Released in 2005 by EA Sports
Although it’s certainly aged, this baseball sim plays great and is full of depth. It would make a good companion for a baseball nut back in 2005, and if for some reason you don’t like The Show or 2K’s more modern baseball games, you could conceivably go back to this and fall in love with it.
Where it falls in the series
EA’s Triple Play series jumped to PS2 and Xbox in 2001, and the first two games were so bad they changed the game and the name. MVP Baseball 2003 is much better received, and it introduced the pitching meter that’s seen here. Sony’s The Show series starting using a very similar pitching meter for its 2005 edition, titled MLB 2006 (I know, what a bogus title).
This is the last MLB edition in the series. The 2K Sports company got revenge on EA for buying the exclusive rights to the NFL (see ESPN NFL 2K5) by buying the rights to MLB games (although Sony was free to continue making MLB The Show because it was specific to PlayStation consoles). EA followed up with two college baseball games MVP NCAA Baseball 06 and 07, before they called it quits. Ironically, Sony put 2K’s baseball series to bed by simply making better games, and 2K got the upperhand on EA by putting out superior basketball games. Damn, that was a lot of crap to explain. Here’s your review:
Praises and gripes
This game provides a full baseball experience that baseball junkies can sink their teeth into. The gameplay is meant to recreate big league baseball to a T, with genuine physics, pitch movement, batting logic, frequency of hits vs. outs, and errors.
The pitch meter is great, giving you intuitive control over the power and accuracy of pitches. Hitting is a real challenge, and it’ll take many games for you to hone your eye at the plate. The default settings favor pitching — it’s not difficult to be precise with your location — but there are sliders for just about everything on a 100-point scale.
The pitching/hitting strategy is nicely fleshed out with hot-cold zones, pitch history, and handy replays showing how late or early your swing was (unfortunately, they don’t show you this when you’re pitching). When you miss on the pitch meter, the location is “tipped off” to the batter. Also, there’s a “hitter’s eye” feature where certain pitches make the ball a certain color as they come out of the pitcher’s hand, but I found this hard to exploit.
The action in the field is swift, smooth, and easy to control. A throw meter above the fielder’s head is helpful in showing you exactly how long to hold the button. Fielding is forgiving; you won’t miss a fly ball for not being in the precise right spot, and you can start your throw a moment too soon with no repercussions. Baserunning, a potential misfire for baseball games, is also easy to pick up. And the game moves from pitch to pitch quickly, which I always appreciate.
On the downside, even with my limited baseball sense, I thought there were too many lineouts to infielders and too many high bouncers. Also, I prefer the pitching system in The Show, where you can purposely misfire on the release to add a bit of “nastiness” to your pitches.
Visually, it’s definitely dated, with jagged edges everywhere and hiccups in the presentation, but the animations have lifelike fluidity, and the ball is easy to track as it comes hurling to the plate. In the sound department, both the announcers and menu music are godawful, but you can turn those off and the ballpark sounds are just fine (although the crowd never shows extra enthusiasm on big plays, which is a bummer).
There’s a deep franchise mode with a full minor league system, which was state of the art in its time. The abilities and tendencies of players have a big impact on the action; each pitcher has a different arsenal, and better hitters not only hit harder, but have better luck hitting balls where the fielders can’t get them. This makes the management stuff pretty rewarding for those who put in the time and effort. I’ve heard glowing reviews of the ballpark editor, but it’s pretty underwhelming.
There’s a pitching practice mini game designed to hone your timing with the pitching meter. And there’s a really funny batting practice mini game, where you’re in a public park decked out with mechanical ramps and weird space-age sounds. You can’t fault them for trying to add some sizzle to the steak.
All in all, it’s a fantastic game, but would you play it today? It’s not even the best baseball game on PS2. I’m pretty sure every installment of The Show (2006 though 2011) is superior.