As usual, spring time brings with it the smell of wooden bats, hot dogs and the cracks of baseball bats. Yep, its baseball season again and with the season comes a slew of updated video games based on the sport. This year, Acclaim brings its most recent version of ALL STAR BASEBALL to the stage, and surprisingly, the game is a lot better than last year's incarnation.
While the series has taken a backseat to Sega's WORLD SERIES BASEBALL 2K games the past few years, ALL STAR BASEBALLL 2004 improves on a lot of the problems that a lot of people have had with the few games in the series. ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 is now a much more solid game with better AI and better control physics than before.
ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 sports some pretty lifelike graphics, although I actually think that EA Sport's MVP BASEBALL 2003 is the better looking game when compared side-by-side. The players themselves resemble their real-life counterparts, and the stadiums are detailed admirably. In all, there are over 75 stadiums that you can play in, along with 20 unlockable teams and over 200 uniforms in all.
In my opinion, though, one of the coolest new things added to this game is a minor addition and that is the game menu. The menu now resembles what an old reel of baseball footage does, and even the little bobble-heads when selecting a team make me feel more like going out and throwing a baseball with a friend.
ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 is one of those games that you really can just pick up and play, which makes this a game that you and some other friends can play even if they aren't video game enthusiasts. Pitching is pretty simplified, as each pitcher in the game has his own selection of pitches. Select the pitch and you'll be given a few options, like pitch the ball, bean the batter or try to pick the runner off if there is one on. Batting is pretty simple to grasp, with you as the batter basically attempting to swing at whatever the pitcher throws up at you. You're given a cursor inside of the strike zone, trying to locate where the pitch is going to be. At first, it may give gamers a little bit of frustration, but they'll grasp it soon enough. Fielding is also relatively easy. A cursor will appear where the ball is going to land if hit in the air, so all you need to do is move your player under the ball to catch it. Throwing requires a touch of a certain button (say you're throwing to second base, you'll need to hit the Y button. If you want to throw to first, press B, and so on).
ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 has over nine different gameplay modes, including a scenario mode and a much deeper franchise mode added to the basic gameplay modes found in other baseball games. In addition, there are over 110 retired or now deceased players that you can play as, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken.
In the end, ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 is one of the better baseball sims that has been released this year. While James may prefer Sega's WSB 2K3 to any other game on the market, this is the one I like the best. This is a good pick-up for any baseball fan.