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Major League Baseball 2K5; MLB 2006; MVP Baseball 2005; Silent Hunter III

Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page F08

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL 2K5, Take 2 Interactive/Visual Concepts

After a dreadful showing last year, the developers have delivered an improved game, but it still needs work.

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By far its coolest -- but rarest -- new feature is the Slam Zone. If you, while playing as the batter, can guess exactly where the pitch is headed as it leaves the pitcher's hand, you'll get an automatic lock on the ball.

Then hit the right button repeatedly to rev up your swing, and a home run results.

If you're playing against another person, however, he or she can counter the force of your swing by pressing the same buttons, a dueling button-mashing exercise.

The least appealing part of 2K5 is its player animations: Players have trouble planting their feet, and throwing and catching motions look unnatural. The graphics here should be sent down to the minors. (On the other hand, this is the only game to let you play in the District's old Griffith Stadium, should you win enough in its season mode to unlock this extra.)

Commentary also falls behind sometimes; you'll hear the announcer call out "And he puts away another one -- strike three!" after the next batter has stepped into the box.

MLB has rewarded Take Two's spotty performance with an exclusive license to develop games based on the sport, starting next year; let's hope they can do a better job next time around, as we won't have any alternatives. -- Tom Ham

PlayStation 2, Xbox, $20

MLB 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment America

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