"MVP 06ís greatest sin was one of omission. In 2006, 285 teams populated the ranks of Division I baseball, yet only 128 squads from the most high profile conferences found their way into the inaugural NCAA Baseball release. And many of the slighted schools deserved representation; 31 of them earned a berth in that postseasonís field of 64. While an industrious player could recreate the target of his fanaticism, there was no way to accurately model uniforms, logos, or mascots. To..."
MVP 06ís greatest sin was one of omission. In 2006, 285 teams populated the ranks of Division I baseball, yet only 128 squads from the most high profile conferences found their way into the inaugural NCAA Baseball release. And many of the slighted schools deserved representation; 31 of them earned a berth in that postseasonís field of 64. While an industrious player could recreate the target of his fanaticism, there was no way to accurately model uniforms, logos, or mascots. To rectify these grievous exclusions, EA has done... just a little. In MVP 07 NCAA Baseball, two additional conferences appear, which amounts to 24 new teams. But for fans of universities that chase their championship dream all year, yet are now disavowed by EA, thatís little consolation.
Instead, this editionís main improvement covers the controls, where the new ĎRock and Fireí pitching mechanic mirrors last years exciting batting system. You still select the type of pitch with the face buttons and locate its target with the left analog stick. Using the right analog stick, though, you determine the power and effectiveness of the delivery. Pulling the stick back begins the windup and moves the pitch cursor down its meter. When the cursor hits the sweet spot, you flick toward the appropriate side of the plate. Throwing the ball too hard, soft, or missing the target altogether: these are mistakes that result in fat fastballs, hanging breaking balls, and free passes. It sheds the monotonous precision afforded by last yearís classic system, one that only relied on the face buttons for accuracy, and where there was no such thing as overthrowing the ball. Pitching on the corners is now a daunting task.
Meanwhile, the ĎLoad and Fireí hitting system remains satisfying and intuitive. Here, pulling back on the right analog stick starts the swing; usually it should sync with the pitcherís release. Timing is naturally critical, because hanging in a half-cocked position saps the hitterís power. When the ball reaches the ideal point of contact, you fire the stick forward towards the area of the plate it will cross. Messing up that part of the equation throws the batter off balance and leads to easy outs. One detail not addressed, though, is the elevation of the pitch; high or low, the swing is the same. All the while, the left analog stick sits idle.
Outside of the gameplay mechanics, only a few tweaks have been made to NCAA 07ís dynasty mode. The most realistic is ĎHot Buzz,í which faces the reality that blue-chip recruits often choose the minor leagues over higher education. The basic principles havenít changed; you spend recruiting points on prospects, and anyone can be landed with enough points. But now a player with buzz, which really only affects the top 25 recruits, might snub you no matter what. When youíre building a marginal program with only limited resources, this adds a huge wrinkle to the process. However, the system is still overly simplistic. Other collegiate sports games successfully incorporate multiple factors: regional appeal, competing schools, personalized cajoling, or expected playing time. These are aspects that need to be present for a more robust experience.
Of course, the game did add those two conferences: the Atlantic 10 and Southern Conference (SoCon). Among the schools, youíll see George Washington and Temple, Appalachian State and the College of Charleston. Unfortunately, you wonít see the likenesses of any of their players. Either unable or unwilling to keep up with the annual turnover, the gameís rosters do not at all reflect the 2007 editions of each team, a major step backward from an MVP 06 accomplishment. Likewise, thereís been little progress recreating team fields; only 23 authentic ballparks appear here. (Thatís 4 more than last year.) And that includes Rosenblatt Stadium, perpetual home of the College World Series. The other 130 teams use 10 generic stadiums as their home fields. (Thatís 0 more than last year.)
Much of the presentation takes that zero sum approach. ESPN commentator Mike Patrick once again provides his voice for the play-by-play. Aside from the replacement of a few sponsor buzzwords, he didnít have to lay down any new tracks for his generally accurate analysis. Even identical idiosyncrasies are present in the programming. Heíll sometimes call the fifth place hitter the cleanup man or interchange the middle infield positions. The player models and animations havenít evolved a bit either. Clean-cut young men will exchange high fives after a scoreless inning, jump in a dog pile to celebrate a big win, and jubilantly trot around the bases after a homerun. Everything is a direct lift from last season. One positive, though, is that the game seems more willing to use the entire range of hitting stances and pitching motions. These were present before, but the inaugural edition seemed to use only a select collection in practice. But 07 takes advantage of the entire gamut, which is especially important for pitchers. Encountering diverse looks from the mound keeps it challenging in the batterís box.
Amid the additions and widespread constancy, there has also been subtraction from 06 to 07. Schedule makers have sheared about ten games from the regular season, moving from a fixed 60 games to a variable number around 50. Since college baseball doesnít have the statistical magic numbers of the big leagues, seasons pass more efficiently without any noticeable penalty. Also gone are EA Trax, the mish-mosh of lively but misplaced pop/punk songs that comprised the soundtrack for 06. In their place are a muted collection of school fight songs performed by pep bands. The opening is a reverential montage of Rosenblatt Stadium, featuring a majestic horn tribute. EA Trax may have been incongruous, but at least they had energy.
In the end, MVP 07 NCAA Baseball has one distinct feature over its predecessor. The Rock and Fire pitching mechanic is a satisfying complement to the Load and Fire batting system; together they produce an equivalent amount of difficulty in both major aspects of the sport. It seems to complete the game that MVP 06 should have been. Except MVP 07 isnít complete at all. EA, get you act together, and get all the teams in the game.
Community review by woodhouse (November 25, 2007)
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