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All-Star Baseball 2005
Score: 8.1 / 10
The baseball season is now in full force
and the surprises are already popping up. The Detroit Tigers have won
more than a few games, the Yankees have struggled, and Barry Bonds broke
Willie Mays’ home run record on an amazing pace. The gaming world is no
different as All-Star Baseball attempts to be a surprise and improve
their long-running series.
Having never played an All-Star Baseball (ASB) game I came into their
newest addition optimistically. I have heard about the great statistic
tracking and flawless gameplay that composed the package.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a lot to do and
experience in ASB 05. Be warned that ASB is not for casual baseball
fans. The amount of depth and nit-
picking involved will please only those who
know a lot about baseball. For those who are still a bit shaky, there is
a crash course of some of the rules such as the Rule 5 Draft and
information on terms like, “Double Switch.” That being said the game
delivers a lot of history. One of the new features is the “This Week In
Baseball Challenge”. Where you have the ability to reenact some of the
best, and worst, moments of 2003. Remember Steve Bartman? Well, if you
don’t, I’m sure the Cubs fans remember the ball he grabbed before Moises
Alou could make the foul ball catch, which can be played in ASB.
As a snapshot ASB looks standard without all of the bells and whistles
of MVP Baseball. In motion, ASB has the smoothest animations and the
best baseball atmosphere I have ever experienced in a baseball
videogame. From the “K” signs in the outfield to the pitchers rolling
around on the ground after giving up a homerun, ASB truly delivers a
baseball experience. The use of “pre-loaded” throws, where you select
which base to throw to before the ball reaches the player, spawns some
remarkable animations. Not only do the player animations look great but
so do the stadiums. With the exception of a few, they all resemble the
real-life structures including the all-new Padres and Phillies stadiums.
The faces of the marquee players look just as outstanding although not
all players get the same level of polish.
Part of the gameplay that is revamped is an all-new camera known as the
FielderCam. The FielderCam pits the camera in a 3rd person view of a
selected fielder. In short, you see the ball the way you would standing
on the filed. The effect is very strong and makes every ground ball
important but there are some problems that downplay the camera. First of
all the ball can be very difficult to track at times. On fly balls, the
ball is highlighted with a red glow and can be easy to track, but on
straight liners the ball disappears into the grass and can get by your
infielders rather easily. The FielderCam is one of those “you either
like it or you don’t” features and, in all honestly, I like it. The
perspective makes me feel as if I’m part of the action rather than
watching from the bleachers. For those of you who cringe at the feature
you can always choose to go back to the regular camera angle.
Although the gameplay is supported by outstanding animations there are
some technical problems that cannot be left unmentioned. In some
instances I scored inside the park homeruns because the AI never chased
down the ball. They all stood in their natural stances watching the ball
sit there. This is very annoying and has happened more than once.
Another problem is with the fielders’ “vacuum” gloves. The ball will go
past them but rocket back into their gloves, the way a vacuum gathers
dirt. At regular speeds this isn’t noticed as much as when watching a
The pitching and batting of ASB 05 is pretty standard. For pitching
there aren’t any bars to fill, as in MVP and ESPN baseball, rather a
couple button presses. For batting, you can choose 2D cursor batting, 3D
cursor batting, timing or zone. Each mode will give you different
results. Zone batting will result in many homeruns and high-scoring
games while the 3D cursor is more difficult to bat with (but generates
some realistic scores). The other two modes lie in the middle and should
be considered by new baseball gamers.
The batting interface can also be tweaked to make the game faster or
slower. Making it faster will speed-up the animations shortening the
time spent between pitches; while playing the game slower will make the
game more realistic.
The final aspect of ASB is the sound, which is the finest of all its
features. The commentating is the best I have heard in any sports
videogame, counting all of the other games including Madden, NBA Live,
and others. The duo in ASB delivers great comments and conversations
resembling a live telecast. Aside from talking about the action on the
field the two discuss recent happenings in baseball such as the long
debated salary cap issues and steroids use. And if you leave the menu
paused long enough, you’ll hear some “interesting” comments. Part of why
the atmosphere of ASB is so strong is because of the ambient sounds
during the game. The crowd reacts with the play on the field and the
hecklers can be heard all across the field. You’ll hear not only one
person yelling but three or four people simultaneously making the
experience very real. The music of ASB is also well done with some
mainstream music and authentic baseball tunes heard every now and then.
With the support of Custom Soundtracks, you can play the game listening
to your own tunes and even give your players authentic intro music.
All-Star Baseball 2005 is a great game with an accurate stat system,
fluid animations, and plenty of depth to last a very long time. Although
ASB doesn’t have the glamour and beauty MVP Baseball 2004 may have, the
real beauty lies inside. If you consider yourself a die-hard fan of
baseball than ASB 05 should already be in your library. If not, than MVP
might be a better choice. The amount of work involved in maintaining a
steady franchise will jolt some of the brightest of minds. If I had to
select one game with the most potential of becoming the best baseball
videogame, it would be ASB.