MLB 2005 Review

MLB 2005 provides PS2 baseball fans with more than just a roster update over the 2004 incarnation of the game. The first thing youíll notice is that the game has undergone a graphics overhaul and that the results are good. The animations are smooth, most of the players are recognizable, and the stadiums look pretty nice. The only really bad thing there is to say about the graphics is that the crowds look flat. Literally flat. Camera angles will often expose the crowd to be cardboard cutouts which takes some getting used to because it can seriously push your ability to suspend belief while playing the game. That being said, letís move on to what really matters in a sports game Ė the gameplay.

When pitching youíll be able to select from the pitcherís repertoire by pressing the face button corresponding to the desired type of pitch. You then use the left stick to aim the pitch using the onscreen strike zone square. To help you decide on pitch placement, the game breaks down the strike zone into smaller squares and color codes each one based on the batterís abilities. Cold zones appear in blue and indicate where you should try to place the ball, while hot spots are colored red and are best avoided unless you want to give up a hit. To keep you final pitch location secret, the aiming icon slowly fades from view although you can still change the location with the stick. When the pitch is ready to go, you hold down X to release the pitch. The longer you hold the button, then harder the throw.

Swinging for the Green Monster.

On offense batting depends on the skill level youíve selected. On the lowest skill setting itís a simple matter of timing. As long as the ball is near the strike zone you wonít have much trouble connecting. This is a nice feature for the casual sports gamer as the more sim-focused sport games can be frustrating affairs just trying to connect with the ball. As you ratchet up the skill level youíll also need to use the stick to direct the location of your swing. Also, you can try to guess the location of the next pitch Ė guess right and youíll be rewarded with more pop in your swing.

When you have runners on base, close-up cams of each base appear in small onscreen windows letting both players know where the baserunners are at any moment. A small onscreen diamond also allows you to keep track of runners as they are on the basepaths, and in a nice touch the runners are represented by s square, circle, or triangle so that you always know which button to press to get a runner to advance or return to a base. That being said, I did run into a few situations where the runners didnít seem to do what I wanted them to do despite the onscreen button help provided.

Overall the game tends to be weighted to the offense and youíll regularly bang out hits in the double digits. Against the CPU it is not uncommon to play many games before you even see a walk. This provides more action and consequently more fun for gamers looking for more of an arcade experience in their sports games. Sim purists will cringe at the high averages and ERAs and the decided lack of pitcher duels in MLB 2005.

Some of MLB 2005ís nice features include its high quality play by play which features the legendary Vin Scully, support for voice commands, and unlockable rewards. If you play with a headset connected you can issue commands such as ordering your outfielders to play shallow. Itís a surprisingly useful feature and youíll be more inclined to position your fielders since it is easy to do so and does not detract from concentrating on your pitching. Before you play a game MLB 2005 will set some goals for you to accomplish. If you reach these goals then youíll be rewarded with points that you can use to unlock old uniforms, stadiums, and players as well as some cheat functions. MLB 2005 was also nice enough to make the goals attainable so that the unlockable features will be available to most players and not just a hardcore few.