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In the world of sports video games where companies throw a few new colorful textures on with a new roster and sell it for $50, it's refreshing to know that Sega had the decency to go farther and create the best baseball game, period.
World Series Baseball 2K3 looks stronger than ever, easily one of the top contenders for the 2003 season. In its PS2 debut, World Series Baseball 2K3 is a game to beat. It builds on a great 2002 edition with just enough new stuff to secure its position in the upper echelon of the league.
Last year, Sega Sports' World Series Baseball for the Xbox rocked my world. It was the most detailed, realistic, carefully crafted baseball game I'd ever seen. Sega knows a good thing when they have it, so this year's version is out for both the PS2 and the Xbox, and while each version is much like last year's, they're even more like each other, with few discernible differences. In fact, the only difference is in the framerate, with the Xbox version running a tad more smoothly than its PS2 counterpart. Still, the PS2 continues to rock.
So far the Sega Sports franchise has given us plenty of outstanding sports titles that would make a grown man (and woman) weep with joy and it has proven it thus far with the 2K3 sports games that range from NHL hockey to NCAA basketball. And, to top it all off, they just keep getting better each year. The same can be said about World Series Baseball 2K3, a baseball title that comes back strong this year to claim its place at the top of this much loved genre.
Less than a year ago Sega released its first next-gen baseball title attempting to build on the past reputation of its World Series super franchise. With Blue Shift behind the developer's wheel, WSB hit Microsoft's Xbox with an abundance of critical acclaim and fan excitement with just as much fervor as 3DO's highly popular High Heat. Less than 52 weeks later, World Series Baseball 2K3 has returned to its native Xbox in addition to the realm of PlayStation 2 faster than we could have hoped for.
While some games claim to duplicate the ballpark atmosphere, Sega's World Series Baseball 2K3 goes a step further. As you play it, you get the impression that you're sitting on your couch watching Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. The presence of genuine ESPN logos, graphics, and background music gives the game a style that most sports fans can easily recognize and appreciate. Moreover, it's simply the best and most addictive baseball game available this year.
Despite its flaws, World Series Baseball 2K3 plays a good game of baseball and presents plenty of gameplay options and statistics for the hardcore baseball fan. The fact that WSB 2K3 doesn't discriminate between the cursor-driven and timing-based batting styles (like All-Star Baseball does) is a definite plus, as are the ESPN presentation and the accumulated statistics. Whereas MVP Baseball may have a slightly more arcade-style feel to it, WSB 2K3 feels more sim-oriented. The fielding and baserunning flaws aren't devastating to the game's overall feel, and it doesn't lag that far behind the likes of MVP and High Heat in terms of gameplay. It also looks a lot better than High Heat, despite the visual nitpicks that have been noted here. I stand by my claim that MVP Baseball 2003 is the best PS2 baseball game this year, but World Series only needs to make a few adjustments to possibly wrest the title away from EA next season.
Compared to its Xbox brother, the PS2 version of World Series Baseball 2K3 is near identical. The game plays exactly the same on either platform, with the only real difference being the PS2's slightly lower display resolution. Of course, the real question is not how World Series Baseball 2K3 compares to the Xbox version, but how it compares to EA's MVP Baseball 2003. The answer is, quite nicely. The two games are incredibly close in quality, pretty much neck and neck -- although 3DO's High Heat is the season's frontrunner, leaving the bitter rivalry of Sega and EA slightly behind.