MVP Baseball 2003 Review

Joe Dodson
MVP Baseball 2003 Info

genre

  • Sports

players

  • 1 - 4

Publisher

  • EA
  • EA Sports

Developer

  • EA Sports

Release Date

  • 11/30/1999
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS2
  • Xbox

rating

Pitcher Perfect.

Like a no-name, rookie slugger in the World Series who hits a grand-slam, or a

rickety geezer like Robert Hairy hitting a clutch three, MVP Baseball 2003

is at once old and young. Replacing EA’s ancient Triple Play series, this

upstart for the Xbox is my kind of baseball game.

MVP

2003
isn’t a simulation style game. It has no batting cursor, a less esoteric

franchise mode and very simplified fielding. Tack on the crispiest game engine

in baseball, a wicked pitching scheme and solid graphics and you’ve got a simple,

clean, fun baseball game.

The modes, though, are very ubiquitous and have been around forever. Tyrannosauruses

probably hunted and ate these modes way back in the day: Quick-play (exhibition),

Season, Post-Season, Home Run Showdown and Franchise. To be fair, the Home Run

Showdown is a little different from the typical Home Run Dearly. You and a friend

can tee off in a timed battle to knock balls out of the park, with score subtractions

for fouls and whatnot. It’s a decent diversion. Everything else, though, is

basically what you’ve come to expect…except for the Franchise mode.

Franchise in MVP Baseball 2003 is less intricate than the one in Sega’s

excellent World Series Baseball

2K3
. It lacks a couple common options, such as drafting generated players

and free agents, and in turn will likely disappoint management fans. To make

up for these shortcomings, the game rewards good play by building up your momentum,

which can determine if you’ll win a CPU simulated game. Franchise mode also

features an odd team-specific goal system. These differ from team to team; the

Yankees’ goal is to win the World Series a few times, while the Brewers just

have to put together a few winning seasons. It’s a bit strange, but also unique

to this game.

But frankly, if you’re a stat junkie and consider Franchise Mode the heart

and soul of a baseball game, then MVP 2003 is going to be a let down.

However, it doesn’t let down when it comes to the gameplay.

Take the pitching. At first glance, the pitching interface looks like many

other baseball games. There’s a hot and cold zone for each batter and each pitch

in a pitcher’s repertoire is mapped to a button. You’ve also got a diagram of

the bases with the baserunners’ positions on it, as well new corresponding picture-in-picture

displays above each base, giving you a much better idea of a runners’ lead.

You move the left analog stick and a ball cursor in the strike-zone moves correspondingly,

although it disappears after about two seconds. Like in every other game, the

rumble feature of your control pad will kick in as you hit/begin to leave the

edge of the strike zone.

However, once you select a pitch the fun really begins. Power and accuracy

are decided by a meter, using a system similar to the one for kicking in most

football games. Once you’ve selected a pitch, you hold down the corresponding

button and watch as a power-meter fills (which matches smartly with the pitcher’s

wind-up). Once the charge reaches its limit, you release the button and the

meter will rapidly diminish.

At the bottom of the meter is a green ‘accuracy’ window. If you manage to press the pitch button again when the extremity of the meter is within this window, your pitch will be accurate and go where you intended. Fail to stop the meter in this zone, and your pitch will lose some accuracy and its location will be telegraphed to the batter.

Each pitcher has his strong and weak pitches, which relates to the size of the accuracy zone. If a pitcher sucks at throwing curves, then the accuracy window will be tiny unless you charge the power-meter very little.

The

whole thing works wonderfully. It’s a great new way to handle pitching, and

while it sounds a bit complex, it’s intuitive and fun.

Batting, on the other hand, has been reduced in complexity. You have no cursor;

rather, manipulating the left-stick affects what you try to do to the ball (pop

it up, pull it, ground it, etc.). As a result, the batting game depends entirely

on timing and a sharp eye. While very simple, I prefer this means of batting

to using a batting cursor. In most games, the cursor never moves smoothly. I

usually just wind up placing it over a spot on the plate and hoping one pitch

out of five or whatever makes its way there. MVP‘s scheme is much simpler

and more enjoyable.

Fielding is also easier as a result of reduced options. You don’t even get

to decide whether or when your fielder dives or jumps; they just do it automatically.

This can either be great or irritating, depending on the circumstance. A meter

similar to that of the pitcher’s charges when you tell a fielder to throw, which

determines its velocity, trajectory and accuracy. Although a bit redundant,

it’s a good addition.

The game engine moves everything along nicely. The animations are very good,

but what really defines the game is the tempo. MVP‘s gameplay is quick

and crisp. For the most part, the PS2

and Xbox versions look and play identically. However, the anti-aliasing seems

a bit soggy in the Xbox version. What is otherwise a very crisp game doesn’t

look quite as sharp on the Xbox as it does on the PS2, which is a little weird

considering the green machine is technically a more powerful system. While the

graphics aren’t as impressive as World Series Baseball 2K3, they are

definitely adequate, thanks mainly to the animations. The crowd and stadiums

look fine if a little cardboard-y and the effects (like the white trail on a

ball in flight) are pleasing and tasteful.

The game sounds like baseball, with cool crowd chants and noises and a decent

announcing crew consisting of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who are witty and,

of course, repetitive.

For implementing a great new pitching system (that blows every other off the

plate), taking risks by omitting several deeply rooted clichés and basically

being the first really new baseball game in at least 2 years, MVP

Baseball 2003
deserves your attention. Those of you more into the simulation

aspects of the sport will be better served with WSB 2K3, but for my money

MVP Baseball 2003 is the most important baseball game of the year.

 

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4.5
Rating
BEST PITCHING EVER
Clean, crisp gameplay
Decent graphics
Trimmed a lot of fat
Some people love the fat
And those people will prefer