After an initial surge of titles, new software for the PSP has been reduced to a trickle. EA was a little late out of the gate with a few games, MVP Baseball 2005 being one of them – and while the hope was that the extra development time would result in a polished game, that's not what happened. MVP's a solid game that does a nice impersonation of a PS2 title, but its got a number of flaws and missing features that make 989's MLB, not MVP, the baseball game to have for the PSP this year.
MVP gameplay options include a season, quick play, ad hoc play for two people with copies of the game, and a homerun challenge that can be played alone or with multiple people passing around a single PSP. There's no franchise mode, but that's not why people play sports games on the PSP, so it's not a big loss. The lack of internet play is disappointing, but if you're playing where you have an internet connection, then you're probably playing at home where your PS2 is, so you're not likely to play on the PSP. There are tons of unlockable players, stadiums, and uniforms, all of which are unlocked by earning points via in-game challenges. There's no downloadable content, and that includes rosters. Speaking of rosters, MVP's are so out of date it's ludicrous. Nomar, while on the Cubs, still has a Red Sox hat on in his pictures, and Sammy Sosa, who hasn't been on the Cubs in six months, is still roaming right field at Wrigley. You've got to be kidding.
Once you start a game, you'll be pleased to find that much of the presentation and tight gameplay that made MVP good on the PS2, is intact on the PSP. The pitching interface is intuitive, and allows you to paint the corners with ease if you've got skills. As much as it rewards timely button pressing, it's equally punishing when you make a mistake. If you're late hitting the button, you're either way out of the strike zone, or you end up putting one right in the batter's wheelhouse.
Hitting is easy to learn, and the game gives you a lot of flexibility, allowing you to hit to either field, hit grounders and fly balls, by simply moving the analog stick. The pitches seem quite fast (this can be adjusted), and it can be tough to gauge their speed, which is why the overhead replay that pops up after a swing and a miss is such a nice feature. It allows you to see how far ahead or behind you were on a pitch, making it a little easier to judge pitch speed and make contact. The "Hitter's Eye" which helped identify pitches on the console versions is not in present, but its omission doesn't hurt too much.
The controls are solid, and don't at all feel awkward on the PSP, despite there being fewer buttons to use. "Big Play Control" is mapped to the analog stick, and you can dive, jump, or even control a slide by moving the stick in the appropriate direction. There are tons of sliders that can be tweaked to adjust a wide range of gameplay aspects, and this allows you to adjust the gameplay to your liking. It's a nice feature, and really helped the game be more enjoyable.
At first glance, MVP is an impressive looking game. The player models are nice, and there are lots of little visual touches that add to the experience. Fireworks after a homerun, walk up animations for hitters, and a large variety of fielding animations give the game a big league feel. Unfortunately, all of these things come at the expense of the framerate and load times. Close-up shots of players are very choppy, and once the ball is put in play, things slow down as well. It's nice to have walk up shots of the hitters, but choosing to skip them takes just as much time as watching them, due to load times after hitting the skip button.
The stadiums are faithfully replicated, but don't expect anywhere near the level of detail you're used to in the console versions, because it's not here. The stadiums are one area where the developers sacrificed quite a bit to shrink the game down for the PSP. The crowds are still, 2D cutouts, and would almost be better off not being there at all. The scoreboards don't work, and none of the cool background animation has been included either.
MVP's audio is impressive in that it does feature full commentary, but disappointing in that the commentary can get annoying quickly. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow call the action, and while it's very detailed, the repeated "meat" references and lame attempts at humor from Krukow get old quickly. The crowd reacts to the action on the field, but none of the ambient noise, cheers, and vendors made there way into the game. The usually awful EA Trax are included, but the lineup isn't as bad as it normally is – mostly because there are only a handful of songs to grate the ears.
MVP Baseball is in no way a poor game, but it's clearly lacking polish. There are obviously limits as to how long a sports title can be delayed, so EA had to get the game out the door at some point, but one can't help but wonder if another six weeks of work couldn't have made the game significantly better. As it stands now, MLB is the way to go if you're looking to play some baseball while on the go. Not only is it a better game, but it's $10 cheaper as well.