Game Description: The smash follow-up to Acclaim’s classic All-Star Baseball ’99, All-Star Baseball 2000 offers the same great gameplay and 30 licensed Major League Baseball teams with rosters from the 1999 season. You can hurl fastballs from the mound and swing for the fences in all 30 major league parks. Michael Kay and John Sterling are in the booth and ready to call the action, whether you’re simulating the 1999 season, or playing with your own custom team.
All-Star Baseball `99 won the baseball wars on the Nintendo 64 a year ago and was deservedly proclaimed one of the best baseball games ever made. In fact it was considered to be pretty close to perfect and many wondered how Acclaim would top themselves. Now, a new season is upon us and All-Star Baseball 2000 (ASB2000) has arrived, bringing with it high expectations and I can tell you that they have delivered.
As soon as I started up ASB2000, I could tell that Acclaim set out to create a game unlike any other. You are given animations of players going through their motions tossing the ball back and forth or swinging for the fences and celebrating afterwards that just bowled me over. When Iguana created the Quagmire Engine for ASB '99, they used it to produce a high resolution game unlike any seen before; somehow, they've managed to come back this year with an engine that tops its predecessor.
Players are rendered with incredible detail. Every crease and shadow and wrinkle can be seen on uniforms and I could now tell which player was which not by his jersey, but by his mustache or sideburns or knee-high socks or physical quirk he had in real life. The developers took everything from the real life player and crammed it into the game, leaving nothing out. None of this would matter if all the players did were look good while standing still, so again Iguana set their sights up high. ASB2000 offers over 100 different batting stances and over 400 unique player motions, adding up to an unparalleled level of realism. At times, it was as if I were watching full-motion video clips and not graphics rendered on the fly. Combined with the ambient sounds of the ballpark crowds and the crisp and clear sound effects throughout the game, ASB2000 is more than halfway to being perfect.
What takes it over the top is the player interaction. Thankfully it has not been overlooked for the sake of eye candy. Iguana took it upon themselves to tackle what is the most screwed up and critical part of any baseball game, and that's the hitting and pitching interface. Instead of programmers simply dumbing down the physics, making it easier to make contact with the ball, ASB2000 places more control in the player's hands. The hitter's contact point is represented by a square placed over the strike zone box and oncoming pitches are represented by a small circle that the player must line up with to make contact. Now here's where it gets good. If I want to smack a few pitches to the opposite field and move the runner over, I change the square into a cube that faces away from the batter. And if I want to pull the ball, conversely I would angle the cube towards the batter. With this feature, the game truly opened up for me, I felt like I was doing everything in the game myself and not some random bit of code determining the outcome. It's a feature that was a long time coming and now may be copied (at least it should be) by other developers for future baseball games.
ASB2000's other selling points are its features. In fact it has features on top of features. They key ones are the manager and GM features and the create-a-player feature. If I wanted to micro-manage a ball club, I now could thanks to the accurate stats and slick simulation feature. If a player was mired in a slump, I could trade him or pick up someone new in the draft with ASB2000's realistic draft and free agency system. And If I'm tired of playing from the outside, now I could really jump into the game, thanks to the create-a-player feature. I choose a race, height, weight and then anything else from batting stance, pitching motion, hairstyle, and aggressiveness to whether or not he is a clutch hitter. I have a say in everything that goes into this pseudo-me and I was impressed with the result. It's an unbelievable feeling to connect on a Pedro Martinez fastball with my doppelganger player. Without a doubt, this amount of player involvement has been missing in sports games and games in general and Acclaim should be credited for finally offering it.
ASB2000 is the most complete baseball experience available on any console right now. With high quality graphics and sound providing such a realistic backdrop, complimented by dead-on controls and interactive features that are easy to use and enjoyable, Iguana has outdone everyone in the market. It was my pleasure to review it.
You're not gonna get too many arguments from me here. In terms of pure ball-playing experience, no other game captures the look and feel of the game of baseball better than All-Star Baseball 2000 (ASB2000). The developers seem to have taken everything one step further than the competition. Whereas most other baseball games seem to only capture moments of realism, ASB2000 is simply real. In between plays, when batters warm-up on the on-deck circle or head back to the dug-out after being forced out, camera angles and player motions seem to mirror actual broadcast games. The gameplay is nice and smooth and without any overly obvious bugs or glitches. Everything in-game seems tweaked to near perfection. Graphics are simply unsurpassed and will make older games look archaic. The music and sound is also great in that it seems more intent on trying to capture the ambience of a ballpark with crowds and organ music, rather than beating the player with a repeated tune. I was also surprised at how quickly I was able to pick up the controls considering the amount of depth involved with the game. No matter how inexperienced I was, the computer didn't blow me out with 20 point innings; a testament to the game's realism.
Playing ASB2000 as a 'straight' game of baseball (without all the complexities), the game is as good as it gets; fun, exciting and intuitive all at once. Problems for me start to crop up when I started digging into the wealth of features the game offers in creating a player, managing a team, or even trying to guess a pitch during batting. I'm surprised that Dale didn't mention any of this, but I noticed right from the start that the menus, despite being visually appealing, are very poorly laid out and require the strangest control scheme to navigate through. This frustration seems to radiate through some of the game's richest features, which are often complex and ambiguous. While I was creating my own player, I often stared at the attributes, wondering either what was the effect or what was the difference between it and another attribute. Does increasing my arm speed as a pitcher effect the speed of my pitches considering I can also tweak the actual speed of my pitches? Why are 8 slots allotted for a pitching arsenal when during a game the player is only given 4? If I guess high and inside on a pitch (using the pitch-guessing option) and swing low and away, does it make any difference if I make contact?
It was often difficult to test these features and notice if it was producing the desired effect (with the exception of the wonderfully conceived 'power swing' adjustment). I had a ton of questions and the worst part is that the manual had no answers. I love digging into complex baseball games, but without a good map, it's like finding your way out of a maze (and not one of these obvious kiddy ones either!). Keeping in mind that the core of the game is still rock-solid, I'm basically complaining about the icing of the cake. But if Iguana streamlines (not take out) the menus and the many other wonderful features, I'd be hopelessly addicted and turn to ASB2000 every time I need a video baseball fix.
This is a simulation fan's dream. It has accurate stats, intuitive AI, and realistic graphics and sound all in one to make a realistic baseball world.
The arcade baseball lover will probably be disappointed, as stats have more impact towards game outcomes as well as by the game's much slower pace. Realism is key and All-Star Baseball 2000 delivers it in spades, but yet it is still loads of fun to play.
Those who wish to delve into the game's most complex features should be aware that the instruction manual is sorely lacking when it comes to detailing the most intricate parts of the game. If you love 'real' baseball, don't deny yourself this game.