MVP 06 NCAA Baseball Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

MVP 06 NCAA Baseball Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Finally a game where “Swing Batta! Swing!” is actually a real gameplay mechanic! by Vaughn Smith

January 25, 2006 – Turnabout is fair play after all. After 2K Games managed to snap up the official MLB license, EA was left feeling a little like 2K and Midway must have felt when they found out EA had gobbled up the official NFL license. Not to be deterred, EA’s idea people put their collective imaginations together and came up with a working plan: create an NCAA baseball game! The finished product is a great spirtual successor to last years fantastic MVP Baseball 2005 (one of CCC’s nominees for Top Sports Title of 2005 ) featuring some excellent additions and tweaks which should please MVP fans to no end. While the pro license will be missed by some, it’s not at all a dealbreaker in my books considering you can play MVP with either college or pro rules.

If you’re unfamiliar with college baseball, chances are you’re probably not in college…or Canadian. I resemble both of those remarks but I know enough to get by and I am quite familiar with the sport having ran around a few thousand bases in my lifetime (give or take a few thousand). Playing MVP the correct way, fans might be a little confused by the changes to the core game. First off, college baseball favors aluminum bats over wood. Secondly, the game is played with more caution than the pro leagues in terms of take-out slides and collisions at home plate. Slides have played a big part in terms how the game is played – if you’re running to a base and the baseman has the ball and is waiting to tag you, you can slide into the base in an attempt to touch the base with your foot before he can tag you. A take-out slide is far more dangerous because the slider attempts to “remove” the baseman physically from his position. Since players are wearing cleats this move can cause some serious damage to the player on the receiving end. Home plate collisions are also a no no in the NCAA, and can result in an out, if the player running to home could have avoided the collision. This will result in a dead ball and all previous runners will have to return to the base they were past when the infraction occured. The NCAA’s 10-run rule is also in effect which means that if any team manages to achieve ten runs more than the other team at any time, the game will be called in their favor. If you’d rather play the game with MLB pro rules, simply set your options to “summer” and thy will be done.

Improvements to batting and pitching make MVP a must have for accuracy purists. Batting is now mapped to the R analog stick. Load your swing by pressing down on the R analog stick, and then once the ball is on its way, press up to swing. It might take awhile to get used to the nuance of this new mechanic but it will make all the difference in your game once you do. For extra power and distance, but less contact press and hold L trigger while swinging for a Power Swing; press and hold R trigger for a Contact Swing which allows you to make better contact with the ball, but decreases your distance and power – great for getting the ball in play after a hit and run for example. The vantage point for batting has also been moved back a little giving you a greater visual advantage when it comes to picking off pitches…and this is extremely important in NCAA 06.

Watching the pitch is key (not that it wasn’t before, mind you..) as you will be given visual color clues a split second after the pitch has been thrown which will clue you in as to what kind of pitch is coming your way:

  • Fast Ball = White
  • Off-Speed Pitch = Green
  • Breaking Pitch = Red
  • Sinking Pitch = Purple
  • Knuckle Ball = Orange

Although this mechanic can rip you out of the reality of the game by giving you an upperhand, you can use it to great benefit once you begin to recognize the pitches with more frequency.

Pitching has retained the feel of previous MVP games and involves more hands on control than other baseball games. You’ll need to choose a pitch as well as its location, then stop one meter for effectiveness and another for accuracy. With this much control over pitching, you’ll marvel at how sweet it is to strike out someone and know that it was your skills that accomplished it.

Fielding has also been upgraded to take advantage of the R analog stick. In previous baseball games of the past, throwing to the bases required a simply face button press to the corresponding base. Since most controller face buttons are mapped in a diamond shape, it made sense to represent the bases in this manner. Fielding in NCAA MVP 06 therefore is the games weakest point due to this unfortunately for a couple of reasons. The first is that analog sticks can be quite touchy in terms of a precise directional command. For example pressing ‘left’ might register left/up which in this game causes you to blow your throw. EA also thought it would be a good idea to allow a power up zone to register onscreen before you release your throw. While this increases the gameplay factor, it tends to lose a little something in actual execution. Secondly, since this is a college league the AI has been created to play a less than stellar game in comparison to the pros. So expect your throws to miss more than often than they did in MVP 05. I’m not knocking the game for what it is; it’s great that there is a forced reality here which makes the players make more rookie mistakes than the major leagues, but after awhile you want these guys to learn how to catch a simple throw. Is that too much to ask? In any event, I discovered a plethora of sliders to manipulate ‘backstage’ which will have positive effects on your players abilities given that you can adjust their accuracy, speed et al. You can also alter the configuration and return to button mapped fielding if you desire.

While actual college players will be disappointed that their likenesses haven’t been captured for the game, spending time in the robust Create A Player zone should remedy the situation quickly. I don’t imagine it would take anyone too long to create a decent representation of themselves, given that EA has been finetuning this feature for years now. Ballparks can also be created and while this mode isn’t as detailed as what you would have found in an official MLB licensed product, it should definitely do the trick. Since I’m not familiar with college parks, I can’t tell you what level of accuracy you’ll be able to achieve but I’m sure it will be satisfactory. Of course the game will also allow you to create your own team as well. This will all come into play in Dynasty Mode.

Playing Dynasty Mode is exactly what the doctor ordered for purists, although a quick game can be started at anytime, offline or online. The key to NCAA’s Dynasty Mode is recruitment. During a season you’ll be given a list of the top high school players. From here you’ll have to decide whom to go after. You’ll have to get into the minute details of shmoozing with these players by sending out letters, emails, visits and phonecalls. The more your team wins throughout the season, the more impact this will have on your ability to recruit. As well, wins and losses will play out favorably or negatively with recruitees depending on your scorecard. Frequent challenges will arise during a season that if you succeed will net you some cool extras such as new gear. This feature has been trimmed considerably when compared to last years game, but it’s still an area that players will appreciate nonetheless.

Visually NCAA looks great and runs as smooth as last years MVP 05. In fact, I’d say there is more realism involved in NCAA because the parks in NCAA are much less graphics hogs than the professional stadiums. This allowed EA to bump up the realism in terms of backgrounds and other details. The commentary provided by Kyle Peterson and ESPN NCAA’s Mike Patrick who does a admirable job in this game even though he’s extremely limited due to the lack of licensed players. Unfortunately though that’s about where the awesomeness of the presentation ends. EA seemed to cut corners on the overall presentation of the game and it seems to be missing the visceral thrill of an exciting sports event. It’s just a little more lowkey than I was expecting.

Taking the game online via the Xbox or PS2 is a snap. EA introduced their Online Everywhere feature which is more of a big deal to PS2 owners as XBL subscribers have had features like this for years now. Online Everywhere allows PS2 players to keep informed of happenings, games, friends while playing NCAA offline. Playing online is quite smooth although everyonce in awhile you’ll experience lag. I played a few games where lag was ever-present and since I didn’t want to bow out of a game – as the game stats track that – I simply had to adjust my timing. It was hard to adjust to and I lost big time, but I didn’t quit!

The $29.99 price point will certainly be an attractive feature to many baseball fans who might not be all that excited about playing a college baseball game. If all of the enhancements are taken into consideration though, NCAA is a must play game. Much like you, I wish this was an official MLB game – which would definitely make it one of the best baseball games ever released – but it’s still a great game of ball no matter how you look at it.


  • EA SPORTS™ Load and Fire Batting System
    Change the way you approach hitting in a video game. Finally, you will have countless options—and complete control—in the batter’s box.
  • Creation Zone
    Personalize your NCAA experience by creating your own university from the ground up. An enhanced Create Ballpark feature allows you to customize your park’s wall dimensions, field surface and setting. A deeper Create-a-Player features face and body morphing that creates endless possibilities.
  • The Road to Omaha
    Featuring an exclusive NCAA Baseball license with the top universities and conferences, plus authentic ballparks including Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the NCAA Championship.
  • ESPN Runs Live
    Up-to-the-minute updates from ESPN Radio and the ESPN ticker keep you completely up to date in the world of sports.
  • NCAA Dynasty
    Build a college dynasty with year-round recruiting and NCAA Challenges that let you upgrade facilities, equipment and earn the respect of recruits.
  • Broadcast Style Presentation
    See MVP Baseball like never before with new visual enhancements, the top ESPN announcers, Mike Patrick and Kyle Peterson, and a television-style presentation.
  • Precision Throw Control
    Gun down runners at home or make an easy toss to first as you control the power and accuracy of your throws with the right analog stick.
  • NCAA or Summer Rules
    You have the option to use NCAA Rules or Summer Rules (professional rules) or a hybrid of the two in MVP™ 06 NCAA® Basbeall.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

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