STAFF REVIEW of All-Star Baseball 2004 (Xbox)

Sunday, March 30, 2003.
by Queasy Buddy

All-Star Baseball 2004 Box art Acclaim is still pumping out the All Star Baseball games with this years cover man Derek Jeter. Also stepping back up this year is the beloved Franchise and Season mode, but wait there?s more, actually there is much more in the 2004 edition of All-Star Baseball. I guess Acclaim have decided to explore their horizons a bit. Some of the new features presented in this game are the option of playing a "pick up" game; where you just pick from a bunch of players like a sandlot and play in an open field for fun. There is a Home Run Derby, and a very cool Scenario Mode. You take control of situations from some of the most famous moments from the seasons gone by. In all there are 21 innovative scenarios. I hope this continues and that they keep including the great moments of baseball past in the games to come. All Star Baseball 2004 also has a bunch of great little videos for your enjoyment. You will have the chance to learn many little personal experiences of many famous baseball players, both old and new. But with all the new features added in this edition is there any negatives stuff? Well as we all know by now All-Star Baseball is known as having pretty graphics, but inferior gameplay. Let's see if the 2004 edition has improved on any of that.

First let?s start with the good stuff. The expansion mode. Like some of the sport games out there, the expansion mode in ASB 2004 allows you to create a team complete with faux logo and mascot. The selection isn?t as varied as others, but it?s still easy to find a unique one. After that, the expansion draft goes into place and you get to play the bullheaded GM. Just like in the real big leagues, you?ll find it very tough to be a very good team during the first year or two. Gathering experience and acquiring more players, the opening years are best spent behind the GM desk while simulating games, instead of even spending your precious time playing them. Once you?re actually on your way, you?ll have so much control over your franchise, that it won?t even be funny. Set up budgets, move players, get coaching, even put players on a trading block! There is so much you can do with your team you won't even believe it. When it comes to Franchise modes, this is the most comprehensive you can get, period! Although the franchise mode is great, the gameplay still isn?t up to par. In short, it?s too realistic, to the degree where I might as well just be playing real ball instead of in a videogame. The batting system has always been clunky and the worst part of the ASB series, but rather than getting an attractive new facelift for 2003/2004, ASB 2004 makes the problem worse. The pitches now come with blistering intensity, to the point where hitting anything at all is basically guesswork and relies more on your hitter than your batting skills. Awesome hitters will have swing zones big enough to possibly connect with a pitch even if it isn?t near, but average hitters will find it impossible to ever connect if the pitcher is anything better than a fourth-rate closer. It used to be that players struggled through defensive duties in order to enjoy their time behind the plate, now that?s no longer the case. The hitting is just as laborious and random as ever.

This year, Acclaim has brought life into the game with greatly improved visuals in player models and stadiums. Player models, in particular, have fantastic animations on the field especially during big double plays or diving catches. What I liked the most is that I could recognize the player without having to look at the name. The facial details really impressed me this year. With over 75 different stadiums in the game, every one you visit won?t have you saying ?Why do I see the same design in every stadium?? That?s not going to happen; Acclaim has made sure that each stadium looks like real life. Something I really enjoy seeing that many other Baseball titles tend to ignore is including history and heritage in games. ASB is one title that really puts forth a valid effort which is something I can?t say of the competition. ASB 2004 comes packed with 200 uniforms, many of them old school which give you a reminiscence of the old days. Uniforms are rich with color and detail and affect the game in a positive way.

This game sounds almost as good as it looks. The sounds of the game are excellent and the crowd sounds great. At one point I noticed that the sound of the bat on the ball was not quite right. It turns out that was because the bat broke. Another nice touch was the commentating, which this year is done by Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons. You can even switch the commentary to Spanish, which for effect, will put a little "SAP" sign up in the scoreboard area. Anyway the commentary is fantastic. Where I thought World Series Baseball dropped the ball with cementation, All Star definitely doesn't. During batter walk-ups, or after a play, sometimes Thom and Steve will actually talk. Their dialogue comes across very natural and conversational. As with
any game, it does get repetitive at times, but that?s normal.

The only real problem I had was with the clunky batting system. Other then that my hat is off to Acclaim for another spectacular Grand Slam.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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