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MVP Baseball 2004 Package Art
 GENRE
  Sports
 DEVELOPER
  EA Canada
 PUBLISHER
  EA Sports
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1-2
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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MVP Baseball 2004

I have to be sure to repeat this in every EA Sports review that I write: Can you imagine where the GameCube would be without Electronic Arts’ support both with EA Games and EA Sports? I know where my GameCube would be, traded in for a cup of coffee and a rubber because that’s what the system would be worth to me without EA’s exceptional sports titles.

Much like Madden, Tiger and NFL Street, EA Sports’ latest effort is an exceptional title. It features depth in every level of gameplay design and management options. It’s a testament to the formula that EA has adhered to in order to “reboot” some of its sagging franchises and kick up some dust with new titles. From the ashes of Triple Play Baseball comes MVP Baseball 2004 and sports fans (all three of you that are still loyal to GameCube) MUST BUY THIS GAME.

visuals

Although the player models aren’t the most accurate; who cares? I mean, does it really matter if Randy Johnson doesn’t look as tall as he should or if a player’s waste size isn’t accurate? As long as the players play like their real life counterparts in terms of speed, hitting, pitching etc. that’s the real issue.

Despite the player models being slightly off the animations have really stepped up to the plate in this title. Most of the animations are spot on, with the exception of a few that tend to leave you wondering because the accuracy of what’s happening on the field and the animation doesn’t seem to line up with the speed of the play. But, nonetheless, they are still really impressive and well done. One thing that really impresses me is that even after playing quite a few games you’ll still be surprised with a new animation every once in a while which is great to see and a testament to the game’s level of quality.

Another great visual feature is the incredible picture-in-picture set ups with the base runners. You can see all of them as they’re rounding the base or leading off without having to rely on watching a small dot. There’s something in the look of these pop-up views that reminds me of my Sega Genesis years.

In game menus and hot/cold sheets are excellent and easy to manage in terms of absorbing the information on-the-fly. As I’m sure most of you know; Baseball requires a lot of on-the-fly analysis of hot/cold zones, pitch history etc. Also, it’s really easy to manage the bullpen in this game because of the excellent menu system. Generally, you’ll find that the in-game menus, which are the most important issues in visuals of a baseball game, are well laid out and easy to use.

One major gripe I have about the visuals in this game however is how choppy it feels when the ball comes off of the bat with a cut scene. It would be good to see hitting without these bloody cuts to a fielding cam. This always makes it feel disjointed.

audio

EA Sports Trax comes into play again. Although not up to par with Madden or Tiger, the tracks utilized are still a nice touch and round out the menu screens nicely.

One thing that deserves major recognition is the amazing ambient audio of the stadium. Between the umps and the crowd, you hear all kind of audio nuances. Like throwing a ball at the batter’s head and you get a warning from the umpire! Then there are some excellent cheers and individual hollers from the crowd! All of the special effects including the crack of the bat and others are very well done as well, and really helps draw you into the game. Excellent work!

gameplay

Power/Accuracy meters play a big role in this game. Sometimes it feels like your playing golf with all of the pitching/throwing meters on the field. The idea is that you pre-load outfield throws by pressing the corresponding button and the longer you hold the button the meter then goes into the red which is more power and less accuracy. Pitching works the same way: You get control over every single pitch because if you muff it your location and delivery is off, not to mention that you’ll give the batter a hitting cursor giving your location away. This is very well thought out.

Hitting is much like the games of old. There are no cursors to line up, it’s just a matter of aiming the control stick to “spray” the ball where you want it (Up puts it in the air—down left is a slapper in that direction). What’s awkward is that you can pretty much hit the ball with every swing. I guess this is true in the MLB, so it’s an accurate representation, but sometimes you want to whip around on it like the Brewer’s line up. This usually only happens if you are way off on your location guessing. I'm not sure but somehow I feel like Acclaim's cursor system feels much more precise in terms of feeling like you're really guessing a pitch and it's speed. It could be that I’m just too familiar with the cursor system, but not seeing anything to line up my swing with makes things feel a bit generalized or uncertain.

Stealing bases takes a bit of training to get used to. I wish there was a “playmaker” control for this whereby you use the C-Stick to launch the player to the base of choice. You can also get your fielders to perform all types of actions to dive, jump etc. after the balls. By the way, the C-Stick is seriously lacking in response accuracy, you’ll figure this one out switching lines in Sega’s NHL title or basically any application in MVP Baseball.

One major gameplay gripe I have is that the fielders seem to be really slow reading the ball off the bat and this leads to a lot of extra bases for no reason. It’s a shame that EA allowed this slow response time in the game because it’s an otherwise excellent baseball game and one thing that you don't want is for a programming issue to interrupt the synergy of the gameplay experience. Just ask anyone who was robbed of their money when they bought Enter The Matrix.

The last thing I want to mention is that the season mode has been stacked with a full minor league system. You can lose your mind playing multiple seasons with this thing. I love it!

multiplayer

The controls (especially stealing) will take a bit of explanations to your buddies but sports buffs will love the pitching system and how every swing can be a hit.

overall

It’s EA sports, what do you expect? This is a polished sports title that offers all kinds of options and outstanding features to sports starved GameCube gamers. It’s a real shame that because of Nintendo’s lack of sports support and general third party shunning GameCube owners won’t be able to compare Acclaim’s excellent All Star Baseball against this title, but at least EA Sports is still supporting the GameCube. Whether you’re a sports fan or not is a great buy -- a lot of replay value here! Take your time to master the learning curve, jump into a season and enjoy!

final score 9.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Eric Mattei
Staff Profile | Email
"Lost like tears in rain"


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