MVP Baseball 2005 Review (Xbox)
In my college and single days, I ate way more than my share of fast food. McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, you name it; if they had a drive-thru, chances are I’d been there. Now if you ask me my opinion about McDonald’s based solely on my experience at "Mickey D’s", you would get one answer. If you asked instead about how McDonald’s compares to the other rapid dining establishments, the answer would be completely different. What does that have to do with sports, sports gaming, and specifically about EA’s new “MVP Baseball 2005”? Well, when “MVP Baseball 2005” made its way into the tray of my Xbox, I made the decision to play nothing but this title until every word of this review was written. So, no Whoppers, no Grande Soft Tacos, and no Arby’s Melts, metaphorically speaking of course. This review is about McDonald’s…err…"MVP". If you’re looking for a piece about how it stacks up to the competition, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re here for "MVP", please pull around.
The first thing about “MVP Baseball 2005” that really blew me away was the amount of game modes and options available. Yes, you can still jump right into the action in a matter of moments with a quick Exhibition Game, but there's so much more to choose from out of the box this year.
With the new franchise-type mode, the team at EA must have figured what’s good for the Turducken is good for the…well…anyway, they decided to borrow Owner’s Mode from the "Madden NFL" series and move it to “MVP Baseball 2005”. If taking on the on-the field managing and GM roles isn’t enough for you, now you can add the financial duties of owning the team, as well. Yes, baseball purists can call it fluff and talk about how setting the price of hot dogs has nothing to do with baseball. Fine, I’ll give you that. But what it does do is add a ton of replay value to the game and simply provides a new twist. It's definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was a welcome addition for me.
You can have the greatest modes, the prettiest graphics, and the best price on the market, but it doesn’t mean anything if the game doesn’t play well. I’m happy to report that this game plays very well. Everything is back that made "MVP" what it is. The pitching and throwing meters that, as I predicted two years ago, have become the standard in baseball games, are still there and working better than ever. This year they added what can only be described as the "yellow zone". There is now a difference between a good pitch and a perfect pitch. Before, all you really needed to do was stop the meter in the green section. This year, the green section is much smaller and it’s flanked by two yellow zones. Stop in the green and the pitch is perfect. Stop in the yellow and the pitch’s accuracy will suffer. Stop in the red, well, you might as well be throwing them underhand. And did I mention the size of each colored zone changes based on the pitcher, his stamina, and how hard the pitch is thrown? Nice.
Overall, the gameplay in “MVP Baseball 2005” is a great mix of sim and arcade that should appease the masses. But, and this is a huge Kirstie Alley-sized but, for the fine tuners out there, you will be happy to know that "MVP" comes complete with over 40 different tuning options to tweak the game to your exact liking. Slider gurus unite!
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
I’ve always been someone who is more than willing to forgive some visual deficiencies in a game if the gameplay is solid. That being said, I am not completely oblivious to visuals and I am certainly one to give credit where credit is due. “MVP Baseball 2005” may be the best looking sports game that EA Sports has ever released. The animations are absolutely unbelievable and smoothly transition at every point in the game. Unlike other titles, you never feel like you are stuck in an animation. And that includes the most over the top animations, like climbing the walls or diving all the way to very routine throws and put outs. All this occurs without any noticeable frame rate drop at any point in the game, unlike last year.
All that being said, it’s not a perfect treat for the eyes and ears. If I have one complaint, albeit a small one, is that the title still lacks that complete TV-style presentation experience that you get in other titles. It’s the best of the series by far, but it never really hits that line where you almost lose the fact that you are watching a video game.
So it looks, feels, smells, and tastes like baseball. You’re lovin’ "MVP", but you’re sick of playing against the AI. You’re ready to take it to Xbox Live. If you’re a veteran of EA Sports' venture into the world of Xbox Live, then there nothing here that will surprise you. You log into the EA servers and are greeted with the standard menu set-up. The one nice addition is for tournaments in the online mode. You and up to 15 of your closest friends - or complete strangers - can compete for ultimate bragging rights. What the online mode still dramatically lacks is a real season or league set-up.
Once you find a game to your liking, I definitely noticed a slight difference in game speed online. Under the circumstances, I understand that it simply can’t be as smooth online as offline, but with a game that is based so much on timing and meters, any sizable lag can kill a match-up quickly. I know this has been the area that has kept a lot of skeptical baseball fans off of the 'net. Keep in mind, however, that this is not an EA issue. I stop just short of excusing it as “the nature of the beast.” But be aware that if you are purchasing this game strictly for online play, make sure you have a solid connection and a friends list full of people with the same.
If the rumors are true and this is the last baseball effort from the team at EA Sports, it is a shame to say the least. Since the "Triple Play" series evolved into "MVP Baseball", the title has made steady and solid improvement each year; sadly something you don’t see from most sports series. “MVP Baseball 2005” is a great game of baseball. Does it accurately simulate every aspect of being a player, coach, and/or owner? No. In fact, a lot of the extras are going to be seen as unnecessary fluff by the baseball purists. But I guess you can call me a fun purist because I just plain had fun with this game. Is it better than the competition? Does it matter? All that matters is, if you put your $29.99 down for this title, will you have fun? Yes. Yes, you will.