Hitting for the cycle.
Lately, my weeks have involved a mix of Miller Lite, weeping with rage while reading
conspiratorial literature from inside a cardboard box, and playing lots and lots
of baseball games.
the literature is getting sort of repetitive (i.e. "They're all out to get you,"
"It's you they're all out to get," and "Duck!"), the baseball games keep getting
better and better. In fact, Acclaim's new All-Star Baseball 2003 is
one of the best I've ever played. With graphics smoother than an assassin's
grin, more details than the back of a dollar bill and decent all around gameplay,
All-star Baseball seems to be the marquee baseball title for the Xbox.
ASB 2003 has a bazillion modes. There's everything you'd expect, such
as the ubiquitous Exhibition and Home-Run Derby as well as a highly detailed,
twenty season Franchise mode. Then there's everything you would NOT expect,
like three different styles of Trivia games. While sitting playing
baseball trivia all night is right up there with watching Golden Girls reruns
in my book, the fact that it's included and done well exemplifies the effort
Acclaim Sports put into making All-star Baseball a frighteningly deep
And the fun doesn't stop there. There's also a Series mode in which you can
play a seven game series with any two teams of your choosing, Batting Practice,
the ability to create players and semi-customizable expansion teams and then
play with them in any of the other modes, and an All-star game (the computer
picks the stars while you control the lineups). Did I mention the player cards?
There are 300. Be prepared to lose sleep.
The gameplay in ASB 2003 has all the aesthetic details you could ever
want. While pitching, you can toggle between ten different tendencies for the
infield and nine for the outfield. Have your shortstop and second baseman drop
back or shift your whole infield shifts towards first base. Unfortunately, no
matter how you format your players, fielding still sucks.
But at least it sucks to the same degree as most any other baseball game.
Instead of a bunch of different buttons for things like diving and jumping,
all maneuvers are handled badly by the lone 'R' button. You would think that
in just pressing 'R,' your player would do whatever was necessary to catch a
ball. But no, if it's high, he'll slide right under it.
Also, the game features the ability to press a button corresponding to a base before your player makes a catch, causing the player to throw the ball without wasting any time. However, if you do not press the button before the catch, your player will waste lots of time. Even if you tap the first base button immediately after a catch, the fielder will pause for a moment before making the throw, presumably to think about last night's drunken debauchery.
weird duality of detailed control and inexplicable gameplay glitches pervades
pretty much every aspect of the in-game experience. ASB 2003 has great
handling, but the most random things happen. For example, if your player is
chasing a ball that's bounced off a wall, the game will occasionally just cut
off the play and go back to the plate. And then every once in a while, fielders
will just throw the ball back and forth to each other repeatedly without being
told to. Maybe they have OCD.
Pitchers seem a bit prone to tiring out. After about four innings of play,
they have trouble accurately keeping balls inside the outskirts of the strike
zone...which is a good thing for the batters, because a pitcher who can consistently
place a ball in the corner of a strike zone is nearly impossible to hit. ASB
2003 uses a pitching and batting scheme similar to that found in the Triple
Play series, with disappearing pitching cursors and sweet spots of various
sizes depending on the prowess of the batter in question.
However, All-Star's scheme is better than that in Triple Play
due to the accelerated tiring of the pitchers and a more forgiving contact rate
with balls outside your batting cursor. The only thing I don't understand is
why the pitcher can hide his cursor, but the batter can't. The fact that the
pitcher always knows exactly where the batter is going to swing is ridiculous
and gives the pitcher a serious upper hand until he begins to tire out.
ASB 2003 sounds fine with good effects, crowd noises, and unobtrusive
commentators, but the game really shines in its graphics. It looks amazing.
This game is a testament to the superior power of the Xbox with fluid animations,
a rock solid framerate and instant replays that look just like television. There
are occasional collision flaws like balls being thrown through players, but
overall, this is the best looking baseball game on the market.
While not without its random defects, All-star Baseball 2003 is an
impressive baseball game. Smooth graphics and a slew of modes and features make
this a game Xbox baseball fans won't want to miss.