Gameplay and options is where MLB 2005
really shines. The game of baseball is as good as it ever was and follows all of the same rules as it has in past games. So, if you haven't clue one about what baseball is, or how it's played, then this probably isn't the game for you. Unlike past games, the real focus of the '05 edition of MLB
seems to be multiplayer. All of the play modes, except Career, can be played with a friend. Online options are even available.
Career and Franchise modes are where most of the game's depth can be found. Career mode lets you create your own custom player and play through his career. One of the more interesting features in this mode is the ability to use the Eye-Toy to map your face onto your created player's, essentially putting you in the game. This feature is nicely done and easy to use, plus it adds that personal touch and invests you into the game just a little more than sticking your name on a character. You'll start as a fresh-faced rookie and play though spring training. If you can manage to turn enough heads, you'll eventually get picked up by a major league ball club. As your character's career progresses, he will be awarded with stat points that can be used to purchase upgrades to his abilities. This can be one of the shortest, or longest, modes to play though. If your player is good enough, you'll be able to stay in the majors until retirement. However, if you hit a slump you can be released from the team entirely. I've never been a fan of these types of modes outside of boxing games, but I found this one rather enjoyable. The only thing that would have made it better was a minor league system.
Franchise is a bigger fish to fry, but is just as fun -- especially for you uber anal types who have to control everything. This mode puts you in the owner's position of a ball club. Here you'll have control over every aspect of the team, from trades, hires, player development and facilities (medical care, training rooms, etc...). If you desire, you can even plan out seemingly unrelated aspects like TV campaigns, billboards and even ticket and concession prices. This mode takes place over 5-year stints. If you do a good job, your contract is extended. Run your team into the ground, and you're gone. As expected, this mode takes some getting used to and will probably appeal only to a few wannabe owners, but it's handled well.
As mentioned earlier, MLB 2005 also offers online play over Broadband and Dial-up connections. However, Broadband is recommended for the best possible experience, which includes the ability to use voice chat to talk (okay...trash talk) other players. Also included in the online package are message boards, in-game email and stat boards. You can also check your opponent's win-loss records, disconnect numbers (which is a bug plus for anyone who's ever played a competitive game online) or run your own tournaments. Lag issues were hit and miss, depending on my opponent's connection speed. When running Broadband-to-Broadband, things were smooth as a bald Billy Dee Williams. Things got choppy when going against someone playing over Dial-up. The lag certainly wasn't that much of a detriment to the game, but picky players will want to check their opponents ping time (which can be viewed in the player profile) before challenging.