MVP 07 NCAA Baseball Review (PS2)
Let me be honest, when I first heard that one of my most anticipated games of 2007, MVP 07 NCAA Baseball, was only going to be available for the Playstation 2, it was a major letdown. There are several words I could use to describe my emotions at that point, unfortunately, we like to keep things as PG as possible around here, so I’ll leave it at that. After taking several days to cool off, and realizing that my love for baseball would eventually win out, I decided to give EA Sports a chance. I’ve been doing it for years with another one of their sports titles, why stop now? I mean, MVP 05 Major League Baseball is arguably the greatest console baseball game ever, and the engine that made that game so great is still intact today, why should I pass on this game? So, here I am with all of these questions, and with only one way to answer to them.
Graphically, if you can set your next-gen experiences aside for a few brief minutes, EA’s MVP 07 NCAA Baseball holds its own against any other sports title for the Playstation 2. Considering how MVP 05 Major League Baseball looked, which was the pinnacle of the MVP series, there have been significant strides in making this one of the better looking games available for the Playstation 2. The player models and stadiums look exceptional, and fluid animations help represent a realistic interpretation of the game of baseball. The game also includes ESPN broadcast integration, which features updates from ESPN Radio, as well as news and ticker feeds. Also, MVP 07 NCAA Baseball is backwards-compatible on the Playstation 3.
Unfortunately, there was only one main gameplay feature added this year. In MVP 07 NCAA Baseball, EA Canada introduces us to Rock and Fire pitching. Unlike past MVP baseball games, Rock and Fire pitching relies on timing with the analog stick. You select your pitch by pressing the corresponding face button. Next, you’ll rock your pitcher back into this windup by pressing down on the right analog stick. Hold the analog stick down until the cursor in the pitching meter is in the green zone. Once it is, press up on the right analog stick towards the target cursor in the pitching meter. Ideally, the closer you are to the target cursor, the more effective your pitch will be. Now, for those worried if the slightest mistake in your delivery will result in a fat pitch over the plate, worry no more. The majority of these pitches will land outside of the strike zone. However, there are some minor quirks with Rock and Fire pitching in multiplayer games. Not wanting to spoil it for those that haven’t recognized it, I won’t go into too much detail, but there is a rather easy way to judge the location of a pitch from the opposing team. Granted, the tip on the location is limited to whether it’ll be on the outside, or inner half of the plate; however, if the Hitter’s Eye is enabled, it gives a convincing edge to the team at the plate.
Those familiar with the MVP series will be happy to know that features such as Precision Throw Control, Load and Fire Hitting, and the aforementioned Hitter’s Eye are still included. However, all of these features remained virtually untouched. For some, including myself, that’s disappointing. I thought it was quite obvious that the Load and Fire Hitting needed some tweaking after it’s debut in last year’s MVP 06 NCAA Baseball. While I love the concept of full control with the analog stick, which seems to be all the rage these days with EA Sports titles, I thought EA Canada needed to devise a way for us to aim at the location of the pitch with the left analog stick. As it stands now, pressing up on the right analog stick towards the pitch’s location, regardless if it’s low or high, will result in contact. Maybe next year...
The core gameplay of this year’s game is as solid as ever; it’s basically what we’ve come to expect from the MVP engine over the years. The intuitive controls might seem complex at first to a novice gamer, but the inclusion of Rock and Fire pitching and some batting mini-games will help ease your beginner woes. While the Exhibition mode that allows you to pit any two teams against each other, the Dynasty mode makes its return with some minor adjustments to the recruiting aspect. Draft Buzz is a small new feature that will hint at the possibility of one of your recruits being drafted. This will force the gamer to be a little more selective during the recruiting process, rather than trying to land the top 10 recruits in the nation. The Dyansty mode allows you to take control of any of the 152 teams. I know what you’re thinking - 152 teams? Yes. This year’s game features just two new conferences, and 24 new teams. A far cry from the expectations of every Division-I college baseball team being present. Taking things a bit further, the rosters of each team in NCAA 07 MVP Baseball fail to mimic those of their real-life counterpart. In fact, you’ll find that the rosters are basically identical to those that were featured in last year’s game. You might not recognize it at first, because it appears EA Canada tried their hardest to mask it. For instance, if you select a team ranked 15th in the nation, you’ll be playing with the roster of the team that was ranked 15th in the nation in last year’s installment. When you consider that last year’s rosters were outdated by a year, you’re actually playing with a two-year old roster of another school's team. To some, it’s not that much of a big deal. To others, it’s a slap in the face.
Online play left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. As I’ve already mentioned, MVP 07 NCAA Baseball relies mainly on analog control, which means even the slightest hint of lag will make online play frustrating. After playing a handful of games with friends, I’ve yet to notice any lag, and the game controls just as smooth online as it does offline, making this one of the most enjoyable baseball games to play online. Now, moving on to the bitter part, and I’m sure this will be a familiar tune to many, there is no online league support. I’m sorry, but online gaming is basically a necessity for any new release these days. Knowing that, a variety of online options helps extend a game’s shelf life. Other developers have realized that the popularity of online gaming is increasing by the day, and are trying to grow along with it. EA, on the other hand, has not.
The bottom line? MVP 07 NCAA Baseball plays a solid game of baseball. Let’s not overlook that. If you’re looking for a fun game to waste some time away until Major League Baseball throws out the first pitch in April, well, this game could fit the bill. However, with the game being relegated exclusively to the Playstation 2, and the lack of innovation and improvement over last year’s version, I can’t help but wonder where all of the production time they saved by excluding the Xbox and next-generation consoles was spent. Therefore, one can't help but be underwhelmed by MVP 07 NCAA Baseball.