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World Series Baseball (Xbox) Review

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Sega Sports' World Series Baseball 2K1 last year was a disappointment. This year, from the many previews and interviews across the net, many people, myself included, were looking forward to see if Sega can deliver a good baseball game this year. Well, World Series Baseball (WSB) has been out for a few weeks and we have an in-depth review.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
The graphics are excellent and well represented, which includes everything from the stadium to the birds in the sky flying to the motion captures of the players. There are a number of real signature swings and stances, which include Griffey's and Nomar's. The shadows and lightning are as good as any other baseball games if not better. Most of the throwing animations are great. I've had players dive for the ball, get up on their knees and make a throw to first base, all without any choppiness in the animations. The game also includes a nice catcher collision animation where the base runner tries to run over the catcher if he has badly beaten by the throw.

A few of the drawbacks in this department includes collision detail. The collision detail aspect apparently was not worked on much. Players go right through one another, which is very evident when a defensive player merges into a base runner. WSB could have a better double play animation allowing the shortstop or second baseman to leap to avoid an oncoming slide and then flip the ball over to first base. The fielders sometimes look way too casual throwing the ball. In addition, sometimes fielders don't bother tagging the base runners, even on a non force play.

Presentation/Audio : 80
The commentary is not the most exciting thing in the world. Ted Robinson, formerly the voice of High Heat, does an accurate job of doing his job. You won't hear Mike Krukow and Ted Robinson conversing too much with each other. The game needs a little more activeness from Mike and Ted. For instance, the computer had a perfect game going against me with 1 out in the 9th inning (yes, I am not ashamed to admit it) with my number 8 guy coming to the plate and going opposite field for a home run. The commentators treated that home run the as if it was hit in the first inning. Made no mention that a perfect game was perfect or such. Perhaps they would mention it at the end of the game? Nope, not at all.

The crowd is as good as it gets in terms of baseball games. You will hear boos and cheers depending on the situation and may even get a heckler to yell an insult out to one of your players.

Interface/Options : 80
There are five game modes in WSB: Exhibition, Season, Franchise Mode, Home Run Derby and Playoffs. The franchise mode is very deep for a console game. The franchise mode allows you to sign free agents, make trades, create your own players, draft rookies, and manage a small group of minor leaguers, as well as hire managers, coaches, and scouts. These guys vary on skill level, which affects how much they cost. A setback here is that they forgot to allow you to release your own players. The trade AI definitely needs to be tweaked. Teams trade their superstar players too easily. The free agent signing AI also needs to be looked at for next year's release. I was able to sign four starting pitchers that could be #1 or #2 starters on any team, as well as 3 or 4 other key stars such as Cliff Floyd and Matt Lawton. The all star voting system needs to be looked at too. Although this is not a major part of the game, there should be no reason a bench player, Darren Lewis, should be receiving 1,090,000 votes when he only has been 3 for 3 through the first 2 weeks of play.

Also make sure you re-sign your players before starting the playoffs because once the playoffs are done, the players with expired contracts will file for free agency.

Better make sure you know your players' ratings, especially speed because there is no way to check most of a player's ratings once you start the game. You are able to view the AVG, RBI and HR stats when you look at your bench, although you can view the AB, R, H, RBI, HR and SO for the player at bat, along with the next two guys.

The menu screens should have made some of the options available more explicit. For instance, I had no idea that after the game, a box score was available for both teams, until decided to just try hitting the right trigger button. I also could not figure out why I could not sub in players in the line-up screen until I discovered that I could by scrolling down. There were a few other cases as well in the stats screen. I guess that's why the help button is there. I realize that no in-game box score exists either. Furthermore, the ability to save a game in progress is not available.

Gameplay : 80
Simple, WSB is a fun game to play. It might be missing a few details, but still provides for a good entertaining baseball experience. Games are usually low scoring, with an occasional high scoring game mixed in.

The pitching interface is well implemented as the breaking pitches really do break, while the off-speed pitches are quite effective, although it is a tad too slow in the game. Change-ups are usually only 65-70mphs in WSB, depending on the pitcher. Although, Trevor Hoffman throws a change at 75 mph in the game. He also is apparently able to throw a fastball at 95 mph. Hoffman lost the speed in his fastball quite a few years ago, and usually only throws 90 mph tops. I enjoyed how my pitchers are not always accurate. I play on All-Star level, with the pitching icon to aim the pitch invisible. Sometimes this result in pitches that do not always go where I want. This also provides for occasional accidental beaning and wild pitches or passed balls.

The batting interface consists of a circle that the user moves around with the joystick trying to aim the swing at where the pitch is headed to. The batter also has hot/cold zones that are shown on screen here. The rectangle is split up into 9 squares with either shades of red, blue or clear covering the square. I think this interface works quite well along with the variety of hits that includes grounders, choppers, line drives and pop-ups. The short line drives in the game definitely need some work. Some of the line drivse that stay in the infield seem to just float in the air. Also, one hoppers really look like they are caught most of the time. The ones that hit the gaps or are hit down the lines feel very rewarding. You see if you really got a hold of the pitch right away. I still have trouble with striking out on All Star Level with very fast pitch speed set. I usually average close to 12 or 13 K's at the plate. The curve balls and change-ups usually are the culprits.

The computer does a good job at mixing in pitches and trying to get you to chase pitches out of the strike zone, although the accuracy of pitchers in the game in general is a bit too accurate. No matter who the pitchers are, I don't think you'll ever see a game with more than 2 or 3 walks. This could be due to the huge strike zone. Other good pluses are the accurate number of wild pitches and passed balls.

The AI is a mixed bag. As mentioned before, their pitch selection along with their swing selection are realistic. However, the AI base running is not good at all. Runners at the corners with no outs in the 2nd inning, a grounder is hit to the shortstop. What happens? The runner on third, starts and stops, then goes back to third, while I toss the ball over to second base and then onto first, which was not in time. With no one out, the runner on third should have came home. Also, the computer base runner took off and started running with less than two outs on a pop-up? That hasn't happened too often, but definitely worth a mention. In addition, why does the first baseman stay on the bag when the bases are loaded? I tried moving him by changing my infield position, but he stayed on the bag. This cost me 6 runs because balls normally within reach of my first baseman went slowly through the infield into the outfield.

There are some in-game issues that need to be addressed in next year's game. The fielders simply look too casual on some of the throws. Both in their appearance and in the speed of their release. It gets a little tough trying to turn two when it involves more than 2 defensive players because the release is just a little slow. In addition, ground balls are stopped too often by diving infielders. As a result, hits that get through the infield on the ground do not occur as much as they should.

Bunting or, more specifically, the execution of sacrifice bunts are harder than it should be. The batting circle that allows you to aim your bunt stays the same size when you bunt. Perhaps enlarging it a little might help. The computer hardly attempts to execute a sacrifice bunt.

Again, the AI is questionable in some cases. I was intentionally walked while the computer was up by 6 in the 9th with one on? Then I tried to bunt it on the 4th pitch, and game froze? To be fair, that was the only time the game has frozen for me. There is another bug with the franchise when you load it, none your player stats will show. The work around is to just reload the franchise file and you will be golden, although if you realize it too late and save over the file, then there is nothing that can be done.

WSB has other bits of baseball missing. I'm not sure how you can leave out minor but important features such as controlling the lead of your base runner and being able to only have one of your base runners steal a base rather than being forced to go all or none. Base stealing can be a little easy, although the real slow players get nailed, but you can be usually successful trying to steal with anyone with average speed. On the steals subject, the CPU has yet to attempt a pick-off throw against me. There is no way to view the speed of the current base runners on base while batting. In addition the game does not allow you to warm-up pitchers in the pen.

Other absences include the lack of in-game injuries and throwing errors. Injuries do occur when games are simulated, but I have yet to have a game with any injury. All the throws so far are right on target, no matter the distance. The game apparently does not have any button to throw to a cut-off man either. The throwing controls are setup where you only need to place either A, B, X or Y to throw to home, first, second or third respectively. All the throws go right to the base even though there is a fielder who seems ready to cutoff the throw, but nonetheless, the ball just skips right through the fielder graphically. I've seen a lot of cases where none of my fielders back up any of the throws especially on easy grounders where the catcher is suppose to head over to back up first. Also, where is the jump button? I want to be able to try to leap over the wall to snag a deep ball. Errors do occur in the game, but only happen when a fielder mishandles a ball, or drops the ball on the receiving end of a play.

Replay Value : 95
The franchise mode definitely helps as you are able to play multiple seasons. But what is the point of playing multiple seasons if the gameplay is not fun. No need to worry about that, WSB is definitely a fun game to play, which makes the franchise mode that much better. I almost laughed when the CPU retaliated after I beaned one of their guys after someone hit a backbreaking 3-run shot out of the yard.

Overall : 83
While WSB is certainly missing some crucial elements for a baseball game, the game is still lots of fun to play with the good game play and deep franchise mode. If you can overlook some of the missing elements in WSB, go out, get WSB and prepare yourself for a good time.

By: James Chheng 6/6/02

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