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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Sports

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Great Player Graphics
- Innovative new pitching and throwing interface
- Marvellous ambient sound

 

 

- Every AI controlled batter is Tony Gwynn
- Game features a “been there, played that” selection of modes

 

 

Review: MVP Baseball 2003 (PS2)

Review: Slugfest 2003 (PS2)

Review: All-Star Baseball 2004 (XB)

 

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MVP Baseball 2003

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

mvp baseball 2003 xbox review          mvp baseball 2003 xbox review

 

EA Sports Triple Play franchise ruled the last few years of the 32-bit generation. Though, for my money, it never reached the level of quality of World Series Baseball on the Sega Saturn, Triple Play had a huge and vocal following. Unfortunately, EA was not able to carry over that karma into the current generation. The Triple Play titles of late had simply been lackluster and seemed even more so going head to head with All-Star Baseball for the first time and a continually improving High Heat series. So, EA pulled Triple Play off the market for a re-tooling in 2002 and returned with MVP Baseball 2003. MVP 2003 represents not simply a name change, but instead a total re-imagining of the console baseball game. The results are mixed, but kudos to EA for having the vision and cajones to give it a shot. This year’s model leaves a little to be desired, but after playing it, I have high hopes for the future of the series.

MVP 2003 is all about throwing. The game replaces the standard push-the-appropriate- button-to-throw-to-a-certain-base model with an interface similar to

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the three-click shot of a golf videogame. That’s right. Every single throw on the field is handled with a power bar and timed release. On hearing that, it might seem as if the game would become tedious. Just the opposite is true. The throwing method keeps players engaged in the fielding of the ball in a way the standard approach never did. It truly is a marvellous change that is so good I wonder why no one had thought of it before.

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About ten games in to MVP 2003, I was so enamored with the fielding controls that I was ready to declare the game the must-have baseball game of the year. In the end, I have lowered my rating a tad because of the lack of features and a few AI bugs, but the throwing method is still intriguing. I especially liked the hot zone at the end of the power curve. If a player wants to try making an outstanding play (like throwing out a batter at home from the outfield, per se), they can attempt to let the ball go at the top of the power curve, in the red zone. Doing this causes the ball to really zoom across the field, but the chance for an error is increased, making it risky. I loved this element, especially since it provided a bit of logic as to why an error was committed, unlike other baseball games where it is clearly a random occurrence.

Pitching in the game is handled using the same interface and works well also. Despite the clear delay in action caused by this method, the game still plays as quickly as the competitors, likely due to the fact that the rest of the game’s mechanics and pacing are slightly accelerated.

 

mvp baseball 2003 xbox review          mvp baseball 2003 xbox review


Graphically, MVP 2003 is the king of the hill for this year’s baseball titles. The graphics are simply beautiful. The stadiums are well detailed. The player models are well captured and realistically skinned. The animation routines are robust. All in all, the graphics are a considerable step up from those of the Triple Play franchise. Only the interface doesn’t see any real improvement, though the interface of Triple Play was possibly its one true strength, so there wasn’t all that much room for improvement.

It is impossible (or at least ill-advised) to talk about sports games without discussing modes and options. EA is famous for loading its sports games down with options and they do so here. The game has pretty much what we have come to expect from a baseball title—a play now (exhibition) mode, a season mode, and a franchise mode. Beyond a home run derby mode, that is about it. There certainly are enough modes to keep the average player occupied, but the game kind of pales in comparison on this front to its main competitor, All-Star Baseball 2004.

Besides the lack of truly original modes, the only other major problem I had with the game was the batting A.I. It seems impossible to get the computer batter to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone. So going for the third strike on a curve ball that swings off the plate is impossible. This fact forces the pitcher to make hittable pitches even on a two-strike, no-ball count, which is terribly unrealistic. This might not bother everyone as much as it bothered me, but I found it to be a real problem.

Otherwise MVP 2003 is a great new franchise for EA. I look forward to seeing how this franchise develops over the lifespan of this generation of consoles. Hopefully, this year’s model is simply a taste of great things to come.

- Tolen Dante
(June 1, 2003)

 

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