Review by MysticalGenesis

Reviewed: 11/13/03

It will learn to annoy you.

Don't get me wrong... I could play All-Star Baseball all day, every day, through the night and never go to sleep. That is, if it didn't lock up so often. And if the gameplay mechanics weren't so horrible. And if the game weren't ridden with as many bugs as most people's attics.

First off, I want to commend this game for again having the utmost depth in a franchise mode available in a baseball game. Minor leagues, free agency, arbitration, injuries... it's all good. When you truly find out the depth of your farm system after four of your superstars go down with season-ending ailments, it's very good.

There are a lot of enticing gameplay modes, as well. Besides the standard Franchise mode and Quickplay, there is a Pick-Up Game mode that selects eighteen players, two at each position, from modern day and classic baseball, and let's you be first or second captain and choose them as if they had all showed up at a city park one day to play. You can have Lou Gherig smash a Bartolo Colon fastball over the wooden fence in a sandlot, if you wanted. And balls that roll into the corn in the cornfield are ground rule doubles!

There's a Scenario Mode, which enables you to alter the fate of chosen ball clubs in one game last season. One scenario on the bottom level (more can be unlocked) has you trying to get a hit in the ninth inning off of Derek Lowe the day he pitched that no-hitter. There's also Trivia mode, in which correct answers represent singles, doubles, triples, or homers, and player cards that are earned by performing certain feats in play. These cards unlock cheats, multimedia films, and classic baseball teams and jerseys.

And then, there's the actual game of baseball itself. Sadly, there is more bad than good to report about the mechanics and movement of the players. They all look like they have a stick shoved where it should not be. When a fly ball goes into the outfield, the fielder will casually take his time and jog over to the ball, not aware that there is an enemy baserunner on third waiting to tag up and score the go-ahead run. And when YOU start running the basepaths, you had better leave it to the computer because there is no way to control one runner at a time. This means if a runner from first holds up between the bags expecting a line drive to be caught, and then the ball falls in, and you tell him to run, the batter is going to be RIGHT behind him. Two men on second, and a frustrating double play. All in all, it looks like the players on the field are more concerned with how they are going to spend their ridiculous salaries that about playing baseball.

And this is still not to say anything about the bugs in the menu system of the game. Everything is laid out in old-timey FMV sequences, which are smooth, if a bit slow. But once in a while, when you least expect it, the FMV sequence will lock up and not allow you to the next screen. VERY frustrating if you've just spent an hour in the offseason negotiating key trades and acquisitions. Sometimes when you tell the game to sim in the Calendar option, it will lock up. It locks up when you try to load a player's scouting report. It locks up when you try to view H.O.F. inductions in the offseason. Not always, but enough to really fry my hide. And when I traded Alex Rodriguez to Kansas for Carlos Beltran (for salary issues, of course), Carlos disappeared.

This game has so much promise, but with the season over and April approaching fast, I urge you just to wait for ASB 2005. Hopefully most of this will be cleared out. Because aside from the bugs, this is the best baseball game on the market.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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