MVP Baseball 2005 Hands-On
The pitcher-batter duel is one of the most complex interactions in all of sports. The number of head games that can transpire between a pitcher and a batter over the course of a single at-bat would put a soap opera ingénue to shame. Pitchers are always looking to work weak spots in a batter's swing, while batters are consistently spying and scoping out a pitcher's release, looking for patterns to exploit while in the box. As such, these subtleties between these two players are among the most difficult to capture in sports video games. With the latest baseball title from EA Sports, MVP Baseball 2005, the publisher-developer has tried to capture some of these details to add realism to pitcher-battle duels. We recently sat down with a preview build of the latest MVP game to see just how these upgrades affect the game.
The most obvious gameplay tweak in MVP 2005 is from the batter's point of view. Not only has the batting camera been tweaked slightly to bring the pitcher closer to the action (thus pitches don't seem to arrive from center field any longer), but also pitches are now color-coded according to pitch type. Breaking balls, for example, are red, while off-speed pitches are green, and fastballs are white. Pitches even include a contrail that will lengthen as the pitcher tires during a game. This color-coded approach to batting, dubbed the "hitter's eye" in the game, is meant to re-create the process hitters go through when trying to spy a pitch before it crosses the plate, whether by reading a pitcher's hand position at the top of his throwing arc or noting the position of the ball's seams in the pitcher's hand. These subtleties are, no doubt, difficult to re-create in a video game. Pitchers who do a good job of hiding pitches before their releases, such as Greg Maddux and Dontrelle Willis, will be more immune to the hitter's-eye feature, as pitcher windup animations are based on their real-life Major League Baseball counterparts.
It's important to note that the ball color only gives the batter information on the family a particular pitch belongs to. It makes no special differentiation, for example, between a curveball and a slider, or between a two-seam fastball and a four-seamer. In addition, there's no early indicator of where a pitch will land. All that a batter has to work with is a bit of extra information regarding the pitch type and, thus, the type of motion the ball will undergo before it reaches the catcher's mitt. Of course, for skilled players, this may be all the information needed to make solid contact.
For those who lack long-ball skills, the game's pitch-swing analysis mode lets you view a replay of the last pitch thrown from a variety of angles. During the replay, an outline of the pitch will appear as it travels through its arc, and the opportune timing window of a swing will be outlined with yellow and green color coding, which is perfect for timing those off-speed pitches.
Of course, batters aren't the only beneficiaries of gameplay tweaks this year, because pitchers also get in on the action. Mechanically, pitching is much the same as it was last year. You'll still choose a pitch type, and then you'll enter the familiar arc-shaped pitching meter to determine pitch power and accuracy. Instead of last year's all-or-nothing accuracy zone in the middle of the arc, however, MVP 2005's pitching meter has been subdivided to account for both spot-on pitches and good pitches that only slightly miss their marks. Nail a pitch perfectly in the center of the arc, and the ball will go exactly where you aimed it. Miss just slightly to the left or right of that thin green sliver of perfection and your pitch will miss to the left or right accordingly.
- Release Date: Feb 22, 2005 (US)
- ESRB: ETitles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older.
- Release Date: 2005 (US)