If you're looking for a realistic and feature-rich baseball video game, you can't go wrong with MVP Baseball 2005.
MVP Baseball 2005 doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. EA Sports has simply taken last year's game, improved it in myriad ways, and then tacked on a few new features to make the end result that much more appealing. Some of these upgrades are significant, such as the addition of an ownership-based franchise mode and the inclusion of single-A minor league teams, not to mention the ability to finally be able to set up custom tournaments in the online mode (in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions). Other upgrades are minor, such as the optional hitter's eye, batter's box, and manager tirade features. Meanwhile, some upgrades are downright subtle, like all the graphical tweaks and extra player animations that ultimately add up to help this latest game look and feel even more realistic than last year's.
Like every other baseball video game, MVP Baseball 2005 includes all 30 official Major League Baseball teams and stadiums, as well as the more than 1,000 individual players that populate each team. Last year's game was the first to include authentic minor league teams and actual minor league players by including double-A and triple-A-level farm teams. This year's installment now includes single-A ball clubs as well, giving each MLB team three levels of minor league farm clubs. Two legends teams, 63 legendary players, 15 classic stadiums, five fantasy parks, and more than 100 retro uniforms round out the list of included "stuff." Rosters are current as of January 12, 2005, and the game even includes the Washington Nationals, along with their temporary home, RFK Stadium. New rosters can be downloaded to the Xbox and PS2 versions of the game by accessing their online play menus.
As far as play modes go, MVP Baseball 2005 includes an exhibition mode, a manager's mode, two different franchise modes, a scenario editor, and a handful of baseball-themed practice games. The exhibition mode, of course, lets you quickly set up a game against another team, and it lets you both pick a starting pitcher and adjust your lineup, if need be. Fans of text-based baseball management simulations, which are popular on the PC platform, will appreciate the manager mode, where each at-bat is simulated based on the choices you make before the opening pitch. You don't actually see the players swing or make plays. Instead, you pick from a list of managerial choices, and the outcome of each play is printed onscreen in a running box score. The scenario editor is also fairly interesting. It lets you adjust 20 different variables--such as the teams involved, the inning, the count, who's on base, and so on--so you can set up every possible baseball scenario that has ever occurred in the history of the sport.
This year's game contains not one but two comprehensive franchise modes. The first is called dynasty mode, and it lets players draft and manage a team for up to 120 full seasons, including spring training games. Responsibilities include setting lineups, making trades, and shuffling players up and down through the team's three minor league farm clubs. Team chemistry, rivalries, and player moods are also variables in the dynasty mode that can be strengthened or weakened by win/loss records, player salaries, playing time, and position in the batting order or pitching rotation. The game also makes things interesting by giving you a constantly changing series of one-year and three-year goals to live up to. Meeting these goals boosts your managerial rating and team chemistry. Failing to do so has an opposite effect. Games in the dynasty mode can be played in real time, or entire chunks of the season can be simulated in one fell swoop. The dynasty mode in MVP Baseball 2004 had a nasty bug that made it impossible for computer-generated players to evolve into A-list superstars unless you actually played at least 95 percent of your team's games. That was fixed in the 2005 release. Also, it's now possible to give your players an added stats bonus by playing the batting and pitching minigames during spring training.
The second franchise-style mode in MVP Baseball 2005 is called owner's mode, and, much like the similar mode in EA's Madden NFL games, it tacks ownership and financial responsibilities on to the already feature-rich dynasty mode. Here you can set ticket and concessions prices, hire staff, buy and sell new stadium shops, schedule promotional giveaways, and buy all sorts of stadium upgrades (such as scoreboards, additional seats, home run fireworks, luxury boxes, and so on). The overriding goal is to run the team for 30 years and retire with as much money in the bank as possible. To aid this goal, there are a variety of player, team, and financial reports to look at that show your team's progress on a daily and yearly basis. One of the more interesting aspects of the owner's mode is that it also lets you design a custom ballpark for your team. The ballpark editor isn't very powerful, because it only lets you pick from a set list of various locations, field shapes, and seat colors, as well as specific wall, grass, and dirt designs. However, it does at least let you add on additional seating levels and grandstands throughout the course of your career.
Both the dynasty and owner's modes keep track of all sorts of events and statistics that diehard baseball fans want to see in a video game. Injuries and suspensions occur throughout the season, requiring you to adjust your lineups accordingly. Other teams will offer trades, and some of your own players will ask to be traded. It's up to you whether you choose to act on or ignore their requests. Games are sometimes canceled due to rainouts, which the computer handles by automatically rescheduling the contest at a later date, sometimes as a day/night doubleheader. On the statistics side of things, the game keeps a running tally of current season and previous season statistics in 64 different categories, along with 120 years' worth of league leader statistics.