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Platform

Acclaim

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Acclaim

 

Developer

Acclaim

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Lots of features and stats
- Good control
- Realistic score results
- Does all the baseball basics very well

 

 

- Memory card hog
- If you’re casual fan there isn’t enough of a “history lesson”
- Successful batting takes a lot of work

 

 

Review: MLB 2004 (PS2)

Review: World Series Baseball 2K4 (PS2)

Review: All-Star Baseball 2004 (GC)

Review: Out of the Park Baseball (PC)

 

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All-Star Baseball 2004

Score: 9.6 / 10

 

all-star baseball 2004 xbox review          all-star baseball 2004 xbox review

 

Any reader who has bothered to pay attention to my sports game reviews here on Armchair Empire has likely noticed what a sucker I am for games with a plethora of modes and options. For sports games, I think the ability to re-create as much of the real world sport as possible is essential to the gaming experience. For that reason, EA Sports’ Madden series, despite being slightly less fluid and innovative than Sega’s and Microsoft’s offerings, has been my favorite football series over the past three seasons. On the baseball front, the equivalent of Madden is clearly All-Star Baseball (ASB). ASB 2004 is the most complete, feature-rich console baseball game

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not only of this year, but ever. Combine those options with state-of-the-art graphics and user interface and ASB 2004 becomes a "must have" game for baseball fans and fans of sports games in general.

ASB 2004 has a truly staggering amount of options. Aside from the standard quick-play, franchise, and season modes (all with an enormous amount of customizability), the

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game also features a Madden-like scenario mode and a too-cool-for-words pick-up game mode. The scenario mode puts the player in a specific historical situation (introduced by former major leaguer Cal Ripken) that ended badly for a team and gives the player a chance to reverse history. A handful of these are available at start up along with many more un-lockable ones.

The pick-up game mode is truly inspired. The game randomly generates a group of eighteen players from all eras and players take turns picking up teams. The games are played in a make-shift field complete with a stop sign for home plate. Getting to play Honus Wagner and Mike Schmidt on the same team gives the whole thing a Field of Dreams kind of feel which is wonderful for a baseball nut like myself.

Graphically, ASB 2004 is at least on par with the other Xbox baseball titles of the year. I think EA’s MVP Baseball features a more polished look, but the animation and player models here are just as well done as MVP. The stadiums are really well-modeled and give the game great authenticity, as does the new, newsreel style interface which is a huge upgrade over Acclaim’s past efforts. The only real complaint I have about the graphics is the game’s aliasing and flicker, which puts it about on par with Madden for the PS2. MVP Baseball features much better anti-aliasing and, as a result, simply looks like a more polished, higher resolution game.

 

all-star baseball 2004 xbox review          all-star baseball 2004 xbox review


All-Star Baseball features the best commentary of the year also, though all of the new titles are a little disappointing on that front. Still, where MVP has announcers that consistently say things that are unrelated to the current game situation, ASB’s main problem is the delay the engine needs to insert game-specific info into the flow of the commentary. Sometimes, I was on the third batter while the commentary was finishing up commenting on the first batter’s at-bat.

The stats engine of ASB is top of the line. As baseball fans are notorious for being numbers wonks, it is nice to see that Barry Bond performs like Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson pitches (and gets injured) like Randy Johnson. The fact is that with the current state of technology it is a simple matter to get the stats correct and ASB, like the other two major baseball releases this year, gets everything right. Using the sim option to play ten or so seasons will provide some anomalies (like a thirty-three home run season for Rafael Furcal, for instance), but overall the numbers simply feel right.

Finally, and most importantly, the game play of ASB 2004 is up to par with its presentation and options. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the cursor-style batting interface, but it has grown on me over the past few years. Regardless, players have the option to choose between other batting styles before starting a season or dynasty, and ASB 2004 has a batting style for everyone. Fielding is handled in the same way as it was last years with the buttons on the face of the Xbox controller representing the respective bases. Again, the controller makes this more of a headache than it should be as, unlike the Dual Shock 2, the buttons are not in a perfect diamond. This can make the early games a bit of a struggle, but pushing the right button eventually becomes second nature.

That’s it then – ASB is a great baseball title that gets nearly everything correct. Though I love the innovations present in EA’s new MVP franchise, ASB’s multiple modes and options simply push it into the lead position for this year. If you can buy only one console baseball title this year, make it All-Star Baseball 2004.

- Tolen Dante
(May 24, 2003)

 

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