STAFF REVIEW of MVP Baseball 2003 (Xbox)

Sunday, March 30, 2003.
by kitt

MVP Baseball 2003 Box art I am sure some of you remember EA?s Triple Play baseball series, a series criticized for lacking in various aspects of gameplay when compared with the competition. So what do you do with a fleeting baseball title? Reinvent yourself with a new name, new features and improved gameplay. Enter MVP Baseball 2003, EA?s rookie title in its re-entry into this genre. Developed by EA Canada, MVP Baseball features a new pitching and batting interface, a window-in-window "base cam" on all of the base runners, and a new spin on the often-paltry homerun derby. Game play modes include regular, franchise, season, tournament, and "Home Run Showdown". The Homerun Showdown, as it is called in this game, is a fun and unique take on the classic "Home Run Derby" as you square off against an opponent to achieve a specific total hitting distance. Each of your hits is added to a running total, fouls are subtracted with Home runs adding a 100-foot bonus, and strikes a 100-foot penalty. This game also has some excellent tutorials, which can easily replace the game manual. For a realistic, fun baseball experience, this is your game. It has all the players, all the numbers and many unique new features that will keep you busy for a few months. The best part of this game is that many, if not all, aspects of gameplay require a degree of skill with repercussion is you fail to execute. This would be a confident buy for any series baseball gamer because the improved pitching system, franchise mode and homerun showdown offer some excellent replay value.

My biggest beef with baseball video games in the past has been how fast they lose their appeal after 9 innings. Batting was the only thing I looked forward to after rushing through pitching. MVP Baseball 2003 tries to resolve this with an improved and unique batter, picture interface, the best feature of this game. It features a visible strike zone with cold, hot and neutral squares highlighted within it. A hot (red) square indicates an area where the batter is likely to get a hit and a cold (blue) square indicates where the batter is less likely to get a hit. The challenge for the pitcher is to deliver a pitch in a cold or neutral area within the strike zone; you can also pitch outside the strike zone, which will trigger your controller to rumble. The hot and cold zones is the first feature to spice up pitching, the other is the actual delivery of the pitch. Pitching is achieved with the assistance of an on screen pitching meter system. With the push of a button you activate the meter, which will require you to release the button and push it again in a couple of designated areas on the meter to establish the degree of effectiveness and accuracy of the pitch. If you screw up, the batter gets a preview of where the pitch will end up. This game is very hands on, not only in pitching, but also in many aspects of the game. Base throwing also uses a meter, which determines the strength of the throw, but too much power can result in an error. Situational hitting is very possible is this game, be it a grounder or fly ball, the batter has total control. This game also features picture-in-picture base running, so you can keep an eye on all your runners or opposing teams runners. Running the bases does take a bit of practice to master, because without it your players will end up running for home well after the catcher has the ball. This game has more control, more fun factors and fast paced gameplay, more then what I can say for a real baseball game.

The graphics are more or less what I expected from an EA game, just a PS2 port not using the capabilities of the Xbox. Stadiums could use a little work especially in the stands where the spectators resemble cardboard cutouts, with zero definition and detail. Player head scans are recognizable, but have a crazed, glazed look that at times is pretty freaky looking; let?s just say they are not perfect. On the plus side player movements are pretty fluid and uniforms ac !&%$@#* ulate dirt and grass stains, which indicates at least some attention to detail. The alternate views are great especially when pitching because it is nice to see the action from the mound. Overall the graphics are fairly well done, but improvements in the environments, shadowing detail and crowds wouldn?t hurt.

San Francisco Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow provide the play-by-play and color commentary for this game. Along with their regular commentary they throw in a few interesting facts here and there. As expected the EA trax sound track is in play, which is a familiar feature across many of EA Sports recent titles. The ballpark atmosphere is identical to what you would hear while attending an actual game. The sound effects in MVP Baseball 2003 really bring you into the game, from the crack of the bat to the roar of the crowd, the sound effects are excellent. You can hear chants for the home team and at times the crowd will yell specific players names; ?Go Barry Go!?

Graphics of course could use a little more attention

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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