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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Sports

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

February 2005

 

 

- Game controls, especially, pitching and fielding, and A.I. are extremely intuitive and well-done
- Solid online gameplay on Xbox Live
- Overwhelming amount of fantasy league-style features in both Dynasty and Owner’s modes

 

 

- Learning to hit takes a lot of practice
- Mundane presentation values, at best: graphics are average, announcers are below average
- Where’s Barry Bonds?

 

 

Review: MVP Baseball 2004 (XB)

Review: World Series Baseball 2K3 (XB)

Review: All-Star Baseball 2005 (XB)

 

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MVP Baseball 2005

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

mvp baseball 2005 review          mvp baseball 2005 review

 

After its Triple Play franchise proved to be a mediocre basement dweller in the league of baseball video gaming, EA has had a lot of success becoming a serious contender for the best baseball game around with its MVP Baseball game. And this year, MVP Baseball 2005 continues EA’s baseball game resurrection with a solid baseball title that not only plays well, but is packed with a ridiculous amount of fantasy league-type features and has the added bonus of competitive, problem-free online gaming through Xbox Live.

The most important aspect of any sports game is if it plays as a true representation of the particular sport. And MVP Baseball 2005 plays extremely close to realistic. Pitching is by far easier to master in MVP Baseball 2005, although without a good spring training’s worth of practice time, you won’t be challenging for the virtual Cy

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Young Award. Pitching uses a similar meter as EA’s Madden football uses for kicking. You must first select the pitch, then aim where you would like the ball to go in the batter’s box. Then a meter moves, and you must stop it in a “sweet” spot that decides the quality of the particular pitch by hitting the corresponding button related to the pitch you selected, such as a curve ball. You must stop the meter a second time to control the

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location. If you just dive into exhibition games without practicing your pitching prowess, expect to get lit up on the mound and see your E.R.A. hit double digits.

To help out learning how to pitch and hit, the game has a mini-game mode that allows players to hone their skills. The pitching mini-game is a twist on Tetris, where you knock out colored blocks in connecting patterns that match up with specific pitches. For hitting there’s a mini-game that develops your swing timing along with directional hitting. You’ll learn to hit to opposite fields and pull the ball. The home run derby is another good way to pick up hitting skills. But even with tons of batting practice, learning the art of becoming a top-flight hitting machine takes a lot more development time than learning to hurl the ball.

Fielding the ball requires some practice, but the fielding controls in MVP Baseball 2005 are so intuitive, you’ll be a Gold Glover in no time. You can jump up to catch balls (particularly beneficial for outfielders trying to rob homers headed for the seats right over the fence) or dive (useful for ball hit in the infield that a diving shortstop or third baseman can turn from a sure hit to a spectacular out.) Even the throw is controlled by your actions. You can lob an easy throw when you have plenty of time to get a base runner, or rifle the ball trying to turn the twin killing or catch a speedy runner, but with the risk of an errant throw if the throw meter goes into the “red” zone.

Even base running is handled with ease by the game’s A.I. You don’t have to worry about handling two or three runners on the bases at the same time. The game’s A.I. automatically controls runners, properly gauging when to send runners to the next base or hold their ground. You can take control of any particular runner on the base paths, but why would you when the A.I. is the perfect third base coach guiding your players around the sacks?

 

mvp baseball 2005 review           mvp baseball 2005 review


Where no baseball game can touch MVP Baseball 2005 is in the fantasy league elements the game contains. Just like every EA Sports title, MVP Baseball 2005 goes overboard (in a good way) with the fantasy league options. There are two modes in MVP Baseball 2005 for fantasy leaguers: Owner Mode, where you’ll play the role as team owner for 30 seasons. You’re in control of everything: stadium, concessions, tickets, and salaries…literally everything on a day-to-day basis. That pales in comparison to the Dynasty Mode, where you run your favorite team for 120 seasons. Yes, 1-2-0. That’s just unbelievable.

Not only do you control the major league squad, you also handle the AAA, AA, and even the A minor league teams. All the Major Leaguer players are in the game as far as I can tell, except one notable slugger: the abrasive mega-ego himself, Barry Bonds. (MVP Baseball 2005 doesn’t shortchange Giants gamers though: in the game, Bonds is known as Joe Dowd, a big slugger himself.)

You can promote, demote, trade, sign free agents; do everything required of a Major League general manager. In fact, the only one downside here: with so much focus required on running your team, you won’t actually be playing too many actual games. You’ll need to simulate almost every single game, especially since you have to deal with the minor league individual games too.

Online play via Xbox Live comes to bat this year, and is an exceptional addition. It’s easy finding games to play, and while games only go five innings, you’ll find low-scoring but competitive games, requiring strategic pitching and hitting. I’ve yet to have any problem with lag or interruptions of gameplay, proving EA’s put in the extra effort to use Xbox Live the right way for enjoyable, problem-free online gaming.

One mostly average aspect of MVP Baseball 2005 are its graphics. While the visuals are not disappointing, they clearly are not taking advantage of the Xbox’s rendering power. By far the worst visuals are the stadium crowds, especially when viewed up-close-and-personal, where they’re nothing more than virtual cardboard cutouts. The players and ballparks are done well, but don’t overly impress. Much better are the player animations, especially all the dives, jumps, and slides defensive players make on the field. Offensively, running the bases and sliding a player going into a base also are animated realistically.

Sound elements include a really rather weak announcer tandem of Dwayne Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who in reality work for the San Francisco Giants announcing crew. I hope they announce a game much, much better for the Giants fans than they do for MVP Baseball 2005, because they’re just awful. You’ll hear too many repeated comments, even on back-to-back pitches. Their attempts at humor are lame, they miss calls (like talking about a “ball dropping in for a hit” that the outfielder proceeds to catch for an out) and add nothing to MVP Baseball 2005 but rambling enough to cause your ears to hurt. At least the crowd cheering (that increases if the home team does something good) and sounds of vendors selling their wares in the stands adds a helping of authenticity (I thought it was a nice touch to have stadium-specific vendor cries. In my hometown of Philadelphia, you’ll hear vendors selling Philly Cheesesteaks. It had me wanting to call out “Yeah, pass one of them down here, Mr. Vendor, but hold the onions!”)

The boys of summer are once again playing as Major League Baseball has just settled into its steroid-tainted 2005 season, and EA’s MVP Baseball 2005 gives an all-star quality showing for baseball gaming fans. With an outrageous plethora of fantasy league-style features, nobody comes close to capturing the authenticity of fantasy leaguing better than EA, who once again prove their not kidding with their “if it’s in the game, it’s in the game” claim. Solid online play via Xbox Live, great controls, and a tough-as-nails challenge from the game’s A.I. raise the pennant of winning baseball gaming for MVP Baseball 2005.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(April 27, 2005)

 

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