World Series Baseball
Score: 8.6 / 10
to the chagrin of PlayStation 2 baseball fans last year, World Series
Baseball was snapped up by Microsoft as an XBox exclusive, and PS2
owners missed out on a great baseball game. This is another year,
though, and now PS2 owners have their first crack at Segaís World
Series franchise with World Series Baseball 2K3 (WSB 2K3) and can find
out firsthand whether the hype surrounding Segaís trademark baseball
franchise is legitimate or not. Unlike last year, however, the
competition that Sega is facing on the PS2 for baseball simulations is
very deep. Can Segaís rookie PS2 baseball entry walk away with the
with all of Segaís most recent sports games, an ESPN presentation
style drives WSB 2K3 and itís easy for non-gamers to do a quick
double-take to make sure that itís a videogame and not a baseball
telecast. The menus, stat overlays, and music all ring true to the ESPN
broadcast style. The only thing thatís really missing is having actual
ESPN personalities (such as Jon Miller) call each game. Sports fans will
like the new presentation style and it immediately gives WSB 2K3 some
The batting and pitching engines may be familiar to some players, but not to everyone. Batting can either be cursor-based or timing-based, as with several other PS2 baseball games this year (most notably Acclaimís All-Star Baseball 2004 and 989ís MLB 2004). Timing your swings will take some getting used to, but thereís an option to display some feedback text to let you know whether you need to swing earlier or later, or if you need to adjust your swing trajectory. There are contact swings and power swings, as well as normal and drag bunts at a batterís disposal. Pitching consists of picking any of the highlighted pitch types, aiming the pitch with the left analog stick, and firing away. Starting pitchers can have up to five available pitch types, while relievers can sometimes have as little as two or three. Both pitchers and batters need to pay attention to the red and blue areas depicted in each batterís strike zone. If a pitch winds up in any red area, the batter can crush it if he makes contact; conversely, pitches in the blue zones are harder to make contact with and can lead to more outs. As pitchers tire, their accuracy suffers, and even with aiming of pitches, some can wind up outside of the strike zone or could wind up right over the plate.
WSB 2K3 may succeed in the pitching and batting departments, but has more mixed results in the fielding and baserunning areas of the game of baseball. Fielders tend to move slowly towards a hit ball and sometimes it can be difficult in the heat of a play to change fielders if a ball gets by, leading to extra bases. One nice thing about fielding is the use of the R1 button for ďspecialĒ plays. If you think your fielder can dive or jump for a line drive, hitting the R1 button will make your fielder attempt
that highlight play. Want to try and rob a home run? Hit
R1 while at the wall and sky for that big catch. It may seem kind of
cheesy, but it works well. Baserunning is a bit tricky, especially at
first, and leading off can easily tip off the opposing pitcher and get
you picked off pretty easily.
2K3 has its fair share of gameplay modes, including exhibition games,
the Sega Sports Challenge (to compare your stats against other players
in a ranking system), the Big League Challenge (a glorified home run
derby), and an extremely deep and intricate Franchise mode. The
Franchise mode will easily test a playerís abilities in roster
management, payroll management, and lineup management, while challenging
players to the rigors of playing an entire season. The Franchise mode
also tracks a ton of statistics, such as player milestones, Hall of Fame
entries, injuries, disabled lists, minor league players, and more.
Whatís even better about the stats is that WSB 2K3 adds any stats
tabulated during gameplay to a playerís career stats (as of 2002), so
you can expect to see Sammy Sosa hit his 500th home run or
see Roger Clemens win his 300th game during your first
season. It is very easy to get lost in all of these numbers, but
hardcore baseball fans will be right in their element and novices can
always elect for some computer assistance to get them through some
tougher situations and decisions.
from the ESPN presentation style that we covered earlier, WSB 2K3 does a
better than average job in the graphics department. There are some
cinematics in the game, including some sweet home run blasts, some
ejections, and player reactions. Player uniforms look good, with
appropriate lettering, but the wrinkle effect that Blue Shift has
implemented sometimes looks a bit off. There are some particle effects
for blowing dirt during slides and while at the plate, too. Player
models look good and animate well, but player faces are fairly
non-descript. Batting animations can sometimes look pretty awkward too,
especially during replays; how is it that a batter can swing high at a
low pitch and hit a home run? Still, the visuals look better than
3DOís High Heat Baseball 2004, but theyíre not quite as good as EA
Sportsí MVP Baseball 2003, either.
2K3ís sounds are mixed, as well. Commentary is provided by the Metsí
Ted Robinson and the Angelsí Rex Hudler. Robinsonís play-by-play is
completely blasť and has no emotion; however, itís usually timely and
accurate. Hudler, on the other hand, interjects more emotion and some
blunt analysisÖ sometimes to the point of making you laugh out loud.
Unfortunately, Hudlerís lines repeat too much, and Robinsonís
commentary makes him sound boring and uninterested. The sound effects
range from some poor batting samples to some really cool individual
jeers from the crowd aimed at certain players. These hecklers will
certainly bring a smile to some playersí faces once theyíre heard.
The crowd never really seems to get into the game collectively, and
thatís a bit of a disappointment.
WSB 2K3 is a solid entry into the PS2 baseball arena, and the review score certainly reflects that. If it werenít for a few aesthetic and minor gameplay flaws, it would easily have earned a score of nine or better. Itís not my personal pick for baseball game of the year overall, but itís really close. If Sega can fix some of the problems and totally do away with the worthless batting cursor (batting cursors, like crying, donít belong in baseball), next year could crown yet another new PS2 baseball champion. As it stands now, though, WSB 2K3 is certainly worth more than a look for baseball fans.
- Peter J. Skerritt, Jr.
(March 29, 2003)
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