Your average Joe Sports Fan can likely recite his ten favorite NCAA basketball tournament game moments without any effort. Same with the moments of glory his alma-mater's football team has enjoyed. Ask him to discuss college baseball, though? Chances are, he'll stammer something about seeing grainy footage of Roger Clemens at Texas once, followed by an abrupt change of subject.
The folks at EA are out to do something about campus baseball taking a backseat to football and hoops. This year’s MVP 07 NCAA Baseball may not have major league salaries (or steroids), but it does pack a silky-smooth experience - with a little innovation to boot.
Pitching with the right analog stick - termed Rock and Fire - has been added to the existing stick-maneuvered hitting and fielding mix. Thus, all of the fundamentals of baseball are handled without using the face buttons. About the only time you'll press one of them (they’re so 2006) is when selecting a pitch or choosing a baserunner to attempt a steal. Don't fret about this, though, because it feels perfectly natural almost immediately. We love that EA has chosen to keep innovating despite the fact that this year’s MVP is a single-platform release. Kudos!
Just because it feels great doesn’t necessarily make it easy to pitch and hit like a champ, though. You’ll need to get the timing down - especially to generate a thunderous “ping” of the aluminum bat when at the plate - to get onto the Road to Omaha. It takes a keen eye and deft thumb to do much more than flat-out whiff or meekly foul off a few pitches.
Thankfully, the familiar series of mini-games will help you turn your inner Little Leaguer into Albert Pujols or Johan Santana. Trust us, you'll need the practice. Once you get your pitching and hitting mechanics straight, embarking on a dynastic path to the College World Series in Nebraska is a rewarding good time; not quite as deep as EA’s other collegiate outings, but fun nonetheless.
It's no surprise to anyone who’s played the series for the past few years that the latest one is another home run; the MVP franchise became virtually perfect in the final year before Take-Two grabbed the exclusive major league license. What is curious is that there is no next generation version; a non-issue for PS2 owners, of course, but we'd love to see the 2K MLB game have some more competition on other platforms.
There's little need to lament what's missing, even though more familiar players and ballparks would have rendered what's now a great game into something legendary. Plus, it's not dramatically different than last year’s edition. Regardless, it's pretty easy to enjoy what’s here - smooth and intuitive gameplay with innovative controls and plenty of depth. Once you train your brain to use the sticks and love the "ping", you'll be joyfully rounding the bases.