Electronic Arts attempts to capture college baseball fever with MVP 07 NCAA Baseball, exclusively for the PlayStation 2. This time around, the company may deliver a five-star game—right up there with the big-league competition.
Thankfully, EA improved the batting by mapping it to the right analog stick. The Load and Fire Batting system incorporates full hands-on control over the bat and its momentum. For instance, swinging back and pressing forward quickly on the stick results in a full-blast attempt for the fences. Going a little more gently assures contact with the ball, but also the possibility of a pop fly or an easy out at first base.
Pitching also sports a new look, thanks to the Rock and Fire system. Despite being named after something that cavemen might desire, this system works quite well. It incorporates the right analog stick, as players use back and forwards motions to execute pitches. Doing it quickly results in a fastball, while going with slower and more complex movements creates curveballs and other stylish pitches. Of course, accuracy remains an important factor, so don't think that every ball sails across the plate.
EA Sports promises to involve more school themes this time around, rather than just throwing in names of universities. More schools, conferences and teams appear in the game, along with their respective ballparks. This includes locations such as Rosenblatt Stadium and Arkansas' Charlie Baum Stadium, among others. Crowds also play a role, with dedicated fight songs and cheers. The visuals should be up to the PlayStation 2's standards, with clean animation and solid perspectives in which to see the in-game action.
The ESPN license plays a big part in the game. One of ESPN's own, Mike Patrick, lends his voice to the game's fluid commentary, alongside two-time All American pitcher Kyle Peterson. Players should be thrilled with the return of the ESPN Integration system, keeping up to date with ESPN radio broadcasts (updated every 20 minutes), a real-time ESPN news ticker and more.
On top of all this, the game features six mini-games in which to practice hitting and pitching, and an appearance by Arkansas' own RBI Girls. EA also promises online support, although no details have been given. Could EA finally introduce some online leagues and tournaments? Whatever the case, college baseball fans should still be able to hook up for online exhibition matches—not a bad option considering the game's college friendly bargain price of $30.
This just leaves one question—why not a push to the newer consoles? EA may just be taking the careful route with this series until it gathers a fan base. Maybe next time around, the Road to Omaha will lead to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. For now, however, PS2 owners should prep themselves for more college sports mayhem. MVP 07 NCAA Baseball arrives February 6.