MVP 07 NCAA Baseball

MVP 07 NCAA Baseball

We go hands on with the game's new Rock and Fire pitching and then some.
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: January 20, 2007
It's only the second year since Electronic Arts made the leap to college baseball (a not-so-unfortunate consequence in the dated game of "who can get the exclusive on a sports license first"), but it doesn't look to be stopping EA Vancouver's determination in bringing ongoing innovation to the plate. We recently had the opportunity to see the game in a near-finished form, with some folks from EA on-hand to show off the game's most prominent innovation, Rock and Fire Pitching.

In company talk, it's intended to "forever change the way you deliver that blistering pitch across the plate." And granted, the technique certainly felt smooth. Partly, it's comprised by the simple pitching format we've come to know and love. For every face button, a pitch (with R1 tucked away for change-ups). A grid hovering over home plate decodes the batter's hot and cold spots. Even a tap of the L3 button gets you pitching advice from two-time All-American Kyle Peterson (who shares the commentary booth with top ESPN announcer Mike Patrick), much in the vain of Madden. All pretty familiar business, really.

So where does this proposed innovation come into play? It's all in delivery, friends. Rock and Fire Pitching graduates the task into full analog precision, having you position your pitch with, as well as go through the motions of winding up and delivering the ball using Sony's trademark sticks. With Load and Fire Batting and Precision Throwing receiving the same kind of treatment last year, pitching becomes kind of the final all-analog style of play to join the bunch

It all boils down to a test in multi-tasking and execution, every time you throw a pitch. Positioning, first off, is solely dedicated to the left analog stick, requiring you to steer and hold it towards the tile of your choice. Meanwhile, the right analog stick dedicates itself to delivery. It involves no swelling meters to time, nor oscillating gauges. Rather, a diagram appears in the bottom right, depicting a ball at the top (your destination, of sorts), as well as the ball you're controlling, set somewhere in the middle. By tiling back the analog stick, you can cock back the ball in motion and prepare for delivery. The execution therein lies in your ability to match up with the 'destination ball' by thrusting the analog stick forward in a fluid motion. A fastball requires a reasonably vertical follow-through, while curveballs, understandably, call for more of a hook persuasion of the nub, rendering your final pitch either left or right of vertical. Veer your thumb too far off target and, naturally, your pitch won't land perfectly where you intended it to in the catcher's mitt. Or if you somehow manage to curve your analog stick in the exact opposite direction of where intended, and well, you can expect a wild throw and a scrambling catcher to deal with your mistakes.

This new system works as almost a game in itself, which should make for an interesting feat every time you go on the defense. Additionally, the pitching camera has also been revamped to provide a more snug, over-the-shoulder-type view to adhere to all the on-the-mound inventiveness. But what about in the context of a mini-game? To find out, we were thrown into the mix of the Rock and Fire Challenge. The game, in its straightforward pitcher/catcher format, has you hurling towards a color-coded grid that had a Tetris-like function to it, as an on-hand developer explained. Successfully throwing into a tile with the appropriate pitch causes matching tiles to fall in place. Pitching into these uniform regions renders on-base hits (with on-screen text pointing out which tile would turn out a single or double, for example), which leads to men on base, which leads to runs, and, well, you get the idea. The mini-game also takes on a two-player form with Rock and Fire Showdown, where one pitcher attempts to earn runs while his opponent, on defense, pitches for outs. It's the making for some heated throwdowns, for sure, and not a bad way to familiarize yourself with that newfangled pitching technique.

The pair of challenges is just two of the six mini-games that will make the final cut. MVP 07 is also introducing a fair amount of pre-game customization intended to cater to your preferred style of college ball. Whether you favor having a team of hard-hitters or all-around players, you can now specify your roster with line-ups like "sluggers," "aces" and "small ball." Moreover, you can spice up your aluminum with a selection of bats, each with a specific star rating. And as any ball player can vouch, different bats provide different results.

With analog batting and fielding solidified in last year's edition, to see pitching take the same route will certainly come as a welcome addition to fans, and the making of what's sure to be another solid outing in the MVP franchise. MVP 07 NCAA Baseball rounds retail on February 6, but we'll be back to remind you when it's out. Because that's the kind of selfless chaps we are.