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Next Level Gaming
Sean usually takes the helm when it comes to All Star Baseball, but this year I was so blown away by the game myself that I wanted to help him review the three versions out there. And so, a conversation struck! Think of it like Roger Ebert and his partner.
XBox Solution (XBS)
If you’re a true fan of the sport then you’ll be hard pressed to find a title with more replay value than All Star Baseball 2004. With a staggering number of options and game modes you’ll be playing well into next year’s first pitch. Roster updates through Xbox Live are a great addition, and from what we can tell will be a monthly download from the service, stretching out that replayability a bit more with every download. No Xbox Live play for the moment, but that seriously won’t affect my replay score at this point since chances are you would wind up playing a Series game with some whiner from Kansas City that decides to pause the game at the top of the ninth (I’m not bitter, really). Baseball fans be sure to take a look at ASB 2004.
You can't compete against opponents online in All-Star Baseball 2004, but that's about the only feature missing from Acclaim's latest baseball game. While the people at Acclaim Studios Austin have done an excellent job of smoothing over many of the gameplay quirks that were evident in last year's game, the greatest push this year has been toward variety. The sheer number of available teams, modes, and bonuses is absolutely staggering.
It?s fair to say that All-Star Baseball 2004 is the best ASB yet, and fans of the series won?t go wrong with any version. The game?s tunable to all tastes and skill levels; it?s baseball at its almost finest.�
All-Star Baseball certainly lives up to its name. It offers the largest stable of former greats, some 50 in all, and it even offers many of the standouts and stars from the old Negro baseball league. Its obvious Acclaim decided the best way to deal with the competition is to match it in terms of baseball prowess, but at the same time, outdo them in terms of extras. All-Star throws shovel fulls of extras to entice you away from the competition. Mostly good stuff, not just gimmicks. Stuff like a trivia game, stadium tours, and DVD content. It even includes classic ballparks, just in case you really miss Shibe Park. There are seven fantasy ballparks in currently baseball-free North American cities, and you can pick and choose from over 30 mascots, making the expansion team options all the more interesting. All-Star also offers a deep franchise mode that rivals text sims like Over the Top Baseball.
After a particularly long and nasty winter, many gamers -- myself included -- look at the release of the year's baseball titles to be the official start of spring. The heck with seeing my first robin -- I'm more interested in orioles, blue jays, and cardinals. This year spring arrives with a shower of baseball titles for the Xbox. EA Sports' completely revamped MVP 2003 joins Sega Sports' World Series 2K3 and 3DO's High Heat Baseball 2004 on the shelf. Acclaim's All-Star Baseball has been around for a while and has consistently delivered, but can the aging franchise still bring the heat against the current lineup of baseball titles?
At this point, Acclaim's All-Star Baseball 2004 is beginning to show the age of the franchise. This is a good thing, because the amount of features, extras and tasty little details to warm a baseball fan's heart are easily the game's strongest features and you only get stuff like that when the developer --Acclaim Austin, in this case-- has time to build on a title year after year. But there's some bad to go along with all of that good, because some of the same flaws that have plagued the series since its days on the Nintendo 64 have inexplicably made the transition to next generation consoles, not once, but twice now. The first iteration of storied franchises, and even some new games, got plenty of leeway when we first saw them on Xbox, but now that everybody knows what the system is capable of (thank you Splinter Cell and Panzer Dragoon Orta) it's clear ASB2004 is more of a veteran slugger than a true All-Star.
This game is for those of you that love franchise modes, but not necessarily for a pick up and play game. The gameplay problems really hurt this game, especially from the defensive perspective. Overall this is a good game, but not a great one in the 2003 baseball battle.
There are certainly better "playing" and even some better "looking" baseball games available for the Xbox, but none feature the massive amount of options and content you will find in ASB 2004. I can't think of any other baseball game that includes the old Negro Leagues, Post War Legends, and old-school players from the Dead Ball era. All-Star Baseball 2004 contains a wealth of content and is the dream title for those who want to explore the rich history of baseball or manage their own franchise. When it comes down to actually "playing" the game there are several issues that should have been resolved and weren't, and now you need to decide if you can cope with them for the privilege of playing the game.
Game Freaks 365
Combined with a good development team and bad ideas, All-Star Baseball is only an average game compared to MVP. Sure it may be the most realistic, but sometimes a game can be too real and that just doesn't work. You may enjoy this game for its features, but you won't play it long, if you play MVP soon there after.
In the end all ASB2004 represents is a minor upgrade from ASB2003. Sure, there is the addition of classic teams and Negro League players and some nice extras, but if the gameplay suffers, what is the use? If you are really into baseball nostalgia and want downloadable rosters, then you might want to pick this version up. Rent it and you might end up trading in the old version to purchase the 2004 one. For all other baseball fans my advice is to give ASB2004 a try, don’t run out and pluck down the cash for it instantly.
All-Star Baseball 2004 has so many polished features and modes that it's a shame the actual gameplay fails to match up. If Acclaim improves the controls and A.I. and especially the animations for next year's edition, it would be a true contender for the baseball game crown. In its present state though, it only offers an attractive package, with average gameplay that drag down the experience. Check it out for its tribute to baseball's legacy, but you won't be staying around to play it.
The Next Level
With all of the problems, you may be shocked to learn that I actually did enjoy the time I spent with ASB 2004. This is a solid but unpolished game of baseball with more than enough modes and options to keep any baseball fan busy for months. Hopefully, next year Acclaim will focus on ironing out the gameplay problems to bring that aspect up to par with the rest of the package.