Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




Sony's 989 Sports has improved its product quality dramatically past few years. Their latest baseball title, MLB 2005 for the PS2 is a prime example of this with depth, maturity and polish. Featuring an upgraded graphics engine, it looks fantastic with detailef player models, broadcast-style replays, and realistic animation. The intuitive controls make for a smoother experience. 989 has also added an extensive online component that lets you chat, view stats, download roster updates and more. In addition, you can scan your own face onto a player using the EyeToy peripheral and allows you to control the game using voice commands and the PS2's voice headset. Add comprehensive simulation and management modes, and you have a surprisingly deep title with highly polished gameplay. MLB 2005 is an excellent baseball title, and its maturity makes it this year's most improved baseball franchise.

989 Sports hasn't had the best reputation amongst hardcore sports gamers over the past few years but the company has made significant strides with its franchises lately. MLB 2005 is an excellent baseball title that shows how far the company has come in a short time. The first thing players should notice about this year's installment is the vastly smoother graphics. MLB's engine has undergone a thorough overhaul, with impressive player models used to give the game a more realistic appearance. The game features a mostly full roster of real players, with authentic proportions, scanned player images, and better texturing and light sourcing. MLB 2005's player animations have also undergone revision and now feature multiple moves, more polygons and extensive motion capturing that add to the game's realism. The developers have also included all 28 Major League Parks, along with several classic parks and spring training venues that you can unlock. Each park is realistically rendered with accurate proportions, impressive details and backdrops that make them look and feel just like their real-world counterparts. The game's overall look is also enhanced by an improved presentation, with slicker menus that give MLB 2005 a television-style appearance. From an audio standpoint, the game excels by implementing a new three-man booth featuring Vin Scully. The lively commentary fits in nicely with action, and doesn't suffer from the repetition seen in other sports titles. MLB 2005 definitely represents a significant move forward in its presentation but, there are still a few rough player models and choppy animations that make it look a little less polished than it could. Still, the progress is impressive, and the game nearly achieves parity with the other titles on the market from Sega and EA from an aesthetic standpoint.

While the game's visual overhaul is impressive, MLB 2005 also implements many changes under the hood. The player and team rosters are nearly complete, and seem accurate. One glaring error: Why is Aaron Boone on the Yankee roster, when his replacement A-Rod is listed as well? Players can also unlock an impressive array of Hall-of-Famers such as Gehrig, Ruth and Reggie Jackson if they want to see classic players in action. MLB 2005 includes an extensive array of gameplay modes in MLB 2005. In addition to the standard quick exhibition games, players can choose season, season and playoff modes. These modes are self-explanatory, allowing you to play a single game or go through an entire season. However, it's the game's deep franchise and management modes that really shine. Featuring a comprehensive array of options, these allow you to sit in the coaches chair or the front office and manage your team through a single season or several seasons. When you're in these modes, you have complete control over the team's roster and can draft, sign, release and negotiate with individual players. To make a promising prospect get up to big league ability, you can also send them down to the minor leagues and more. MLB also includes an extensive Spring Training mode, where you can get your team up to speed and work out kinks. These are all quite impressive, but the game now includes a cool new simulation mode as well. When you're simulating a game, you can watch each pitch and throw unfold while making roster and player changes in real-time without while the game controls the on-field action automatically. This is a solid addition to the series adds to the game's depth. Another key feature of the game allows you to create a customized player, which is something several other sports titles let you do now. The twist in MLB 2005 is that it allows you to scan in your own face using the PS2's EyeToy camera and play as yourself. This impressive feature literally puts you in the game and is something no other baseball title this year offers.

MLB 2005's controls are surprisingly intuitive thanks to the pressure-sensitive "Total Control" pitching and fielding modes. These features have been refined since last year's installment, and while the differences are subtle, the end result is a better feeling game that gives you more options on the field You can control the speed and aggression of throws, though the more aggressive you are, the less accurate your throws are. This system works exceedingly well and give the player an increased sense of control. MLB's fielding interface has also been enhanced and allows you to dive or jump for balls. It's a small but significant change that makes the outfield positions feel that much more authentic and realistic. On the other side of the plate, MLB 2005 also helpfully displays each hitter's hot and cold zones with a new interactive Zone Control system when you're at the plate, allowing you to better gauge which pitches to swing at and which ones to hold off on. This replicates the strategic element of batting much more accurately than the previous games. In addition, the ball physics seem more realistic, giving each game a more accurate ratio with more ground and fly balls than homers. Overall, 989 has done an excellent job of capturing the feel of professional baseball but there are still a few problems. The pitching system is a bit awkward, making it difficult to aim pitches where you want them to go, and they'll frequently end up dead-center over the plate, or end up veering wildly out of the strike zone. While you can compensate for this after awhile, it's not as intuitive as it could be and detracts somewhat from the overall game. In addition to using the standard controller, players can now use the voice recognition system and a USB headset to call plays, moves and more. This is an incredibly cool feature that allows for virtually hands-free play allowing you to literally "make the call" without lifting a finger. It was a bit strange getting used to this system, but it worked fairly well, with few problems. Players responded to voice commands instantly and accurately, making the voice-controls an effective, forward-thinking addition to the series.

The new online modes, USB Headset voice control and EyeToy functionality are the key improvements in the franchise this year, but the basics haven't been neglected. The gameplay is smoother and more intuitive with the developers building on last year's solid control mechanics to create an even better experience. The new simulation, management, and back office modes give the game even more depth, and its accurate player rosters make the experience feel that much more authentic. With all these features, it should come as no surprise that it's an incredibly deep game that offers an impressive array of options and gameplay modes. An improved graphics engine highlighted by improved player models and realistic stadiums makes the game look fantastic. MLB 2005 is a solid, comprehensive baseball game that does an excellent job in recreating not just the look, but the feel of Major League Baseball. MLB 2005 shows a depth and maturity that makes it highly recommended for baseball fans everywhere.

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