EA Sports didn't release a baseball game in 2002. Instead, the company opted to shelve its popular Triple Play Baseball series and go back to the drawing board to design a more authentic baseball simulation. The end result is MVP Baseball 2003, a game that is a step in the right direction but has a few kinks that need to be ironed out.
In addition to selecting the base on a throw, you control how forceful the throw is.
The most interesting aspect of MVP Baseball 2003 is its emphasis on throwing the ball. When you toss a pitch or make a throw in the field, you can hold the button longer to put more force into the throw. In essence, you have the ability to vary the strength of your pitches and decide whether or not you'll execute a shotgun throw toward a base. MVP Baseball 2003 is the only game with this sort of control scheme, and it really does deepen the experience once you get the hang of it.
Pitching and batting are relatively straightforward, although they require you to focus on your timing more than other games. A visible cursor lets you aim the pitch around the plate. Once you've selected the pitch and built power into it, you need to lock in the accuracy of the pitch by pressing the pitch button again to stop a tick mark that will immediately start moving back across the strength meter. Your goal is to stop the tick mark within the green area. Too soon or too late and the pitch will go wild or crawl into the middle of the zone. In the batter's box, there aren't any cursors to deal with. Instead, the timing of your swing influences whether you'll get a base hit, foul the ball off, or ground out into the infield. By pressing a direction on the control stick, you also have the ability to push or pull the ball. Other positive aspects of the gameplay include hot and cold zones for hitters, the ability to queue up a stolen base attempt before the pitcher makes his delivery, and the option to control whether runners slide into a base or take it on their feet.
MVP Baseball 2003 makes every aspect of baseball a hands-on experience. Nonetheless, there are few issues and omissions that are too blatant to ignore. The CPU does a nice job of throwing pitches outside of the strike zone, but it won't swing at anything outside when it's up to bat. Players like Lee Stevens and Brandon Inge, who are both known for their terrible plate discipline, have the eyes of Barry Bonds here. Another concern is that it's easy to get extra-base hits. Line drives and bloop hits don't have enough bounce or velocity to them, which means that outfielders are chasing after the ball more often than they're taking it on the short hop. MVP is also missing a fair number of basic features that are common to baseball video games. You can't do simple things like take practice swings, warm up pitchers in the bullpen, or execute one-touch intentional walks--little things that go a long way toward duplicating the nuances of an actual baseball game.