I’ve always looked at 989 Sports as the Detroit of professional sports. They had their glory years in the past but the shape that they’ve taken in the present is that of a pathetic cellar dweller. But what’s this? The Tigers are actually good this year? The Pistons are second place in the East? MLB 2005 is a good game? What’s going on here?
The boys in San Diego were committed to reinventing themselves after the weak showing on the PS2 and it began with last year’s titles. We saw flashes of brilliance in the 2004 lineup of titles but it’s obvious that the games lacked the necessary shine and polish required for them to compete with the big boys. Sure, MLB 2005 is still rough around the edges in a number of aspects but it’s probably the most polished 989 title that we’ve seen on the PlayStation 2.
Nearly every single aspect of the game has been retooled and it pays off in spades. From the start you’ll notice the huge graphical facelift that the game has received, but as you press on you’ll notice a boatload of improvements. It doesn’t take three hours for the computer to deliver a pitch anymore and perfect games don’t come quite as easily as they used to. MLB 2005’s flavor of baseball is decidedly more accurate and realistic than 2004’s and in the end you get a more enjoyable experience. Ball physics are also much better now as pitches feel much more realistic than before. Online play is definitely a major selling point here as it allows you to setup leagues, giving you a real reason to be competitive in the competitions. There’s also a new Franchise mode that takes a page out of Electronic Arts’ book of sports simulation. For all of you ESPN Virtual GM freaks you’ll be happy to know that there’s a Manager option, complete with ESPN GameCast style presentation.
Speaking of presentation, most of the overlays have been reworked to give the game a more television style look. It’s not gorgeous but it definitely gets the job done. I’m an especially huge fan of the replays and post game highlights that follow the completion of each game. You can even check out the play of the game, the play which the computer deemed as the play that had the most significant impact on the outcome of the game. Some of the replay angles could use variety but they’re a nice addition.
For the most part the rosters are about as accurate as they can get before opening day. There are a few oddities here and there such as Jeremy Giambi starting at first for the Dodgers but the rosters are pretty good for the most part. In case you’re wondering, that bastard Barry Bonds isn’t a part of the game because he didn’t agree to the new collective bargaining agreement. That means that the Giants now have the devastating Jeffrey Hammonds batting clean-up instead of Bonds. Most of the likenesses are correct as all of the players faces are easy to recognize.
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