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Q1 2005



- New inclusion of single-A minor leagues

- New franchise-based Owner Mode

- Several gameplay enhancements, including "Hitter's Eye" feature



- Franchise modes require a huge amount of memory

- GameCube version doesn't offer new online features



Review: MVP Baseball 2005 (XB)

Review: All-Star Baseball 2004 (GC)

Review: MVP Baseball 2004 (XB)



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MVP Baseball 2005

Score: 8.9 / 10


There are baseball fans, and then there are baseball fans. I'd put myself in the first category, which involves all the commitment of hating the Yankees, watching the playoffs and making an occasional summer pilgrimage to Shea Stadium to eat hot dogs and drink beer. Then there are the walking almanacs guys who can casually discuss the ins and outs of regular season games that happened 15 years ago.


mvp baseball 2005 review          mvp baseball 2005 review


During the past few seasons, the EA Sports MVP Baseball series has done an excellent job of creating an experience that's both simple enough to offer casual fans an enjoyable few games on the couch, and deep enough to satisfy all of those statistics junkies out there. A good part of that balance is due to the thought behind the series' core interface, which helps translate all of those stats into an easily playable game.


When pitching or when getting up to bat, for example, a translucent color-coded strike zone highlights nine hot, cold or neutral zones, illustrating the batter's strengths and weaknesses versus a particular pitcher. The "Precision Pitch Meter" also does a great job striking a balance between a gamer's reflexes and the real-life player's skill, with better pitchers featuring larger target zones where the tap of a button means a perfectly thrown pitch. Players can control everything from where hitters aim their bats to how baserunners execute a slide, but the game eases novices in, allowing them to lean on a solid AI system to take care of most basic plays catching pop fouls, fly balls or even diving to stop a ball before it gets out of the infield. As players become more accustomed to the controls, the computer's actions are all easily overridden on the GameCube with the use of the C stick, which simplifies the most heroic outfield wall-climbing catch.


All this, of course, is old hat to fans of the MVP Baseball series, as are the true to life rosters of every 30 Major League Baseball teams, as well as the realistic renderings of MLB's more than 1,000 players and the ballparks they currently play in. Although the fans occupying these stadiums look a little two-dimensional, the players' pitching, running and fielding animations are more fluid than ever. Announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow provide running commentary, which, despite some unavoidable play-by-play repetitiveness, has a surprising amount of depth and really adds to the authentic feel of the game.





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A couple of cool new tweaks to this year's edition include a "Hitter's Eye" feature, which is basically an effort to simulate how well a skilled batter can read what's being thrown at them. Balls display a brief, split-second flash of color as they leave the pitcher's hand to indicate what type of pitch has just been thrown. An off-speed pitch for example, flashes green, while a breaking ball flashes red. A new pitch/swing analysis feature also helps players improve their game, by allowing them to view 

detailed replays of any and every pitch thrown, while a new mini-game feature helps players practice their batting and pitching skills.



The 2005 edition also includes a couple of more major enhancements over MVP 2004, bulking up the series' depth with its first-ever inclusion of single-A minor league teams and a new "Owner mode." Here, players are in charge of both managing a successful lineup and making your franchise as profitable as possible over the course of 30 seasons, by doing things like building a ballpark (with several basic customizable features) setting ticket prices and concession fees and making stadium enhancements to keep your fans happy.


Dynasty mode is back as well, allowing manager-level control over all aspects of a franchise from setting lineups and making trades to building up talent through your minor league farm teams over the course of as many as 120 seasons. Although all games in this mode can be played in real-time, large swaths of each season can also be simulated to speed up progress.


mvp baseball 2005 review          mvp baseball 2005 review


More minor tweaks to this year's edition include a Manager Argument feature, which allows you to send your team's manager out to the field to dispute close plays with the game's virtual umpires. A well-timed argument will basically raise team morale, granting an "attribute boost," while using the feature haphazardly can easily get your manager ejected, which results in the game's AI taking over all of your managerial decisions for the remainder of a game. This is a neat little feature, but it has a really light touch. Argue a ball or strike; you're ejected. Argue more than a couple of plays that weren't all that close on instant replay; you're ejected. Hold down the "B" button to intensify an argument, and you're ejected.


Similarly, the game's "charge the mound" feature allows batters to attack the pitcher if they're hit by a pitch, and I wasn't too clear on what the game felt would properly justify a bench clearing brawl. In one game a buddy of mine started horsing around, consecutively beaning everyone in my lineup. The fourth time it happened, with the bases now loaded, I charged the mound, and my player was promptly ejected. (OK, I was charging the mound with Pedro Martinez, who used to have a reputation as a headhunter and brawler himself. It may be a bad example, because there's no telling what types of statistics are buried in these sims nowadays, and who knows, maybe one of the programmers is a big Don Zimmer fan.)


Unlike the Xbox and PS2 versions of MVP Baseball 2005, GameCube owners won't have a chance to experience the series' new online features. Another major issue that GameCube owners will encounter is the amount of memory card space needed to delve into features like the Dynasty and Owner Modes, which is quite a lot, even for a sports sim. The Dynasty Mode requires 197 blocks, while the Owner Mode requires 209 blocks for a single save file. All told, the game can use up to a whopping 524 blocks of space so plan on forking over some additional money for a new memory card or prepare to delete a lot of old save files. (Unless you have a 1050.)


All in all, though, EA continues to raise the bar year after year with its sports simulations, and MVP Baseball 2005 is no exception.


- M. Enis

(July 18, 2005)

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