Acclaim has never been a major player in the sports genre like EA or
Sega, they have been able to carve out several successful niches in
the genre. NBA Jam is arguably the best arcade b-ball title
of all-time, Acclaimís extreme sports franchises have often been
near the top of their respective niches, and the All-Star
Baseball franchise has been better than EA or Segaís offerings
virtually every year since the launch of the N64. Fortunately for
Acclaim All-Star Baseball 2003 is once again the best
baseball title on a specific platform, this time on the Xbox.
Unfortunately for consumers, this yearís best isnít necessarily
biggest problem with this yearís ASB is the batting interface. The
cursor system returns for yet another year here, with a normal
cursor used for regular hitting and a power cursor for when you want
to put some muscle into it. While it would be nice for Acclaim to
innovate here and give us a new batting system, it still works and
thatís all that really counts. What doesnít work is the fact
that all but the slowest of pitches is simply way too fast. Roger
Clemensí fastball might really reach the plate in approximately 1
second, but itís not always best to imitate real life that
accurately. The difference between real life and this game is the
interface (your eyes & reflexes versus a Xbox controller), and
with a controller there simply isnít enough time to move the
cursor into position and then swing at the pitch (unless itís a
knuckler) before it crosses the strike zone. The batting system
doesnít force you to necessarily have part of the cursor lined up
with the pitch in order to make contact, but the margin for error is
so small and inconsistent that it might as well.
you can imagine, if the player doesnít have time to line up the
cursor they also donít have time to accurately judge whether a
pitch is going to be a ball or a strike. The only way to hit a pitch
is to start the swing early and guess the pitchís location, and as
a result the only practical way to take a ball is checking the
swing. As a result success or failure is almost totally dependent on
how well the player guesses where the next pitch will be, not on how
much skill or timing the player possesses. The game does allow the
player to pre-guess what the next pitch will be, but all this does
is make the cursor a bit bigger. Throw in the fact that the A.I.
often doesnít pitch realistically (therefore making it hard to
guess what pitch is next unless itís a two-pitch guy like Mariano
Rivera), and this feature doesnít really help any.
pitching interface is what youíd expect; pick the pitch, location,
and then fire away. Each pitcher has the proper pitches that they
possess in real life, and they all react accordingly. Fielding is
also pretty standard, as the game automatically switches to the
closest player once a ball is put into play. The one flaw in
fielding is that it can sometimes be difficult to judge where a fly
ball is going to land, often resulting in some cheap singles and
doubles that shouldíve been easy outs. The fielder will "lock
in" to a spot once positioned properly, but the player often
has to dance around that spot before the fielder will properly lock
onto the ball.
in past installments of ASB, the graphics are excellent. Virtually
all pitchers and batters have their proper stances, including the
quirky stances of players like Tony Batista and David Cone. Player
models are excellent, with realistic proportions and excellent
textures for the face and uniforms. The stadiums are as great as any
ever found in a baseball game, and include a number of stunningly
realistic and minor details that really add to the overall
atmosphere. The crowd looks great, but needs more variety. Itís a
little disconcerting to see a fan and his identical twin only a few
seats apart from each other. While itís obvious that this is just
a PS2 port, it still ranks as one of the better looking games on the
sound is done really well also. The broadcast team of Steve Lyons
and Thom Brennanman is one of the most integrated and lively ones in
any sports game. Steveís general comments about specific players
get old very quickly, but his situation-specific comments (ex: a
playerís batting average with two strikes) are always timely and
accurate. I know the Orioles sucked last year; I donít need to
hear about how Jeff Conine was one of the few bright spots every
single game. The sound effects are good, with accurate
representations of the crack of the bat and a lively crowd. Missing
is the umpís ball and strike calls, but theyíre an
understandable omission as Acclaim is going for more of a TV
features add replay value, including an excellent franchise mode and
a solid Create-A-Player mode. The franchise mode allows the player
to play up to 20 seasons with the same team, and keeps track of
career stats, transactions, demotions and promotions from the
minors, trades, and a myriad of other things. Itís not quite on
par with the one found in other genres (especially football games
like Madden), but itís a very nice addition to the series.
graphics that are among the systemís best, even though it
doesnít do much to take advantage of the hardware.
mode allows for near-unlimited replay value.
Menu. Music. Ever.
needs some serious tuning, particularly in pitch speed. An
updated cursor system would be a welcome plus as well.
can be clunky at times.
that people in the crowd are actually recognizable, how about
giving us more than 10 different types of people?
for World Series Baseball. Due out any day now, WSB looks to
be shaping up as the Xboxís deepest and best baseball title this
year. If you simply canít wait then All-Star Baseball 2003
makes for a good alternative, but itís a far cry from the ASB
games on the N64.