Now that the winter snow has begun to melt in some places, itís time to start looking forward to longer, lazy days, warmer temperatures and spring training. In short, itís time for a little baseball to start occupying our time. While clubs around the country are gearing up to start batting practice, 989 Studios is gearing up their latest version of their baseball franchise. So grab a bat and get ready to swing for the fences, because MLB 2005 is coming soon to PlayStations near you.
As a continually updated sports series, the obvious question, especially from cynical fans, is what makes this year stand out from last yearís game. MLB 2005ís designers have tried to add much more of a personal touch to this game. Sure, players can still expect the typical quick start, exhibition, season, playoffs and home run derby options that most baseball titles have. But gamers will be able to control their in-game play more thanks to an adjusted pitching and hitting system. Pitchers can control their throws in and out of different areas of the strike zone based on the rumbling of the controller; the outer edges of the zone vibrates harder than the inside seams. This lets astute players read and adjust their throws based on how well a batter has been playing. Every hitter has a hot and cold streak within different areas of the strike zone. Colder areas are harder to hit, while hotter zones can give a batter an edge towards reaching the fences.
The Career mode gives players more control over their fate within the Major Leagues. Aside from the typical create a player function found in sports titles, MLB 2005 allows players to scan their faces into the game using the Eye Toy. After choosing a position and tweaking your stats accordingly, gamers choose a team and enter spring training. Here, you also manage to pick a number of goals that youíd like to fulfill throughout the pre-season, such as no strikeouts or errors, or a certain number of homers. Succeeding in these tasks allows you to augment your stats and also makes you a greater prospect for a large contract during the regular season. Of course, the regular season requires new goals, which you have to accomplish. Otherwise, you risk being placed on inactivity, being traded or even worse, not getting a contract for the next year.
The most significant tweak to gameplay is found within the Franchise mode, which features more behind the scenes control of a team than ever before. Taking a page from Madden 2004, MLB 2005ís franchise mode allows fledgling team owners the ability to set everything from ticket prices to advertising campaigns. Just about every facet of team operations can be controlled from these screens, requiring subtle changes based on fan opinion and overall team performance. For instance, you may need to install a new snack stand when fans canít get enough food or re-sod the grass in the outfield to ensure your outfielders can get the proper jump on a fly ball. While youíll be negotiating contracts and planning expansions to your team, you wonít actually be playing games during the season. Instead, youíll be making decisions just as a teamís manager would, picking substitutions and lineups based on simulated play.
Animation for the players has been completely overhauled, with characters moving much more fluidly. There are certain sequences like double plays or diving catches that seem natural and realistic. Whatís more, having Vin Scully, Dave Campbell and Matt Vasgersian doing play by play sounds just as accurate as watching a game on TV. While we still had an early build of the final game, MLB 2005 looks like it a great step forward for 989ís sports franchise. Check back here for a full review of this spring sports title soon!
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