screenshot from MVP 2005
AP  /  AP
Step up to the plate. Electronic Arts' "MVP 2005," is one three new baseball titles.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 4/21/2005 5:00:33 PM ET 2005-04-21T21:00:33

If the return of major league baseball hasn't already satisfied your hardball fix, three new video games may offer some help.

All three titles — "Major League Baseball 2K5," "MLB 2006" and "MVP 2005" — pack in a tremendous amount of detail and succeed in bringing a field of dreams to your living room.

"MLB 2K5" ($20, E-rated, PlayStation 2 and Xbox) by Take-Two Interactive takes the 2K series a step forward with beautifully rendered stadiums and the most outstanding play-by-play of any sports game to date. Fantastic use of ESPN's graphic overlays, pitch-by-pitch replays, and K-Zone analysis make up part of "MLB 2K5"'s slick presentation package.

ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan return with play-by-play and color analyst duties. The amount of variety and depth of analysis is unmatched and will have you grinning several times a game.

Graphically, "MLB 2K5" is a mixed bag. The stadiums are gorgeous and accurately represented with detail and vibrant color.

And while the player's faces are lifelike, the animations are seriously lacking. Players appear stiff and awkward, especially in the field. Poor ball physics and a lack of hit variety also detract from the overall package.

The stadiums and presentation in EA Sports' "MVP 2005" ($30, E-rated, PS2, GameCube, Xbox and PC) are drab compared to "MLB 2K5."

The commentators for "MVP 2005" are laughably bad, but no other baseball game offers as many eye-popping animations. As a result, its game play is unparalleled. It just feels right in every way.

Pitching is largely unchanged from the previous version — a good thing. Hitting has been refined slightly with the added ability to move your player in the batter's box.

Fielding in "MVP 2005" is an absolute joy. The large variety of animations in the infield keep games fresh and exciting.

A "Batter's Eye" feature assigns different hues to the ball just before the pitcher throws, with each color corresponding to a different pitch type. I found it to be a gimmick sure to annoy baseball purists, and fortunately I was able to turn it off.

EA's new Owner mode is far superior to franchise modes in other baseball games. The option to build stadiums with funds generated from media contracts, ticket sales, concession sales and merchandise sales is a brilliant stroke that really puts you in the driver's seat of a major league franchise.

As owner, you can hand pick the type of ball park and fill it with a high-tech scoreboard, merchants, concession stands, parks, attractions — and hopefully people. Building a modern, fan-friendly facility and winning games on the field is a recipe for financial success.

This year's most pleasant surprise, however, is 989's reinvented "MLB 2006," a $40, E-rated PS2 exclusive.

The pitching and hitting interfaces in "MLB 2006" have been improved. It emulates MVP's accuracy meter with a "Release Point Pitching and Pitcher Confidence Meter."

The pitching upgrades are balanced nicely with a pitch guessing system. Guessing pitches correctly alerts the batter of pitch locations in advance, much like when you hang a breaking ball in "MVP 2005."

But where "MLB 2006" stands out from the pack is in its new Career Mode. Like a role-playing game, you play from the player's perspective, controlling their destiny from the minor leagues to (hopefully) a Hall of Fame career in the majors.

Interactions with the manager and teammates directly affect team morale. You can complain about playing time, demand trades, negotiate higher contracts or even conduct exclusive media interviews.

All three games offer online play. "MLB 2K5" rules the roost with online leagues and splendid Web site support.

But in this battle of sluggers, "MVP 2005" beats some stiff competition by offering the most authentic and immersive baseball experience this year for just $30.

Four out of four stars for "MVP 2005," three out of four for both "MLB 2006" and "MLB 2K5."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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