Game Review: MVP 06 NCAA Baseball
For the first time since RBI Baseball on the original NES, gamers will hear the ping of the aluminum bat, only this time it’s authentic. EA Sports debuted its new MVP 06 NCAA Baseball game January 19; probably more as a last resort than anything else after losing its agreement with Major League Baseball, but college baseball fans everywhere have been eagerly awaiting its arrival. The game features 128 Division 1 teams from 14 conferences, with 19 authentic college stadiums and 10 generic parks. ESPN’s Mike Patrick and Kyle Peterson are your commentators and you can even get real live scores from ESPN.com’s bottom line when you play with the Online Everywhere feature.
The gameplay is just about flawless. The new pitching angle in one-player mode gives you the same feel as you would watching a game on TV. The hot and cold zones disappear after the first pitch of every at-bat, making it a little tougher to pluck away at the blue zones when you’re pitching. Another cool feature is that the catcher actually throws the ball back between pitches and if the hitter fouls one straight back, the umpire jumps out to throw the pitcher a new pearl. The load and fire batting system – similar to the golf swing in Tiger Woods – takes some getting used to, but is a definite upgrade. When you hit, you choose between a contact swing or a power swing and actually have to read whether the ball will be on the inside or outside part of the plate when you decide to “fire”. The new right analog throwing meter is neither an upgrade nor downgrade, but has a minor drawback in that the right analog is still the button used to make a diving or jumping play, so it is difficult not to throw to the wrong base after you make a diving play away from the base. After you do make a diving play, the Rawlings logo flashes on the screen and Peterson analyzes the replay of the “Rawlings web gem”. Gun a guy out at the plate and the replay will come up as the Pontiac Game Changing Performance.
Everyone’s favorite feature in NCAA football has to be Dynasty Mode and NCAA Baseball is no different. Take your team from mid-February through June in a 60 game regular season and conference tournament with the hopes of getting a bid in the 64 team NCAA tourney with a chance to make it to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha for the College World Series. As your team improves, you have a chance to get deals from companies like Rawlings, Nike, Easton, TPX, Louisville Slugger, and Majestic.
A small drawback is that the schedules are obviously not authentic, since there are only 128 schools to choose from. Look for this to hopefully change in the 2007 version. You have a chance to recruit year round from Baseball America’s Top 100 and decide how to offer your 11.7 NCAA Scholarships, meaning you have some tough decisions to make as you offer your recruits a percentage from 10% to 100% of one full scholarship. After each season, you can choose to hire a new hitting, pitching or fielding coach as well as a new trainer to try to build the best possible coaching staff. Some recruits won’t even consider your program unless you have a “Level 3” pitching coach, etc. Another drawback for the die-hard college baseball fan is the fact that the rosters don’t seem to correlate with the real team’s roster. Every player is represented by a number, but it doesn’t match up with their real-life position and school year. Each roster only holds 25 players while most college teams carry at least 33 and there is even a trade player feature under the roster options, which is just ludicrous.
This year’s game hyped up its Create-a-Ballpark feature with a chance to decide actual field dimensions and wall heights. While it is pretty cool to make your field how you want it, there are literally no stadium options for the park and the only other options you have are 20 backgrounds for your outfield. The Create-a-Player option is on par with MVP 2005 and has plenty of options including a chance to be both a pitcher and a position player.
The Create-a-Team feature I found to be shockingly disappointing to the point where it is almost worthless. I was expecting it to be on par with the NCAA Football series, where you are able to pick a logo, color scheme and plug them into various uniform styles. Not the case in NCAA Baseball. You have 60 different home and away jerseys to choose from and most of them are flat out brutal. Also, another downside was the fact that no team has a 3rd jersey, not only in the Create-a-Team but for the 128 real teams as well.
Coming in, I was expecting NCAA 06 MVP Baseball to be the best of both worlds from MVP 05 and the NCAA Football Series. This did not turn out to be the case. While the gameplay is probably the best of any baseball game to date, the off-field features were pretty disappointing. Given the fact that this was EA’s first crack at a college baseball game, I expect most if not all of these problems to receive major upgrades for the 2007 game.
Overall Grade – C+