“This is an announcement from VR Sports…fans still throwing objects on the field will face immediate expulsion from the stadium…”
No, this game doesn’t have it all, but as you can see it has quite a bit. The highly awaited baseball debut from VR Sports has not disappointed, but as is common with most rookies (from badmitton to basketball to video games), it has it’s faults. Still it is a optimistic look at the season ahead. Although they might have embellished just a little in some of the advertising, this game is worth it.
After a huge success with VR Soccer, it seems as though this underrated division of Interplay might be moving up the ladder, closer to the ranks of EA Sports, SCEA (Sony), and well…I guess for now, Sega (but I tell you, if that World Series Baseball series wasn’t so good…). The question is can they make a comparably smooth VR Basketball, or VR Football, which might be close to impossible, since the amount of polygons seemed to sometimes push the Playstation processing speeds to the limits, and football requires twice as many players on the field as baseball.
Aside from my little lecture for the day, VR Baseball is probably the best looking and definitely the smoothest baseball game to date. The proportions of the ballparks are exact. The spaciousness of the park and the large size of the players complement the speed of the athletes perfectly. This game is hailed as being “real time”, and seems to make good on that promise.
The pitching/hitting interface has it’s good and bad points. The game claims to render every single player in polygons. Simply put, it seems that they might have used too many. The power and time it takes to deal with this many separate polygons is tremendous, causing some choppiness and slowdown on some PlayStations more than others. Either way it doesn’t really affect the timing of hitting (at least not with the people I played with), and is somewhat more noticeable when you’re watching than when playing, but is still notable all the same. The hitting isn’t hard, but there is a learning curve, and if you’re not an expert on baseball strategy, then it might take a little time to catch on. Thank goodness for batting practice, where you can learn to hit effectively even as a pitcher. You have to determine which direction the pitch is coming (up, down, left, right, diagonals, etc.) and press the correct directional button to hit the ball, and then time it to pull or go opposite field. It’s not as hard as it sound, and is the perfect balance of challenge. Trust me, even if it’s Mark McGwire, you will be hitting bloop singles and bunt sacrifices, and definitely not 100 homers.
The AI is tough and crafty. The computer always goes for extra bases, so be prepared. The scores are also close, and if you do get a big lead, expect a serious comeback effort (not to get too emotional…).
I liked a lot of things about the pitching interface, especially the pinpoint accuracy. The pitches are very precise and I hope it’s a trend that’s followed closely. You can also do very realistic things like throw hitters off guard with a 65 MPH changeup after a 94 MPH fastball, and you’ll see the hitter swing way out in front of the pitch. The only really minus about this that you have only 3 pitches per pitcher, consisting of a fastball and curve (all pitchers), and (surprise!) one specialty pitch. When you have a good off-balance pitch like a changeup or knuckle, it’s not really a problem, but when you don’t, it can be annoying. There are a huge amount of other pitches like sliders, sinker/forkballs, screwballs and even palmballs.
The stats are decent, though it still could’ve had the create-a-player option (due to the load already on the system, I understand why it didn’t). You won’t to be able to completely update the rosters, because you can only trade in the season, and once that’s over, you start all over again. I like the All-Star Voting thing, which is a really fun feature and true incentive to work hard. The home run derby is also accurate, with all 3 rounds and the same challenge. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can be more than one player, it’d be near impossible (or maybe just very hard…).
One disappointment in this game is the overall sound. While the announcements between innings are amusing at least (see Opening Quote), the crowd is basically dead until two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when they’ll get up and scream even if you’re the home team and losing. They treat home runs as if they could do it themselves, and seemed to get bored off rallies. Every once in a while they’ll cheer for the leadoff batter, but they always seem to have more important things to do, and you’ll be surprised how much this will annoy you (as petty as I know this sounds).
All in all, I like the innovation this game has to offer and see the potential to set some real standards down the road, if VR Sports stays on top of the game. This is the perfect baseball game to open up the Spring. It’s a good game and you know the best is still yet to come. Ultimately, if you plan on buying the best game of each sport and are getting one baseball game, I’d advise waiting on some of the other upcoming games this summer, like Triple Play ’98, World Series Baseball III, and the hushed Grand Slam Baseball. If baseball is your thing or you can afford one or two games per genre, then definitely buy or consider VR Baseball. It may not be the MVP yet, but defintely Rookie of the Year material.