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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Canada

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

March 2004

 

 

- The most authentic and realistic Gameplay found in any baseball title

- In-depth Dynasty mode

- Every MLB, AAA, and AA team

- Great sound supported by Dolby Digital

- Retro jerseys, legendary players, and legendary ballparks

 

 

- Graphics aren’t as clean as they could be

- No Xbox live or updated rosters (after 01-15-04)

- Technical blunders

- Crowd animation is abysmal

 

 

Review: All-Star Baseball 2004 (XB)

Review: World Series Baseball 2K3 (XB)

Review: MVP Baseball 2003 (XB)

Review: Inside Pitch 2003 (XB)

 

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MVP Baseball 2004

Score: 8.8/10

 

mvp baseballl 2004 xbox review          mvp baseball 2004 xbox review

 

Triple Play Baseball was EA's third nipple. While other sport titles from EA were making strides towards matching the competition, TPB remained stagnant in innovation with loyal followers shifting away to other series’ such as World Series Baseball and All-Star Baseball. Now, all of that is behind EA. They have built a reputation of great sport titles, and now they move their efforts towards the leathers mitts and pine bats. MVP Baseball had been under production for four

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 years before debuting last year, and despite some flaws, proved a decent baseball game. One year from the debut comes their second effort to try and dominate the baseball realm.

MVP Baseball 2004 (MVP) is everything the team imagined their last effort could be and a whole lot more. First off, all of the technical gaffes from last year (missed tags,

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automated jumps, etc.) were first on their list to fix. Next was to give the player control of a franchise on levels only imagined before. MVP delivers the most in-depth and challenging franchise ever seen in any sport title.

When starting off the Dynasty mode you aren’t picking just one team but three. MVP features all AAA and AA teams that correspond with their real life major league ball club. This makes the level of difficulty much harder because you aren’t in control of just one ball club, but three separate teams that carry their own wants and needs. For example, the Texas Rangers may have one of the best hitting lineups in the league but one of the worst pitching rotations while the Oklahoma Redhawks (AAA) may want for great fielding and speed. These conflicting team issues come into play throughout the season and require direct attention in order to keep the players happy, team chemistry at a high level, and keep a steady franchise for years to come, all of 120 years.

Not only do the three teams have needs but also individual players. All 75 active and inactive players can display one of five different mood faces ranging from extremely happy or complete rage. Controlling the happiness of each player may entail a number of different issues. If a player is performing better than expected he might opt for a contract extension and ask for more money while the higher paid stars might ask to be traded during team slumps. To determine how a player is feeling EA Sports has introduced an e-mail system (similar to the ESPN sports titles) that lets you know how a player is feeling and what a player wants. If all of the dynasty quirks seem a bit cumbersome, you can always have these options turned off before starting a dynasty.

Aside from the dynasty mode MVP also features Exhibition for single games, Situation mode for those you like to create or relive their favorite situations, or Pitcher and Homerun Showdown. Homerun Showdown was in the last MVP and is essentially the same as last year. Players are given points based on the distance of each ball, just like a home run derby. However, unlike a home run derby balls that don’t clear the fence are still counted towards the total.

Pitcher Showdown is new to the franchise and similar to the home run showdown, except only for pitchers. Players compete to strike out as many batters as they can before the other pitcher reaches the same goal. The twist is that if a batter hits a home run, you loose a strikeout you may have earned. Both modes are a great way to lose some of your dynasty woes or have some healthy competition between friends.

 

mvp baseball 2004 xbox review          mvp baseball 2004 xbox review


With a strong dynasty mode it would be a shame if the gameplay didn’t keep up. The gameplay system of MVP remains identical to last year’s with the same pitching and throwing meter. To fill the meter up you hold down the corresponding pitch button and release it towards the top of the meter for the pitch strength you desire. By tapping the same button again in a green zone for accuracy the pitch is released. As first this may seem like a hassle and a frustrating task. I had the same impulse going into MVP but soon found it to be more fun than hitting. Like pitching, the infielders and outfielders have the same meter, only not as complex. The meter fills up the same way only this time accuracy is based on the power behind the throw. Each player has a red zone that determines their strength. The bigger the red zone the higher chances of an error. Keeping your feet planted and set determines how big the red zone grows and keeps your throws accurate and concise. Again, like the pitching, this easily becomes a favorite (though choppy during double-play animations).

Fielding has also been revamped. Last year jumping and sliding was all computer controlled creating some awkward outcomes that led to losses and frustrating moments. This year the player has control of every leap, dive, slide, and bulldoze of the catcher. By using the right-analog stick, the player can choose how to slide and how to dive. Identical to the “playmaker” controls of Madden, the “big play control” in MVP can be the fine line between being safe or out. Timing the dives and slides is not easy to do. Missing a dive in the outfield can lead to triples or even inside the park homeruns easily.

Another refined aspect of the game, the batting is now more realistic than it ever was. With nine zones of hitting and multiple ways of making contact with the ball, you truly get the sense of a fastball whiffing past you. The game works off of a “hit it where it’s pitched” theory where following the path and location of the ball determines how well you make contact. The “pure swing system”, as EA Sports calls it, follows a set of rules to make great contact. If a ball is coming low and away, you swing with the left-analog low and away. The same goes for anywhere else within the nine zones, and making the wrong decision can easily give you an out, so make sure you judge the location of the ball carefully.

One area of the game that isn’t groundbreaking is in the graphics department. The jersey textures aren’t as clean as other titles and the crowds are simply abysmal. The entire bottom bowl of a stadium features 3D and animated crowds, which is a nice touch, but elsewhere the crowds are 2D pin-ups that take away from the overall value. On the other hand the stadiums look amazing and detailed as ever. Some quirks that should have been in the game, such as workable scoreboards in every ballpark and home run celebrations weren’t realized to their full potential and may dishearten some die-hard baseball fans.

From the audio commentary to the crack of the bat, this is the most authentic sounding baseball game to date. The commentary is fresh and filled with great facts and timely conversations during the game. The crowd itself features all the real chants from each stadium and a few extra fan favorites such as “Beat LA” heard at the Dodgers rival games. For Xbox owners MVP features Dolby Digital sound and HDTV 720p support to bring out the most realistic sound and visuals in any baseball game.

MVP Baseball isn't perfect though; there are technical gaffes. Turning double-plays are delayed because of the power meter and might affect the outcomes of the play. Other problems include players not stepping on the bags, foul balls counted as home runs, and some framerate issues. Putting aside these minor setbacks, MVP is still one hell of a game.

A major letdown to Xbox gamers might be the fact that there is no Xbox live compatibility but MVP offers too much to be overlooked for lack of online support. (The rosters must be updated manually.) MVP Baseball 2004 has the most accurate and authentic gameplay experience and the most in-depth franchise mode setting the bar higher for other developers.

- Eric Lahiji
(March 25, 2004)

 

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