In addition to the standard exhibition, season, postseason, and home run showdown play modes, MVP Baseball 2003 includes a franchise mode, but it isn't quite as detailed as what you'll find in other games. Common options such as randomized player drafts, expansion teams, and free agent signings are absent. Rather than assume the role of a general manager, your job is to accomplish a set of franchise goals specific to each team and win against your rivals to maintain momentum. The momentum aspect is nice because it increases the likelihood that your team will win when the CPU is simulating games for you. Franchise goals are interesting because they vary by team. You have 10 years to accomplish specific tasks, such as winning the World Series with the Giants, leading the league in runs with the Tigers, or going multiple seasons with a .500 win percentage in Tampa Bay.
Visually, the player graphics and camera angles are superb, but the stadiums could use a little work. There isn't much detail in the stands, and the spectators resemble cardboard cutouts, regardless of which angle you view them from. The players really look great, however. Their facial expressions change depending on the pitches that are thrown, so much so that in replays you can see batters scowl as they make contact for a hit. Throughout the game, the players' uniforms accumulate dirt and grass stains based upon the plays they make in the field. MVP Baseball 2003 is the first console baseball game to incorporate this sort of feature, and it's definitely a joy to see. The picture-in-picture baserunning cameras are a nice touch as well. Surprisingly, the PlayStation 2 version of the game looks a little better than the version that's available for the Xbox. The Xbox game uses the same textures that are used in the PS2 game, and they just don't look as crisp or vibrant when blown up to a higher resolution and blurred by antialiasing.
The instant replay picks great camera angles on plays like this diving catch.
Audio is the game's strong suit. The ballpark atmosphere is identical in volume to what you'll hear while attending an actual MLB game. Stadium sound systems belt out familiar music and chants for the home team, which the audience responds to with intense vigor. If you have a subwoofer attached to your system, you can literally feel the spectators stomping on the bleachers. During close games and in late innings, the volume level of the audience kicks up to an even higher level. Player-specific chants, such as "I-chi-ro" and "Let's go Yankees, let's go" also bring an invaluable sense of realism to the ballpark environment. The play-by-play commentary provided by Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow is steady throughout and frequently witty, although they have a tendency to repeat their comments about plays made in the field.
MVP Baseball 2003 is a solid reentry into the baseball market for EA Sports. It should satisfy players who don't care about all the miscellaneous nuances of the sport, or who aren't looking to immerse themselves in a complicated franchise mode.