I will readily admit that I’m incredibly biased in this matchup. Not only do I love MVP Baseball 2005, but it was the video game I played the most during its heyday. Prior to getting this game, I had spent a lot more of my video game time as a 10-year-old playing games like Super Smash Brothers, Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon. MVP Baseball 2005 was the game that turned the tide and it is definitely a major reason why I now spend most of my video game playing time immersed in sports games. I enjoyed this game so much that I couldn’t wait for the 2006 version, even to the point that when 2K bought the exclusive license and the only baseball video game that would be coming out in 2006 was MLB 2K6, I wasn’t bothered. I was excited, I couldn’t wait to buy it. But it only lasted about a week, before I was back to playing MVP Baseball 2005. I might have been unfair to 2K, perhaps my expectations were set too high. But it wasn’t MVP, and it wasn’t a more enjoyable experience. In the interest of being fair to MLB 2K in this tournament, I’m going to include a lot of Mike Guzman’s review from last week here.
Gameplay: Simply put, 2K5 is a more fun game to play. It doesn’t look as pretty from an animations standpoint, but the graphics overall are comparable and the attention to detail is phenomenal. Stadiums look spectacular, and the ESPN graphics made each game feel bigger than it was. This transferred off the screen when playing against friends and having each big moment and Web Gem replayed for the entire basement to see.
The game covered almost every inch of the screen with info before the ball was in play, and unlike earlier MLB games, baserunners were always visible within a moving picture-in-picture screen. It also featured five different pitching meters, allowing everyone to dial in their favorite preference and becoming as dominant on the mound as possible. This also prevented the screen-looking issues that took a degree of realism away from similar games of the era.
Where 2K5 set itself apart is the features, whether it is the arcade-style of play that had no reason being as much fun as it was or the ability to play from the runner’s POV in certain modes. The game also featured both confidence meters and hot and cold zones, which were fairly balanced and not overpowering.
Replayability: There are a few things that make 2K5 incredibly replayable, but the No. 1 thing that set it apart (especially as a kid) was the abundance of cheat codes. It really took the fun and replayability from Backyard Baseball and slapped a fantastic visual product with an MLB license on top of it. Everything, from the gameplay (playing in a hurricane), to the scoring (strikeouts at two strikes), to the graphics (playing as bobbleheads), was customizable.
Additionally, In Your Face mode took card game elements and applied them to baseball, which created a strategy-based style of play that we hadn’t seen before. For example, if you hit a home run or met another similar objective, you could lock your opponent’s ability to use a specific skill such as power swing. Last of all, the game’s SkyBox (where cheat codes are entered) is also where you can unlock old stadiums, uniforms, and teams (albeit with generic rosters) as well as play mini-games. The mini-games had no reason to be as fun and time-wasting as they were.
Graphics: This part of the review is two-fold. As mentioned, the fielding animations are robotic, and each player has the same movements despite an improvement in facial details and overall appearance. The stadiums look great, and the shadows were ahead of their time. The crowds are not as dull as they were in previous 2K games, but we can’t expect those details to have been done as well in 2005 compared to what we have today. What the game lacks in “on-field” graphics and animations it more than makes up for in presentation and style. By borrowing so much from ESPN and specifically Baseball Tonight, the game is a perfect nostalgia trip and honestly may have set the standard for sports video games.
Sound: Much like the presentation as a whole, 2K5’s commentary team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan set the standard for sports video games. Coupled with an active crowd and plenty of heckling, the audio presentation reaches the same super-high bar set by the game’s video layout. Even in the pause menus, Miller and Morgan continue their conversation like other broadcasters who need to fill time during a baseball broadcast. Karl Ravech also appears to read off important stats and info, perfectly complementing the presentation and helping foster a unique baseball experience.
Conclusion: I know that no matter what games we put in the Simulation Bracket, it was going to have a tough time going up against MVP Baseball 2005. I mean, there are still baseball video games being made today, and some people still prefer to play MVP Baseball 2005 over The Show. MLB 2K5 was better than we remember, because most games from this time period get forgotten in the shadows of MVP, but don’t sleep on 2K. They knew, and still know, how to make good, quality sports video games.