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MLB 2K5 Review (XBox)
By Phil Poccia -- Staff Writer
Published 5/13/2004

Background Info

Screens (6)

Throughout the years, many video game sports titles have fallen victim to a disease known as “Rehash Syndrome.” When contracted, game developers will continuously bring out the same sports title every year, but with a minor tweaks and updated rosters. 2K Sports, formerly known as Visual Concepts, has not been fully cured of this illness with the release of MLB 2K5. If your keeping track, this series has been known by numerous names since its appearance on the Genesis, including World Series Baseball and ESPN Major League Baseball. Though some parts of the game have been redone, including gameplay, a few elements still remain the same. MLB 2K5 is not better then the best baseball game on the market, which is MVP Baseball 2005. If MVP is not to your liking, MLB 2K5 definitely deserves a purchase at $20, which is $10 cheaper then MVP.

Presentation/Graphics : 93
The graphical presentation of the ESPN license is outstanding. It is almost on par with ESPN NFL 2K5’s use of the license. There are on-screen graphics for the score, the Bottom-line, K Zone, and Chase Cam, which is a replay following the batter. Replays are also shown with ESPN on-screen graphics. It is obvious how much attention was focused on making MLB 2K5 look like an ESPN broadcasted baseball game. Another onscreen graphic is when you are pitching against the computer. It shows where the batter thought the pitch was going to be if whiffs or does not swing at the pitch. This helps you better approach a batter.

The players are realistic. There is great detail placed in making the player models look real. What makes the graphics of the players, as well as the game in general, look great is the lighting. The lighting highlights the features of the players’ bodies and displays excellent looking shadows. The graphics do not have jaggies and are very smooth.

There were a few problems with the graphics. Why is it that almost every sports video game has unrealistic looking fans? The fans in this game look very bland. It is annoying that you have to click the left analog stick in if you want to see the bigger version of the hot zones. Without clicking, it is difficult to see the hot zones in the corner of the screen since they are very small. The graphics is the MLB 2K5’s best asset, but it would have been nice to have the game displayed in a better television mode than 480p.

Presentation/Audio : 90
The ESPN license was put to great use again in the audio department. The game features Karl Ravech from ESPN’s baseball show “Baseball Tonight.” He talks about the starting pitching while the game is loading. Jon Miller announces the game and Hall-of-Famer Joe Morgan does color commentary. They do the introduction of the game and talk about a few players from each team. They do not provide much depth, but there is some useful information since they talk about actual player information, like tendencies, and not just stats. In many sports video games, announcers do not say anything until something happens in the game. In MLB 2K5, pausing during the game or if gamers are not hitting any buttons for a while, Miller asks Morgan questions from fictional fans. This is very realistic and is actually interesting to listen to. It also clears dead air in the announcing. Once action in the game commences though, Miller starts announcing again and interprets Morgan if he is still talking. He obviously does not need to do this. In a real game, the announcer lets the color commentator finish what he was saying unless something really important happens in the game. Overall, if you listen to the announcing enough, it is not as realistic as if you were watching a baseball game on ESPN. It is very close though. Usually I want to hurry the sports game up and not see any of the replays during the game, but it is great to see them and listen to the commentary in MLB 2K5. They are very enjoyable to listen to but will doubtfully be back next year because EA recently worked a 15-year deal with ESPN to use their license in sports video games. This deal is starting in 2006.

The in-game audio is very realistic. All of the sounds you would expect from being at a baseball game are here and in Dolby Digital. A fan told Texas Ranger geezer Sandy Alomar Junior “I can hear your knees creakin’ from here,” which was very inappropriate and hilarious. One of the problems with audio seems like a minor problem. Depending on how the ball makes contact with the bat, it should make a different noise. In MLB 2K5 though, the noise almost always sounds the same. The noise does not even sound realistic to being with. What makes it so irritating is that it has to be heard throughout the game. The only way to fix it though is by making option adjustments.

The selection of music to listen to in the game is made up of sub-par, no name artists. Maybe I don’t follow music religiously, but I’m doubting that “Dixie Witch” and “Five Horse Johnson” are chart-toppers. Some of the music was from other ESPN 2K titles from this year. For instance, there are songs from “Grinder, ” the band of Darren McCarty from the Detroit Red Wings. Music can be setup so that it plays in the game during certain times, like after a home run or strikeout.

Interface/Options : 85
There are numerous modes to play in. Gamecast mode is for gamers that want to be a manager of a team. The game is played by menus and gamers control the bullpen and substitutions. Oddly enough, defensive formations cannot be changed if you want to run things like the double play. You can join the game if you are tired of coaching. The box score and bat-by-bat stats are provided to judge how the players are doing in the game. It is a fun mode overall if you are tired of playing in the game.

Situation mode is the same as playing a regular game, except that you choose the circumstances that you want to be faced with and then you join the game. Settings including the score, inning of the game, and the number of men on base. Tournament mode is what you would expect. You choose between four to sixteen teams and face off in a series. It is basically a playoff mode.

GM Career mode lets you choose players and coaches via a draft as if the league was just started and there was a pool of available players and coaches to assemble your team. There is an option to make the all players in the league fictitious which allows you to build a team based purely on player evaluations and not on knowledge and name recognition of big leaguers. Any team can be chosen to be the general manager of and each owner offers a different contract length, personality, and initial focus for their team. Each team has a different payroll and budget. Once hired, the team wants you to achieve a few other goals besides the initial focus, such as lower payroll, making money, and increasing wins. If you do well and start meeting goals, you may be benefited by an increased GM ranking and budget increases. The budget is broken down by what positions are taking up the most money and the percentage of payroll they are taking up. This makes it easier to determine what positions are eating up payroll and which players need to be moved to free up money. Simulating games is fast. It would be a pain to have to slowly simulate 162 games. The owner will give you feedback just like in real sports. Many owners demand exactly what they ask for and will complain if they do not get it. If you do a bad job, other teams will not want to hire you if you get fired and you will have to start a new career mode. After the season, your player roster is viewed to see how it met expectations. Unfortunately, there is very little interaction with the minor leagues. Without any great adjustments, GM Career mode continues to be the same mode it has always been. It had the potential to be much more. GM Career mode is best suited for gamers that do not desire tons of depth in their franchise mode.

Online gaming is smooth but of course is dependent on the Internet connection. There have been great additions made to the online mode which gives the mode more playtime. These additions include online leagues and the ability to view your stats online via a computer.

Gameplay : 84
The gameplay has been changed dramatically. The game has a different feel to it. The changes to the gameplay were a good start, but the changes need to continue. The gameplay does feel like a little unrealistic as though the physics of the game are not correct.

There have been some nice changes to the game. When players are on base, you can control them while the computer plays batter. You do not have to tell the batter what to do. If you do tell him, your options are swing, not to swing, or bunt. Another change to the game is the ability to make players run faster as they hit the ball, which makes it easier to beat out the throws to the bag.

The pitching interface has been completely changed. After choosing a spot to throw the pitch, two circles must be lined up with the initial spot. The accuracy of these circles will effect the location of the pitch. It was preferable to use the previous pitching interface, which was a placing a circle where you want the pitch to be located. This year’s interface is still serviceable though.

Replay Value : 87
The gameplay for MLB 2K5 received much needed overhauling compared to its predecessor. The game has many modes of play. Gamers that desire a baseball video game will find a mode for them, including being a manager, general manager, season, and online. The addition of online leagues and being able to view your stats online gives the mode tons of hours of gaming. The game does not draw me in enough like MVP Baseball 2005 does, but MLB 2K5 is still very fun.

Overall : 88
MLB 2K5 is not the best baseball video game on the market, but that does not mean its bad. The presentation, graphics, and audio, as well as improvements in the online mode help overcome the game’s weaknesses. The game needs gameplay tweaking and an improved GM Career mode for next year’s version, but on the whole this game is definitely worthy of a purchase.

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