World Series Baseball 2K1 – Second Opinion

Most critics (including Dale) have written off World Series Baseball 2K1 (WSB2K1) as a certifiable disaster, and it's hard not to see why. Most of their complaints are extremely valid. Extra modes and features are non-existent. The control response is horrid due to the over use of motion-capture. The lack of control over defensive fielding had me scratching my head twice as hard when you consider that the developers do a complete turn around on offense and expect players to unrealistically handle base-running with fine precision. I can barely describe how infuriating it is to work potential scoring runners on base only to get double or even triple-played constantly on the most routine fly-balls because runners take off with every crack of the bat. Even the old 8-bit baseball games like RBI Baseball and Baseball Stars had the wisdom and AI to have runners to hold-up or tag-up on pop-ups and potential sacrifice flies! And again this wouldn't be such an issue if the control to make runners return to base weren't so unresponsive.

Yet much to my own surprise, despite these usually unforgiving errors, I actually started to enjoy playing WSB2K1 after extended games. Chalk it up mainly to the pitcher/batter interface. There are going to be some obvious complaints like the ones that Dale made about the indistinguishable pitch selection and the lack of batter movement around the box. But there are also some really great positives to the system.

For one, I liked how I had minimal control over the location of my pitches after release, which felt natural. There isn't any overly mechanical pitching crosshair to give away the position of the pitch, and the inclusion of a charging power meter that must be timed for each pitch made a lot of sense (throw a fastball or curve without the proper juice, and you can expect batters to smack it out of the park). The batting interface was similar in that I felt like I was in control of my swing. Making contact with pitches seems a bit difficult at first, but for those who take the time to read pitches and observe placement, batting becomes a rewarding contest at the plate.

What I enjoyed most about the pitcher/batter interface was that each match-up at the plate was a hard-fought battle that I had to earn. I liked trying to throw strikes and eventually nicking the corner of a strike zone for the out after multiple pitches. I liked how as a batter I needed to work the count and chip away at pitches to stay alive. WSB2K1 screws up most other aspects of the game, but the pitcher/batter interface worked for me.

Actually there are a couple of other positives to the WSB2K1. Most obviously are the graphics (which could be a double-edged sword with the camera-angles and motion-capture) and audio presentation, but the other thing the developers got right was that both the physics and scores stay realistic. The lack of fielding control may be the main reason, but for those hardcore fanatics who hate getting gunned out at first base from what should be a line-drive single into outfield or overly ridiculous double digit scores, WSB2K1 manages to keep things on the up and up.

Unfortunately, the positives that I mentioned are not nearly enough for me to recommend WSB2K1 wholeheartedly, but I didn't find the game totally unredeeming like most other critics and gamers. Make no mistake; this isn't a revolutionary sports title, a dream simulation or even an arcade-style romp. WSB2K1 is a decent baseball game with some good qualities with just as many, if not more, bad ones. Rating: 6.5 out of 10