All-Star Baseball 2005
Acclaim’s All-Star Baseball franchise used to be on top of the heap. At that time it was just a two horse race with 3DO’s now-defunct High Heat franchise. EA Sports, which used to be the laughingstock with Triple Play, now heads the pack with MVP Baseball with SEGA’s ESPN Baseball closely in tow. Suddenly the race isn’t so simple for Acclaim and it actually fell down a few notches last season; the company has set out to bring the franchise back up to its former glory but as this 2005 iteration shows, it still has quite a ways to go.
In addition to the now standard exhibition, home run derby and franchise modes All Star offers up This Week In Baseball, Online play, trivia modes and a couple of other mini-games. Like before, the mini-games are nice diversions but they’re pretty much throwaways for anyone who’s really serious about the game of baseball. This Week in Baseball is based on the weekly highlight show of the same name except its theme is different. Instead of recapping the happenings of the week it allows you to tempt fate and change the course of history. It’s a situational mode where you relive some of the 2003 season’s most notable moments in hopes of changing the tide of the game. This means that you’ll be able to take control Moises Alou as he does combat with Steve Bartman in hopes of removing the Chi-town curse.
ASB2005 is a pretty easy game to pick up and play. Everything in the game is self explanatory and there aren’t any extra features in place to overcomplicate matters. As with any baseball game, the pitcher/batter interface makes or breaks the game and I feel that ASB has one of the best in the business. As before, rookies can go with a timing based system that eases them into the game. Real players will want to go with the total control cursor system though. In addition to determining the contact zone you can determine the angle of your swing with the right analog stick. If you feel so inclined you can guess the upcoming pitch before the pitcher delivers. A correct guess will increase the size of your targeting cursor while an incorrect guess will shrink the cursor.
Pitching is pretty effective too thanks to the charts at your disposal. In the middle of the at-bat you can call up a graph that shows the batter’s hit dispersion in case you want to shift the fielders. This is effective against batters with a significant pull such as a Jason Giambi or a Rafael Palmeiro. You can also pull up a pitch chart to see the pitches in the batter’s previous at-bat as well as hot-cool charts. It’s an effective system that’s still effective after all these years. You know the old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Unless the competition is doing jumping jacks all over your grave that is.
I was a huge fan of ASB2003 because I felt that it offered me the most control while providing me with the most realistic depiction of the sport. 2004 was a letdown because the developers did very little to differentiate itself from the previous iteration. While I’m not as disappointed with the 2005 edition I still feel like Acclaim hasn’t done enough to separate itself from the crowd. Acclaim helped pioneer a number of gameplay elements and they still stand the test of time. It’s just that it hasn’t done very much to add or build upon them. While MVP Baseball is incorporating a Links-style pitching mechanism All-Star is still content with the cursor based system that it’s been using for a number of years. Sure you get the drag bunt and directional hitting but the gameplay all feels very 2002 instead of 2004.
One of the new additions to this year’s game is the much-vaunted fielder cam but it generally comes off as more of a gimmick than a true gameplay addition. It’s clunky and never does quite give you an adequate view on the action. Speaking of fielding, I think this year’s game really highlighted what was wrong with the system. It just feels so sluggish and unintuitive. There are far too many times when I overran a fly ball or missed an easy grounder because the control was too touchy. I also found that there was a huge lag between the moment that I pressed the button and the action occurred onscreen. This is amazingly frustrating when I’m trying to throw out a runner on a close play.ASB2005 uses Fox Sports announcers so it’s no surprise that the game also utilizes a Fox Sports-like template for its overlays. It’s very slick and looks highly professional, something that you’d expect to see on a Saturday morning telecast. Some may call it clutter but anyone who has seen an actual telecast should be used to all of the information that the TV throws at them. I appreciate the game’s ability to keep me informed with vital statistics. For instance, when hitting a double you’ll see the camera pan over the player with the graphic stating that it’s his first double of the day. The game even keeps track and makes notice of milestones like when I hit my 100th career homerun with Adrian Beltre. It’s the nice small touches like this that really engulf the gamer and keep them informed. I just wish that there were better replay angles to help present the action.
Graphics are an area where the game really hasn’t improved all that much. The 2005 version of the game looks nearly identical to the 2003 version and that doesn’t bode too well in the graphics intensive market. When people are heavily criticizing the gorgeous World Series Baseball franchise you know you’re in a competitive market. Don’t get me wrong, ASB2005 isn’t ugly but it just doesn’t have the spark and flair that other games have. Faces don’t look quite right and the animations are kind of weak. Line drives and fly balls don’t fall into fielders gloves but rather disappear when it comes close to the player. This year’s game suffices but I think that the next edition is in need of a major visual overhaul.
Thom Brennaman & Steve Lyons once again handle the play-by-play duties while a Spanish track is available via Oscar Soria. I was impressed with All-Star Baseball 2003’s commentary but I felt that 2004’s commentary track was a huge letdown. 2005’s is a bit too quiet at times as well but it does something really unique that I haven’t seen in any other baseball title. At times Thom will comment on a play that just happened on the field and then Steve will come in with an extended analysis of what just happened, just like they do in real life. It’s definitely different and innovative considering that Steve will even talk over inning breaks and pitching changes. Also, the samples are very casual and sound highly realistic, you’ll get pauses, stuttering and even the occasional “umm” that signifies that the announcer is at a slight loss for words. Overall it’s a very realistic announcing track that’s my favorite this year.
As far as special features go ASB2005 goes the extra mile to cater to the baseball fan. My favorite addition is the Stadium Tour mode which gives you a flyby of all of the 30 major league stadiums including the new ones in San Diego and Philly and a couple of classic stadiums such as the Polo Grounds. As the camera pans over the stadiums you get some commentary on some of the more intricate features such as the plaques over the center field wall in Yankee Stadium. Here you can really get a sense of the heritage and history of each park while checking out some of the handiwork of the artists. There are other little nuances as well that will bode well with fans of the sport.
Last year’s game had online functionality but it was limited solely to roster updates. This time around you can take your game online via Xbox Live to challenge opponents from around the country. Like all of the other XBL-enabled titles lag is a minor problem
All-Star Baseball 2005 is a good baseball game; it’s just that there are some better options out there. You never know though, Acclaim’s brand of baseball just might be what you’ve been looking for. They’re definitely baseball fans over there so they know how to cater to you. Just don’t expect some breathtaking graphics or groundbreaking gameplay because you’ll be sorely disappointed.
It's a solid entry but it lacks the oomph needed to get ahead in this competitive field. I'd choose it over Inside Pitch but I'm not so sure that it's ready to compete with SEGA or EA Sports' offerings.
Rating: 7.7 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile