Well, the 2020 World Series has come to an end, which means we’ve gotta vacate the ballpark for a few months and wait for the snow to come and go. If you’re both a gamer and baseball fan, you’ll most likely be playing MLB The Show while chomping on Cracker Jack or Big League Chew. But this article ain’t about Sony’s hardball franchise. Instead, we’ll be taking a look back at what I and many others call the greatest Major League Baseball videogame ever developed — MVP Baseball 2005.
This absolute gem of a sports game was released by EA Sports in February 2005, shortly after Take-Two Interactive secured the exclusive third-party MLB license. The young MVP Baseball series had a lot of momentum from its second installment a year earlier, and EA stepped back up to the plate knowing that now was the time to use its heaviest lumber. The previous installment included features such as revamped batting controls, Dynasty Mode, bench-clearing brawls, legendary players and ballparks, and even the Minor Leagues to name a few. What did EA add on top of that? Lots of great stuff!
The feature that was talked about ad nauseam in this game’s marketing campaign was something called the Hitter’s Eye, and for good reason. When the ball was pitched, it would be color-coded depending on what type of pitch was coming your way. Some have claimed it made the game too easy, but I and others maintain that it makes the game easy to pick up and play.
MVP 2005’s predecessor allowed you to charge the mound after being hit by a pitch, and this game took the drama a step further by allowing you to send your manager out to voice your disagreements with umpires’ calls. Of course, arguing too much or about balls and strikes got your manager ejected, leaving you unable to manually make substitutions and whatnot.
Along with the 120-season Dynasty Mode, MVP ‘05 introduced a 30-year Owner Mode. This mode was even deeper than Dynasty, as you began your team-owning career by building a brand new ballpark for the team you choose to take control of. From there, you set the prices of tickets and concessions, and save up dough for all sorts of upgrades ranging from scoreboard lights to home-run fireworks and everything in between. The baseball-loving team at EA Canada clearly took notes from EA’s own iconic Madden franchise when it came to building this mode.
And speaking of teams, this game broke ground as the first MLB videogame to feature single-A Minor League teams, albeit with generic players. And of course, there were two legends teams with 63 of the world’s greatest hardball players. Did I mention there were 16 retro parks, five fantasy parks, and over 100 retro uniforms?
There was no Home Run Derby mode available, but the Spring Training minigames made up for that absence. These minigames consisted of a hit-the-targets batting game and a Tetris-style pitching game. You could also play a split-screen home run contest with a friend and compete for the best distance. The remaining two modes this game included were the Scenario Editor and Manager Mode, the latter of which was a text-based ballgame, kind of like that old Strat-o-Matic set you’d find in your father’s attic.
Control-wise, the game was incredibly tight thanks to the aforementioned Hitter’s Eye as well as Big Play Control, which mapped diving and wall-climbing to the right thumbstick. The baseball itself had a fast-paced, pick-up-and-play style that made nine-inning games take up only 25 or so minutes of your time.
If you really enjoy baseball videogames but feel like something is missing when you play MLB The Show, MVP Baseball 2005 is a must-have for your sports game library as it contains plenty of features that Sony’s baseball franchise continues to exclude nearly 16 years later. Will EA ever hit the virtual diamond again and give The Show some serious competition? Only time will tell.