Grudge Match: 'MVP 06: NCAA Baseball' vs. 'MLB 06: The Show' for the PS2

The debate over whether professional or collegiate sports is more exciting to watch lingers as a water-cooler topic and has no end in sight. Some argue that professional athletes are prima donnas who slack off once they've made their money and that college athletes play with hustle and all their heart. Others feel that college players have inferior skills and that, therefore, the quality of the game pales in comparison to the pros. While that argument stalemates, the battle between MVP 06: NCAA Baseball and MLB 06: The Show steps into the batters box.

First to the plate, MVP 06 merits some local attention by featuring UT's own David Maroul on the cover. A fitting tribute to a championship season. Aside from the occasional lag, the smart gameplay and player animations deftly capture the minutiae of the game. When using the Classic batting mode, hitting the ball for power is next to impossible, but the new Load and Fire system allows for some serious slugging, although it requires some practice to master. The Dynasty mode offers the full recruiting experience, something absent from MLB 06. A noticeable difference between the professional and college level of play is the use of aluminum bats in collegiate ball. The crack of the bat – ball meeting wood – is one of the many sensory delights of the game, and the metal pinging of the aluminum bat can be grating to many baseball purists. Fortunately, MVP 06 gives the option of using wooden or aluminum bats and control over most other rules of play. Its biggest drawback, EA Sports' loss of MLB licensing, is the cardinal reason for the switch to collegiate ball. Nonetheless, the graphics are sharp, you can see I-35 from the field when playing at the Disch, and, hell, your coach can even argue a call.

Clearly swinging for the fences, MLB 06: The Show is such an accurate and thrilling portrayal of a big-league game that users will experience all the stress and teeth-grinding of an actual major-league manager. ManRam, Pujols, Berkman, Pedro, Ichiro; all the world's best players are here. The graphics are smooth like a well-executed double play, and the pitching and hitting interfaces are both superbly done and quickly become second nature. The gameplay is intuitive and reacts realistically to all of baseball's subtle nuances. Tagging up, pitching out, double-switches, putting a runner in motion – if you see it at the park, you'll see it in the game. The CPU anticipates and reacts to situations as an opposing manager would, knowing when to intentionally walk a batter, which relief pitcher to use, or pinch-running at the appropriate time. Both games make for solid summer escapism with excellent Career, Dynasty, and Online modes, but college ball turns out to be no match for the big leagues.

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