The visual presentation has definitely improved and the
picture-in-picture view of the mounds is more than appreciated.

Sound: 8.5
The soundtrack
might not be everyone’s cup of tea since most of it is generic rock tunes from
some pretty unknown bands like Louis XIV. The commentary, though, is at the top
of its game and it doesn’t get any better than Kuiper and Krukow. The rest is
composed of stadium sounds that are nicely detailed enough that you’ll hear
everything from hecklers to fellow teammates.

The opponent
AI will also make you work up a sweat but thankfully the game allows for player
mistakes like a real game (unless, of course, you’re playing Home Run Showdown).
Still, you’ll be constantly attempting to match up against strong pitchers while
you’re on the mound or tightening your fielding when the heavy hitters are

Concept: 9.5
Owner Mode is
a great addition to the series as is the Mini-Games that help tighten up your
game. While the Create A Ballpark isn’t as deep as we’d like it be it still
allows us to build our fantasy park and be in charge of its littlest details in
Owner Mode like purchasing concession stands or inventing fan appreciation days.
Dynasty Mode will steal most of your weekends and nights.

multiplayer goodness using a Broadband or Dial-Up connection is available for up
to two players. The good news is that you can use a USB headset to chat with
other players. The bad news is that I’ve encountered a few hiccups that slow the
game down on both the Broadband and dial-up connections. Still you can play
against a friend offline.

Overall: 9.3
If you’re
looking for a true baseball simulator that’s just too much darn fun to put down,
MVP Baseball 2005 will more than satisfy your hunger of a ballgame worthy
of any sports fan out there.  If this year’s game is any indication of where the
franchise is going then we can expect some great things next year. Good job,
EASports, chalk this up as another hit.