Review by Rashidi

Reviewed: 07/06/03 | Updated: 07/06/03

Decent gameplay, but terrible franchise options

The game engine used in the ASB series has been the same for a long time. The series always tweaks it's batting a bit, and this is no exception. The cursor batting is easier to use than last year, but is this a good thing? Vets of the ASB series will hate cursor batting, because it is now too easy to hit the ball. I was batting .500 with Mike Piazza, .450 with Roberto Alomar, and .400 with Jeromy Burnitz. This didn't change over the course of 20 games. At this point, I decided cursor was way too easy, and had to start over my franchise using Zone batting. The Zone batting is a nice alternative to cursor batting. Both require skill, though cursor batting requires a bit more skill. That doesn't mean Zone is easier. Zone is easy to learn, hard to master. It makes it harder to hit home runs every AB like you can in cursor.

Many things were added to franchise, but it looks like few thought went into how these things would all work when slapped together at the same time.

40-man rosters work in theory. The Rule 5 Draft is nice, but how necessary is it? Players do not develop very much in this game. Therefore, a feature like the Rule 5 Draft is useless. You will never draft a player good enough to help your team.

Because the player development in the game is so predictable and bad, franchise is very limited.

The biggest gripe in this game is that the rosters are nearly impossible to change (the game refuses to trade with you, because it doesn't want to disrupt ''position constraints''.

The roster updates have been shoddy, incomplete, and infrequent. This would all be fixed if the game allowed you to tinker with minor leagues prior to a season. This was one of the biggest flaws in last year's game. For whatever reason, you still can't before a season, which is infuriating, because you CAN in the regular season. A game this dependant on the minors, 40 man rosters, etc, should allow you to tinker with the minors before a season, since obviously, those players get traded too, and most get called up to their major league team.

Many of the players are inaccurately rated. ASB has had some problems rating players in the past, but as time goes on, you should get better, not worse. To their credit, the majority of the players are accurate. And they included a ''player editor'' in the game so you could fix their mistakes.

Except the Player Editor is useless on pitchers. I tried to improve Tom Glavine's defense to an A+ (from an A-). Tom Glavine went from being a B+ Overall to a C overall, because the game also took it upon itself to edit his pitch quality. Originally, he had an A Changeup, his best pitch. After editing, the game gave him a C changeup, and decreased the quality of the rest of his pitches.

ASB has always been a glitchy series. This game is no exception. When you release players (another function of their ''franchise'' mode), they allow you to release them, with no restriction. What do I mean by no restriction?

There is a limit to how many free agents there can be. This limit has existed in all other ASB games. However, if you release a player, and the free agent pool is full (it does not say if it is full or not), you will release the player. The player though, will not go to the FA pool. Instead, that player will disappear into the abyss. Gone. Forever. This would be fixed VERY easily, if the game prevented you from releasing players to a full FA pool.

The best addition to the series is the ''scenario mode'' which presents you with some challenges to complete in the game. However, the rewards are somewhat limited.

The game also puts together a nice collection of interview for you to watch. I would have much preferred they work on the gameplay and franchise, instead of wasting space with FMV you'll watch once for novelty.

Did I mention this game has load time in the menus? Navigating is a chore, because it takes much longer than it did before.

All in all, the game takes a step forward in some areas, but takes a step BACKWARD in many areas. It's still fun to play the actual baseball. But so are past ASB games, as well as other baseball titles.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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