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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Sega

 

Developer

Blue Shift/Visual Concepts

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- ESPN presentation style is spot-on

- Plenty of stats to look at

- Franchise mode is very deep and very enjoyable

 

 

- How come most of the faces look the same?

- Batting animations need serious work

- More crowd reactions are needed

 

 

Review: High Heat Baseball 2003 (PC)

Review: MLB 2004 (PS2)

Review: MLB Slugfest 2003 (PS2)

 

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World Series Baseball 2K3

Score: 8.6 / 10

 

Much 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 pennant?

 

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As 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 credibility.

 

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.

 

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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 

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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.

 

WSB 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.

 

Aside 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.  

 

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WSB 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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