Reviewed: June 9, 2005
Released: May 18, 2005
Baseball fans now have a choice when it comes to their favorite sport on the PSP. EA has released their MVP Baseball game, trimmed down for the handheld, just in time for the heart of baseball season.
EA is generally known for their sports franchises, especially now that they’ve cornered the NFL market for the next several years. MVP has always been a major staple in the baseball genre and after several years and numerous versions they have the game polished to near perfection on the console, so I was a bit surprised when the PSP version exhibited more than its fair share of quirks and bugs.
For the most part MVP is a tweaked version of the console edition that offers a few nice features better suited for handheld gamers like the pick-up and play Quick Play mode. Just pick the two teams and it’s off to the ballpark for a quick nine innings that you can often sneak in on your lunch break.
The rest of the game is broken up into Season mode which offers a few career-like options as well as multiplayer modes for wireless and “pass the PSP around the room” like the Home Run Showdown mini-game from the console version. The franchise mode has been understandably dropped since handheld games aren’t conducive to lengthy game modes like that.
The Season mode offers a complete simulated schedule and you can play the games you want and let the computer play the ones you don’t. You can even personalize the game by editing your rosters and inserting your own custom player into the league and take him through a season.
Controls are simple but quirky at the same time. Both pitching and hitting require precise button taps on arced meters, but invariably your third tap (the one for accuracy) always seems to be a bit late making for a lot of missed swings and poor pitches. And if you try to anticipate this and tap early it works against you more often than not.
The PSP version of MVP desperately tries to mimic the console version and even manages to sneak in those gratuitous between-play animations and close-ups of the players – something MLB didn’t bother with. These close-up views are very close to console quality while the gameplay graphics are obviously simpler in their design and textures, but still look remarkably well for a handheld baseball game.
I did have a few problems with the cutscenes triggering small glitches in the gameplay. For some reason the game doesn’t transition very well into the movies and back into gameplay. These hiccups were as minor as a temporarily frozen screen to a complete restart of my PSP.
The stadiums lack the same detail the console delivers and the crowds are static 2D textures. Despite these deficiencies MVP manages to offer up a fairly convincing televised baseball experience. I was playing on the plan a couple weeks ago and the guy sitting next to me asked, “who’s playing?” thinking I had a portable TV.
The menus and player creation screens are highly polished and perhaps the strongest visual element in the game. The HUD is also handled nicely and I really enjoyed the diamond configuration for the man-on-base PIP.
EA managed to get some commentary into this title, which works, in small doses. The quantity is limited so a lot of the commentary gets recycled after you have played a dozen games or so and the cheering of the crown is on a very short loop. There were a few times where the commentary stuck or got out of synch with the action.
The music is excellent and once again we have EA’s Pocket Trax system in place to we can enjoy the tunes outside the game, turning your PSP into an MP3 player of sorts.
As with any sports game there is no end to the gameplay. The season mode offers up a full pro schedule that can easily take months to complete if play one game a day. The multiplayer party games are more of an afterthought however, and the lack of online play does hold the game back a bit.
Those looking for a personalize sim experience will certainly enjoy creating their own rookie and taking them through a baseball career.
At the end of the day PSP gamers and baseball fans have a choice to make and at this time MLB is the logical choice. MVP Baseball has all the makings of a great game but it lacks the polish and refinement and just has too many glitches to make a wholehearted recommendation. There’s always next season…