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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

989 Sports / SCEA

 

Developer

989 Sports

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Spring Training mode is challenging and engaging

- Decent presentation, including new stats, rosters, and commentary

- MLB 2004 has the best visuals that the series has seen so farÖ

 

 

- Ö but this is also the first 989 MLB game on the PS2

- Pace of game is too slow

- Gameplay has become stale

 

 

Review: High Heat Baseball 2003 (PC)

Review: MLB Slugfest 2003 (PS2)

Review: World Series Baseball 2K3 (PS2)

 

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MLB 2004

Score: 6.4 / 10

 

The MLB series has been noticeably absent from the PlayStation 2 console, despite being Sonyís first-party baseball franchise. The series had a decent run on the PlayStation platform, combining above-average visuals, credible commentary from noted baseball personalities Vin Scully and Dave Campbell, and a decent gameplay engine. However, the current competition versus the general lack of competition during the seriesí PlayStation days makes it hard to succeed with the ďsame old thingĒ yet, thatís exactly what 989 Sports tries to do with MLB 2004.

 

mlb 2004 ps2 review          mlb 2004 ps2 review

 

Truth be told, itís not exactly the same old thing, but for players who have tried any of the older PlayStation incarnations of 989ís MLB franchise, you know what to expect, and MLB 2004 delivers little more than that. Yes, the visuals are better (as they should be on a more powerful system), and yes, there are a few new things like lines of commentary and updated rosters, but thatís about it. In fact, MLB 2004 feels like a PlayStation MLB game with better visuals, and thatís more disappointing that anything else.

 

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Some good news comes by way of the gameís presentation style. While itís not as TV-oriented as Segaís World Series Baseball 2K3, it holds its own. There are a good number of stat overlays and available stats for each player. Vin Scully and Dave Campbell return for another year of commentary, and there seems to be more casual lines this year that come out every once in a while instead of canned commentary. Campbell will make decent observations every so often during half-inning breaks, and Vin Scully 

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sounds as good here as he ever has in the booth. There are some replays of the action, but the replay angles arenít really all that cinematic and just show the previous play exactly how it was seen by the player. Segaís World Series Baseball 2K3 and EA Sportsí MVP Baseball both do a much better job with replays.

 

The basic pitching and batting engines are the same as theyíve always been, which is either good or bad, depending on how well you liked them. Pitching is spotted by a cursor and the speed is determined by how long the pitch button is held down. There arenít as many pitch types as there are in, say, Acclaimís All-Star Baseball or 3DOís High Heat Baseball, but the pitches break and react more than most other baseball games. Batting can be done either by cursor or by simple timing, but the speed of incoming pitches will force players to rework any timing that they might be used to. Expect a lot of foul balls and whiffs until you adjust to the speed. There are options to guess pitch types and locations to increase the possibility of solid contact, but this is nothing to new to the series. Baserunning and fielding are fine, too, and 989 has added a ďpicture-in-pictureĒ system to keep a better eye on baserunners. Thereís not really a lot to complain about, per se, as far as the overall gameplay, but 989 hasnít really added anything major to the gameplay that this series has had for about four or five years now, and it feels stale.

 

MLB 2004 sports the usual gameplay modes, including single-game exhibitions, a home run derby, a respectable franchise mode, and a unique Spring Training mode that challenges players to create a player and earn that playerís way into his teamís regular season lineup. Spring Training mode is probably MLB 2004ís biggest draw, as it becomes just as important for players to play their created player to perfection, as it is to play and manage their team to victory. This gameplay wrinkle is one addition that this yearís competition does not have, but itís certainly questionable as to whether or not this feature alone is worth purchasing MLB 2004 ahead of any of the other PS2 baseball games this year.

 

Visually, the stadiums are nice and the player models are pretty good. Thereís definitely some accurate facial models on these players ó more accurate, in fact, than most other baseball games out there on the PS2 this season. There are a couple of new camera angles that come into use during particularly long fly balls, and there are a few new player reactions, but a lot of whatís here just basically been tweaked from the PlayStation version of the game and is displayed with a much smoother frame rate than the PlayStation could handle. There are accurate scoreboards, which is also a nice touch. As with the gameplay, itís not that thereís anything necessarily bad here to speak of in the graphics department, but itís not overly exciting or new, either.

 

MLB 2004ís sounds consist mostly of Vin Scully and Dave Campbellís commentary, complemented by some decent sound effects. The sound of the bat meeting the ball varies, depending on the level of contact, and itís as easy to get excited when you hear that ďcrackĒ of the bat as it is to grimace in disgust when you hear the dull ďthudĒ of an early or late swing. The crowd sounds are serviceable here, with appropriate reactions to momentum changes within the game. Thereís not a lot of music to speak of, and the licensed music is gone, leaving some original stuff thatís sporadic in quality and the usual organ cheer music.

 

mlb 2004 ps2 review          mlb 2004 ps2 review

 

Unlike 3DOís High Heat Baseball 2004, MLB 2004 just doesnít have the reputation to be able to count on its gameplay to carry it this year, and with new entries from quality competition like Sega and EA Sports, itís hard to recommend a game that does the same old thing, even if it is slightly better.

 

Perhaps itís time for 989 to re-evaluate where their MLB series is, and perhaps give it a much-needed overhaul like EA did this year by trashing their Triple Play franchise and creating MVP Baseball from nearly scratch. Itís very possible for 989 to break out at any time, but itís got to come from taking a few chances and going back to the drawing board instead of trying to get by with the same thing year after year. If this was last year, the score might have been higher and even a recommendation might have been in the cards; however, the competition this year is far too talented and the upper tier of baseball games on the PS2 this year relegates MLB 2004 to a last-place finish.

 

- Peter J. Skerritt, Jr.

(March 29, 2003)

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