Sometime last year, EA was left out of the loop of developers allowed to use the MLB license, thanks to Take-Two, in response to EA's acquisition of the NFL license. At that point, I had considering all of the events a lose-lose, considering the NFL 2K series superior to Madden, and MVP baseball superior to MLB 2K, so when EA announced MVP 06 NCAA Baseball, I was admittedly anxious, albeit cautious. Never before had an NCAA baseball game been release, and with NCAA baseball's popularity, or lack thereof, I wasn't very optimistic regarding EA's new game being received with as much success as the rest of their series. I was wrong.
So no longer do we get the juiced up superstars we've come to associate with baseball, but instead no-names and randomly generated players with which to play with in MVP 06. No longer do we get the big bulky wooden bats of MLB tradition, but instead we get the aluminum bats capable of killing a man with little effort. No longer do we get the beautiful, landmark ballparks around the country we've become accustomed to, but now we get small college parks (18 authentics) that quite frankly, most of us don' t care very much for. And finally, no more do we get the Fall Classic we all love to watch on Fox, but instead we get the NCAA tournaments that few of us ever follow now dressed up pretty in the newly acquired EA ESPN license. All in a year's transition from the high-powered MLB to the finesse-driven NCAA.
As most EA fans are well aware of, one of the few non-aesthetic transitions taken from MVP 05 to 06 consists of the new Precision Throwing Control and the Load and Fire Batting System, and perhaps most exciting, the new ESPN sport ticker which scrolls at the bottom of the screen with real-life, updated sports scores loaded when a system is connect to the internet as well as ESPN SportsCenter radio updates, also retrieved from the Internet and specific intervals.
So what's the new Precision Control and Load and Fire entail? Precision Throwing Control asks much more of the player, requiring much quicker and more accurate reflexes than your standard button taps we associate with baseball games. When fielding a ball, the player is required to press the stick towards whichever base is desired to be thrown to, and the accuracy with the stick related to the accuracy of the throw. As the stick is held, a meter pops up which relates to the release point of the throw, which can lead to under or overthrown balls based on the timing of the throw.
Load and Fire batting will have the player batting in a way similar to hitting a golf ball in video games. For a meatball, the player would hypothetically be able to hit the ball right up the middle by holding down on the stick, and then flicking it up with the right timing, with a similar process for hitting the ball to the left or right. Holding the L trigger equates to a power swing, and the R trigger to a contact swing. Finally, the skills of the player will determine much of the game instead of various things we have no control over, though I suspect the first year or two of the new fielding system will lead to an unnatural amount of errors until players finally become experienced enough with it to react quickly enough and with correct timing on the throws.
One question remains. Can an NCAA baseball title sell in a market that isn't all that interested in the sport, unlike the football and basketball NCAA counterparts? Quite frankly, with EA backing MVP 06 NCAA Baseball, I think the answer to that question is yes. The lack of the MLB license will surely hurt it a little, but with the newly acquired ESPN license and the rather entertaining new batting and fielding modes, I feel it will quickly catch on, and deservedly so, make quite a bit number of sales. I often find myself jaded when it comes to NCAA games since my school is so good at most of the sports, but with such a horrid baseball team at the U of Maryland, I still find myself entertained.