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MVP Baseball 2003

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

Sometimes, starting over from scratch is the best thing to do: cooking, relationships, and making a baseball video game. That's exactly what EA Sports did after their failing Triple Play chain had its final out last season. So now they've started anew with MVP Baseball 2003, and let me tell you, the future is bright for this series. With this year's rookie version, graphics are its biggest draw, as everything truly mimics its real life counterpart, minus the drunken fans coming on to the field at Comiskey Park during a Royals-White Sox game. The player models feature life-like animations with their actions and reactions, like when the batter has a look of disbelief as he watches the third strike go by.

But as we all know, even rookies make mistakes, and sadly, did. The most notable is the fact that there is no player collision whatsoever. Runners slide through the basemen's outstretched arms, fielders run through umpires, and tags are made when it seems there is still another foot between the 'tagger' and 'taggee'. Next year, I hope they address these issues, because I'm really hoping to run the catcher over on my way to home plate.

I think a lot of the other rookie problems came in the sound department as well. Now I know there are 162 games played in a baseball season, but there has to be more said in the commentary other than the two things you hear each game. Seriously, each ballpark has two introductions from the play-by-play man, meaning you hear the same one every other game. Meanwhile, the color commentator alternates his catch phrases between pitches, which get old by the bottom half of the first inning. The good in all of this is the soundtrack, featuring artists like Sum 41, Burning Brides, Taproot, The Exies, The Donnas and more, and the background noise, which follows the game down to the final out. If the home team starts stinking up the joint, the crowd will start booing. Vice versa, if the visiting ball club is getting rocked, there's a good chance you'll hear them chant: Overrated! clap, clap, clap clap clap. Any time I hear that about the Yankees, I have to smile.


Gameplay:

There is absolutely no doubt, EA wants gamers to forget about Triple Play. It becomes completely obvious in the gameplay for MVP Baseball 2003. The focus of the series is on the relationship between the pitcher and the batter, calling it the 'Classic Duel'. In each hitter's strike zone, there are hot and cold zones (represented with red and blue squares), replicating each member of the MLB. This becomes important when you are either pitching or hitting, because it becomes a strategic guessing game of where and what pitch should be thrown next. While I did enjoy the Total Pitch Control, I was a little more frustrated with the Full Swing Control. Beginners and younger gamers may have a tougher time determining where the pitch will be placed, something that will have an effect on their replay of the game for the future. The other added insert into MVP 2003 is the picture-in-picture view of the base runners, which I thought had a great feel for the controller setup. One thing that really left me up in the air though, was the fielding. It's very hard to select the player you want, and you have no control over jumping and diving. The computer just does it for you when it wants to. Hopefully this is just another rookie mistake, and not a recurring problem for future seasons.

MVP Baseball 2003 offers a few modes that are fun for you and your friends. You can play through the generics like Play Now, Season, and Tournament. In place of a Home Run Derby, there is Home Run Showdown. This is where two batters go head to head in a race of hitting for distance. Each swing of the bat adds more feet to your total length. I think this is actually better than a derby, because you can either play against a friend or the computer. Plus, unless you're actually watching the real life Home Run Derby in person or on TV, things can get a little old after a while. The main mode for MVP 2003 is obviously the Franchise, where you also play as the GM for ten seasons, trying to complete specific team goals while worrying about things like payroll, batting order, and drafting the next superstar.


Difficulty:

Like most sports games, MVP Baseball has three different levels of difficulty: Rookie, Pro, and All-Star. The batting and pitching is mostly affected between the degrees of difficulty. There also is something for those that are new to the game, or new to baseball in general. If you go through Harold Reynold's MVP Tips, you'll learn the basics of the game, along with the advanced features offered, all by watching several short tutorials.

Game Mechanics:

It may take some gamers a bit, but the controller configuration fits very well for MVP Baseball 2003. Each button has a function, and it will probably take some time to learn, but it does make sense. Meantime, the game menus are fairly easy to understand, although there is a slight lag at times between the loadings. However, the loading time itself is very brief, and you'll never run out of memory space.

In the commercials for MVP 2003, you hear Miguel Tejada and Randy Johnson both say, 'All I need is one more pitch'. I think all it needs is one more year, and MVP Baseball will be the most dominant baseball sim out there.


-Red Dawg, GameVortex Communications
AKA Alex Redmann

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