And here’s the throw home. . . He’s out at the plate! . . .
This is exactly the impression you get with MLB Pennant Race: close, but no cigar. This is though, a very good, above average title, but still lacks a couple of things Triple Play had that made it the best in it’s field. A lot has been put in, updated rosters through July, creating/trading, season play, all the teams, etc. The engine is modeled a lot after the World Series engine for the Genesis, and is a pretty worthy imitation.
Graphically it is decent. With the “superior” texture mapping feature, the graphics aren’t really that sharp. Although this has the most accurate scaling for a baseball game I’ve seen yet. There are 5 different batting views, and 3 different fielding views (you ever notice how only one works just right?).
There is a normal baseball season, but Pennant Race suffers with a lot of problems similar to it’s cousin NHL Faceoff in this aspect. You can only use one team, you have to play a 162 game season, and you can’t competitively play. This dulls the gameplay, and makes a season very sluggish instead of exciting. (Face it, who [except moi, of course] will really finish a whole 162 game season?) Also, homeruns have no sense of suspense on this game. Because of the way the camera scales, you always know when you did or didn’t hit one out of the park. Overall, where this game really falls short is the excitement, the overall uummph, and the joy you get from playing a baseball game.
The game’s speed is rather slow in comparison to Triple Play or World Series Baseball. The plethora of loading times can be infinitely annoying, such the long ones before the game and between the innings. Then, they sneak in little ones to introduce each batter, which can be nerve-racking when in the thick of a good game.
The strategy involved is good from the standpoint of batting, hitting and outfielding, but certain basics are overlooked. The most unrealistic is that the runners run too fast, making triples overabundant, and double plays impossible (Strangely enough, stealing is one of the hardest parts of the game to master). I’ve actually hit 2 triples in one game with Mark McGwire, and beat out infield singles with Ryan Klesko. As with Faceoff, stats are nice, but they need to apply to the skills of the players in the game. Another problem Pennant Race suffers with is crowd noise. I never thought it would get so bad that I actually noticed that a game was lacking crowd noise. Because the pace of the game can get a little too slow at times, the crowd should be there to get your subconscious into the game. This game missed on a lot of the little things that made Triple Play and World Series great. The soundtrack really wasn’t there as in other sports games like Madden or Gameday, although the TV-interface was modeled after Fox’s interface.
This game was a positive reminder of where Sony is headed with this dynasty they are attempting to establish. All the stats are here, and although they haven’t gone in-depth in anything, they have a good element to work with here. They really should have made the seasonal interface more user-friendly. This game has a very updated roster, although the stats aren’t updated with certain players as Alex Rodriguez, which is why he hits between 40 homerun sluggers Ken Griffey Jr., and Jay Buhner with just a .253 batting average and 9 homeruns. I really think they could have been more innovative like World Series Baseball II and put the expansion teams on with an opportunity to make up your own roster. Another complaint of mine is that (once again, just like Faceoff) when you create a player for exhibition play, he only lasts one game and disappears! This is one of the most annoying features in all Sony sports games. (I warn you, Sony–don’t do this to Gameday ’97!) Because of the limited options and features, drafting would have fit in very nicely in this game. (They did have an extra 4 months to put all the pieces together after the May delay.)
Pennant Race is by no means a bad game, nor even an average one. It had the potential to be so much more, but it just never happened, much like the former Tony LaRussa series for the Genesis. Depending on what you like, I would recommend you renting MLB Pennant Race before buying. The all-baseball purist may enjoy the time it can take to get in this game. To the average sports fan who probably plans to get one, or maybe two baseball games, I say go for the gold and pick up Triple Play ’97, and save this for the purists.