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All-Star Baseball 2003  
An impressive baseball simulation from Acclaim Austin Studios.

CarlitoBaseball simulations are often unable to convey an organic, well-rounded gaming experience. Most of the times, they are completely unrealistic or too fragmentary to really amuse the player for a long time. There are just two video games that made me say “hey, this looks like the real thing”: World Series ’98 for Sega Saturn and All-Star Baseball for my beloved Nintendo 64. Both games were able to recreate on screen something of the true spirit of baseball, in different ways.

That’s why I was really expecting this new instalment in the All-Star Baseball series, especially after the disappointment of All-Star Baseball 2002. Thankfully, this time Acclaim did an excellent work. All-Star Baseball 2003 has all the elements that made this series great, plus a wealth of extras that will make all you little baseball fans out there happy. Yes, happy.

Gameplay : 9.5

The game is fully licensed by the MLBPA. This means you will play in all major league stadiums, and the rosters have been updated just a few weeks before the release. The first thing you’ll notice playing All-Star Baseball 2003 is that this game is huge. The game has an amazing selection of game modes and special features.

First of all, you may want to have a Quick Play. In this mode the computer selects two teams and you play just one game. The MLB Play game mode includes four sub-modes: Exhibition game, All-Star game, New Season, New Series. The Exhibition game is probably the best choice to start enjoying All-Star Baseball 2003. You just choose two teams and you play one game; or you may want to play a great All-Star game, in which all the best players in the American and National leagues, selected by the computer, can prove their skill. In these three “pick-n-play” game modes - Quick Play, Exhibition, All-Star Game – you can choose the stadium, the game time, the weather, the sky for your game. You just have to press the L1 button before starting the game. You want to play in the Yankee Stadium, by night, with snow slowly falling on the field? Or maybe you prefer to play in the Coors Field, by twilight, in a rainy day? Well, you can do it.

The New Season game mode lets you play a full season with your favorite team. In this mode not only you can play all the games in the season, but you also have to fully manage your team. You can create your lineup, set your pitching rotation, trade players and manage free agency. All is done through a well-developed menu system. If you don’t want to play all the games in the season, you can let the computer simulate the games you are not interested to play. And if you can’t wait for the playoffs, you just have to choose the “New Series” game mode and enjoy the most exciting period of the season.

All these game modes would be enough to make a rich game, but All-Star Baseball 2003 has much more to please the player. The Expansion mode and the Franchise mode are something unique, that no other game on the shelves can offer.

In The Expansion mode, you can create your own club. You select a city, a name, a logo and you can play up to 20 seasons with it, managing every single aspect of your team. The Franchise Mode works in a similar way, but here you have to choose an existing team. These modes are both incredibly funny, addictive, developed in every slightest detail. It’s wonderful to follow your players and your team game after game, season after season. In All-Star Baseball 2003 you can also create a player and include him in your team: choose his name, height, weight, skin tone, delivery and accessories.

All-Star Baseball 2003 is an incredibly deep baseball simulation. The basics of the game – first of all the batting controls – are the same of the preceding instalment, but the developers managed to correct all the issues. Just like the other games in the series, All-Star Baseball 2003 is a difficult game. Controls are intuitive, but difficult to master.

The classic cursor system is used both for pitching and batting. Pitching is easy; each player’s pitch types appear on-screen and each pitch type is assigned to a specific button. You select the pitch type, you move the pitch target to the desired location and then you launch the ball; at this point, you can still modify the ball’s trajectory while it’s in the air. There are more than 16 different pitch types, and each player can perform only the ones included in his real repertoire. Before every pitch, you can also position the fielders and the outfielders by pressing the L1 and R1 buttons. In this way you can cycle through many positioning options, choosing the one that fits the batter’s hitting tendencies.

Batting is more difficult, but this makes the game more rewarding. A triangle shaped cursor, which is moved with the Left Analog Stick or the D-pad, indicates the location in which your bat will make contact with the ball. The size of the cursor varies accordingly to the abilities of the pitcher and of the batter; using a poor batter against a strong pitcher will result in a very small cursor – in this way it’s more difficult to hit the ball. You can try guessing the pitch type and location before every pitch; if you correctly guess the pitch type the contact area becomes bigger. Once the pitcher has launched the ball, you can still move the cursor but you also have to press the swing button timely, and that’s surely the most difficult part of the game. You can try to swing for a home run, but it’s not easy. All you have to do is to press the Square button: the cursor will become smaller, but if you hit the ball, it’s home run. Using the Right Analog stick you can tilt the cursor to alter the type of your hit; in this way you can send grounders, send the ball on the left or on the right side of the field and so on. Overall, the batting controls are simply impressive.

Base running is controlled using the shoulder buttons of the Dual Shock 2. L1 button advances all the runners to the next base, while R1 is used to return them to their previous base. If you want you can make one single runner advance or return combining the directional buttons, that are used to indicate the base, with the triangle (advance) and circle (return) button.

Fielding is not as difficult as batting, but you’ll need a few games before getting used to it. All-Star Baseball 2003 is one of the few games that give you full control on fielding. Before a ball is fielded a red symbol indicates the spot where the ball will land; the selected fielder is highlighted by a blue circle. The highlighted fielder can be moved with the right analog stick and you can tell him where to throw the ball before or after he fields it. If you select the future throw before he fields the ball, he’ll immediately throw the ball once he fields it – and this is fundamental if you want to throw out a fast base runner.

Overall, the only issue in the gameplay of All-Star Baseball 2003 is the difficulty of the game. The developers have created an amazing gaming experience and a wonderful baseball simulation. All- Star Baseball 2003 is the only baseball simulation that gives you full control over every single aspect of the game.

I forgot to mention the additional features and game modes included in this immense game. All-Star Baseball 2003 includes a Player Cards mode, in which you can use points earned during the games to purchase those packs of baseball cards we have all collected in our life, a Home Run Derby mode, a batting practice mode (useful!), a Trivia game to test your baseball knowledge, statistics, support for multiplayer games, and many other little things that make of this game the hugest baseball simulation I’ve ever played in my whole life.

» Page 2: Graphics, Sound, Replay Value, and Overall Opinion


Scores
Gameplay »
9.5
Graphics »
7.5
Sound »
8.0
Replay Value »
9.5
Overall Score »
9.0



Developer
Acclaim
Publisher
Acclaim
Origin
U.S.
Genre
Sports
Players
1-4
Features
Multiplayer
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Multitap
Release Date
North America
February 26th, 2002
Japan
November 14th, 2001
Europe
June 7th, 2002
Sections



The player models are finely detailed

The uniforms look like the real ones.

Batting is not easy...
More screenshots of All-Star Baseball 2003



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