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MVP Baseball 2004?s development team at EA Canada must really need a vacation?never before has a sports game improved so much and added so many new features in a single season. It may not be the league-leader in every category, but excellent performances across the board make it the best baseball game of the year.
I recently went to a batting cage for the first time in about ten years, thinking I would smack a few balls, flex afterwards for the ladies and then go enjoy a cool one in the arcade. So I paid my fare, popped on a helmet (with the facemask, of course; a toothless geek is a sad sight) and strode bravely into the cage. Assuming a complicated and emotionally draining stance, I awaited the first pitch. As I saw it travel down the chute, I tightened my mighty grip, and when it finally came firing out at me I closed my eyes and swung.
Xbox Nation (XBN)
Say hello to the king - MVP is the best-playing game of the bunch, and its killer pitching engine makes it a must for would be Greg Madduxes, although it may be a little to intense for casual fans. Truly it's a game for solo players, Live addicts should look elsewhere.
The beautiful thing about baseball (besides a nearly unending supply of hot dogs and beer) is its unpredictable wind of change. We're not talking about that 18mph gust that blows a foul ball fair. No, these are metaphorical winds that make champs out of last year's losers. Look at EA's MVP Baseball 2004. Not long ago their Triple Play series was the joke of Spring Training. But now it's like a whole new ballgame. MVP 2004 isn't perfect baseball, but there's no better animated title out there, and the gameplay is almost tough enough to end up on top.
Remember the simple days when EA's Triple Play was so bad it was never even a consideration as a purchase? Call it the Jeremy Giambi of video games -- recognizable name, not the one you wanna give a $100 million contract to. That changed last year when EA wiped the slate clean and introduced their new franchise MVP Baseball. What we saw in 2003 was a ball game with some innovative ideas, but in need of a lot of fine tuning. Fielding mechanics were bad at times, the AI had problems, and there wasn't much depth to the Dynasty Mode. MVP Baseball 2003 was a good game, no doubt, but EA Canada had its work cut out if they were to topple Sega from the baseball throne.
The core fundamentals are spot-on, the variety of options and control choices is spectacular, and the presentation totally draws you into the experience. Last year's MVP Baseball 2003 was praised for its complex simulation-style controls, but it was also criticized for failing to include many of the simple things that most video baseball fans take for granted. Pitcher warm-ups and intentional walks were absent, and the franchise mode didn't allow you to draft teams or trade players. At the same time, the limited variety of player animations displayed on the field didn't jive with the massive amount of noise and activity going on in the stands. MVP Baseball 2004 fixes these problems and expands upon every other aspect that made the previous installment such a joy to play.
Next Level Gaming
Can you feel the magic? Opening day is coming fast, and it appears the Baltimore Orioles are going to open up against the Red Sox on a Sunday night on ESPN 2. Very nice. And it's a welcome break from all this Terrell Owens garbage going on with my beloved Ravens. But that's a whole other discussion. Anyway, Baseball season is here and here come the video games to follow suit. First up to the plate is the ever impressive EA Sports with their second edition of MVP Baseball. MVP Baseball was launched officially last year, after EA Sports decided to scrap their Triple Play series. MVP 2003 was released to pretty good reviews and acclaim. But it was beaten out slightly by Sega’s World Series Baseball offering.
The number of available hardball games available for the Xbox is falling faster than Jason Giambi's maximum bench press. The late 3D0's High Heat series was bought by Microsoft, who apparently is taking the year off and not releasing either a High Heat title or its own Inside Pitch. Fret not. If you get a hold of EA Sports' MVP Baseball 2004, you won't care. This monster of a title is an excellent way for you to experience the Great American Pastime.
The Video Game Critic
MVP Baseball tends to provide poor angles of certain plays, notably close plays at first base. Finally, some of the cut-scenes, like players walking to the plate, simply waste time and can not be turned off (although you can skip them with a push of a button). That's what I hate about modern baseball games - all those little cut scenes are supposed to add realism but just slow things down. Still, MVP Baseball is the first new baseball I've played in a while that doesn't put me to sleep after a few innings. If EA tightened up the presentation MVP would be tough to beat.