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.

Chi Kong Lui
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