Review by SilverCrusader

Reviewed: 08/16/02 | Updated: 08/16/02

This long deep drive to center looks good, but in the end falls short on the warning track

Acclaim's All-Star Baseball series was widely considered the best baseball game on any console. The first few years of the series life were spent exclusively on the Nintendo 64. Then as the N64 began to fade and the PS2 came out, the series went multi-platform. Things weren't quite the same when the series left the N64 though, it seems the series game play took a back seat to getting it on all three consoles. ASB 2002 was the first multi console game, and it was average at best. Now acclaim attempts to reclaim it's throne with All-Star Baseball 2003. Well, let's just say it falls a few balls short of a bucket.

There are many modes in ASB 2003. The menu is bland, and the videos on the side aren't enough to save face. You can choose between quick play, MLB Play, which includes Exhibition, Season, World Series, and Manage Saved Games. There is also Franchise and Expansion. While these features are a nice touch, they are heavily flawed, and aren't worth playing let alone mentioning. You can collect player cards, to purchase packs of cards you have to accumulate points during a game. There is a list of what you get can get points for. There is Home Run Derby mode, which is always fun with friends. You can choose from over 40 different stadiums, past, present, and fictional. There is even a statistical database for the 2001 season and a trivia game for you hard core fans. Many options to choose from to keep you busy.

The game play is done quite well, with smooth player movements reminiscent of the real guys. The controls for fielding work once you get used to their complicated design. The only thing you might be irate about with the fielding controls is the fact that you must pick a base to throw to before the ball gets to the fielder. If you don't, the fielder will get in the set position and wait for instructions. This cuts seconds off the play, costing you an out. It's wise to go to the menu and select options during a game. Once you've done that change the fielding control to Manual rather than assist. This will save you in instances where the computer takes control of the nearest player to the ball and sends him in another direction, which could lead to all sorts of problems. Overall, I'd say the fielding experience is very good.

The pitcher interface works quite well. You select the location of the pitch by moving the analog stick around. The pitcher's accuracy and fatigue will factor in on where the ball actually ends up. Selecting pitches is simple, as each pitch is assigned a button. Bringing in relief is realistic, and you can see your relievers pitching in the pen in most parks. I absolutely love the fact that you have to warm up pitchers in your bullpen, or they come in not at 100%. Pitching takes very little time to get used too, and is probably the easiest part of the game.

Hitting is quite the opposite however. You'll notice only after a few swings that the pitches are insanely fast. So fast in fact, I feel I might have a better chance hitting the real thing sometimes. You get used to the speed of the pitches, but still expect to be gunned down quite frequently when facing a power pitcher with a nasty breaking ball. You have many options with hitting, among them are the standard things you'd expect in a baseball sim. Picking between contact and power is easy with one press of the B button. You hold down A to swing all the way through, but if you tap A you end up with a check swing. Y will set up the bunt. You can also guess pitches if you'd like. Stealing is a bit tricky because it requires the use of that tiny D pad. It will be awkward at first but like the speed of the pitches you'll get used to it. I felt Acclaim needs to work on these parts, but hitting is ultimately okay and won't hamper the game play.

The graphics aren't anything special, but they aren't High Heat level neglected either. It is nice to see all 700 major leaguers faced map onto their polygon clones. They could have done a bit more with player dimensions, as it's hard to tell most players apart even with over 150 authentic batting stances. The Stadiums are rendered quite nicely, and even the advertising signs are easy to make out. Though most sponsors have been replaced by fictional companies, the style of the ads is left in tact, so if your familiar with the park it's quite easy to tell whose ad that really is. ASB 2003 certainly isn't eye-candy, but it's not something you'll want to shield your eyes from either.

The sound is great. The main theme has changed from the annoying opening to a professionally orchestrated piece. It fits in quite nicely with the game and gives you a sense of the history of baseball. The crack of the bats and mitts popping sounds so authentic, it's like your actually there. The crowds are the liveliest ever in a baseball game. They will cheer when the home team scores, hits a home run. You will hear hecklers berate the umpires when a call doesn't go the home team's way. My personal favorite is when you bring in the closer to end the game and you have two strikes on a batter with two outs. The crowd gets loud in anticipation, and when you succeed, they temporarily become louder. Acclaim has done some really nice things with the audio portion of this game, which to me is very important in a baseball game.

This game showed lots of promise, but failed to deliver in so many areas. The hard core baseball fans will love the game and hate the game. You can only come to understand this after you have played it. I don't think I'd suggest this game to the casual fan, it goes deeper than they care to go and the pitch speed might intimidate them. If you're a casual fan looking for a home run feast, check out Home Run King or Slugfest. I recommend this only to hard core gamers, and even then I stress patience. Rent this one before you buy it.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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