MLB 2004 is a very good baseball game, although it doesn't strive toward the same level of realism as EA's MVP Baseball 2003. Also, it does not let you play with dozens of legends and bonus teams, or let you download roster updates from the Internet, as does Acclaim's All-Star Baseball 2004. Instead, MLB 2004 offers a little bit of everything and tries to appeal to the casual baseball enthusiast who favors excitement over authenticity.
Basic play modes include Exhibition, All-Star Game, Spring Training, Home Run Derby, Season, Playoffs, and Franchise Mode. If you're looking to get into a groove at the plate and on the mound, go into Spring Training. If you're just looking to have some fun with friends, go into the Home Run Derby and knock some balls out of the park.
The franchise mode is excellent. You pick your favorite team and play ten full seasons with them. Along the way you have to win a certain number of championships, MVP awards, Cy Young Awards, have a certain number of great seasons, sign/release players, and so much more.
As far as offense goes, it's really pretty simple. You can choose to have the batting cursor turned off, which basically means you just have to press one button to swing. If you choose to turn the batting cursor on, you will have to move the cursor with your analog stick. You can also guess pitch type and location. If you guess right, you have a bigger cursor, thus getting more hits. If you guess wrong the cursor decreases, thus more strikeouts.
On defense, it's a little more complicated. The players seem slow and the offense usually gets a triple or inside-the-park home run on a ball hit to the gap. The pitcher also gets tired too easily, after about 6 innings. Even only using about 6-8 pitches an inning, he's too tired to continue. You have to shift your infield and outfield based on which side of the plate the pitch is thrown.
All in all MLB 2004 is a very good baseball game that is more for the casual baseball fans. Hardcore gamers and baseball fans should pick up MVP Baseball 2004.