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SCENE
GENRE
GRAPHICS
SOUND
PLAYABILITY
VALUE
OPINION



REVIEW INDEX

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MLB '98

Developer

Sony USA

Options

Distributer

Sony USA

1-2 Plyr

Game Type

Sport Simulation

Mem Card

Review Date

October '98

Setting the Scene

Well now what have we here, Sony comes storming out of the gates with the release of their second baseball title in less than a year...and heck, this one is even out before the playoffs begin! The game is MLB '98 and it's the logical successor of last years MLB Pennant Race. Which by the way, didn't make it to store shelves until the World Series was just getting under way...in other words, waaaaay too late for most people to really care.

As you may be aware, last years title had some glaring deficiencies...choppy gameplay, short on stats, cartoony graphics that didn't appeal to most people and a difficult memory card management system, yet in my opinion, it was still the best overall baseball title released for the PSX last year. This year, the field is even more competitive, with four other major contenders and a few wanna-bees...So how does this years Sony baseball stack up? Read on baseball fans...read on.

Genre

MLB '98 is a baseball game that can be played in arcade or simulation mode.

Graphics

Whoa baby!! The graphics are a BIG improvement over last years Pennant Race game. I was totally taken by surprise the first time I witnessed the batter stepping up to the plate...The first thing you notice is that the players are big, highly detailed polygon models. From the hard configured profile view, the batters offer a striking resemblance to their real-life counterparts. The on-screen players actually emulate the batting stance of the real players, right down to the warm-up swings before the pitch is delivered. Take too long and the batter starts to fidget around in the box...the pitcher will also begin wiping sweat from his brow or picking up some dirt off the mound and sprinkling it back in place...All of the jerseys are accurately depicted thanks to the MLB license right down to the number, color combinations and pin-stripe patterns for both the home and away outfits. Player graphics are superb.

Animation for the players is also top-notch, completely blowing the competition away in this department. Players dive, jump, turn, pivot and basically react in a very realistic manner. Just watch the second baseman turning a double-play...it's pure poetry in motion. Trust me when I say that there is no other baseball simulation available today that can touch the animation and overall realism of MLB '98.

Now onto the stadium design and graphics...Well, in my opinion they fell a bit short of my expectations. Yep, the stadiums are all accurately modeled and depicted, but they tend to pixellate a bit (just check out the Minnesota Twins stadium...eck). The somewhat bright & pastel style colors that are frequently used also tend to give the stadiums an unrealistic look in some instances.

A bit more background animation would have been a welcome addition too. Yes there are large, fully animated diamondvision style screens in the stadiums that should have them, but due to the camera angles in most cases you only catch a glimpse or portion of the screens at any given moment. I would liked to have seen animated billboards, waterfalls, etc. in the stadiums that have these things. Instead we are given a static screen representing these objects. Crowd representation is absolutely horrible...it's basically just a maelstrom of colors that do not even remotely resemble people. No don't get me wrong, this kinda stuff should always take a back seat to the actual gameplay...but to get fully immersed in a game I require that little extra step towards realism. To draw a comparison, just a look at Triple Play '98...the stadium fly-by's are incredible, the whole graphical presentation is top-notch and thus gets the nod over MLB '98 for sheer beauty. This is not to say that MLB '98 is bad, it's not...it is just not the best in this category...close but no cigar...missed by an inch...you get the picture!

Sounds and Effects

A let down and a pick-up...First off, the P.A. announcer and play-by-play is done this year by Mike Carlucci. The announcing is fine, if not a bit sterile...but there is no mention of the previous at bats for the players! This is strange considering last year this was covered quite nicely...I like to hear stuff like "and stepping up to the is Wade Boggs...Wade is 0 for 2 today with a pop out his last at bat." Instead all you get is "And now batting...Wade Boggs!" Big deal, I could have told you that by the Jersey number or on-screen display...Another annoyance is the announcer going "over-the-edge" on a foul ball...Hit a foul and the announcer literally screams "THE BALL IS HIT DEEP...BUT IT'S FOUL!" Good grief, gimmie a break. Color commentary would be a welcome addition as well...there is none in this game. The good news is that all of the player names that I heard were pronounced correctly and the announcers voice is clear as a bell.

On the plus side, the crowd interacts quite nicely. Hit a homer in your home field and they go wild...hit one while visiting and you are greeted with boos...you also can here the vendors in the stands yelling "get your red hots here...red hots"...there is also background noises from the crowd yelling comments like "swing batter batter swing!"...I thought that was pretty cool and these kind of comments take place at the appropriate times.

The other sound effects like the crack of the bat and the ball canvassing the glove is nicely done too. I also like the "whoosh" sound that accompanies a player throwing the ball. Other than that you are given the now traditional organ melodies associated with baseball games. Again, nicely done...but nothing new.

Playability

Now we are really getting somewhere...before I even get into the details I will tell you that you will not find a better playing baseball game for the Playstation available at this point in time. Gameplay is superb, period...end of story.

Not only are the new polygon players graphically superior and animated to perfection when compared to last years version...they also control great! Push a button to make a throw and bam, the ball rockets from player to player. Ball control is simplicity at it best. Merely press a button to the corresponding base on the ball is off...for example; if using the batters view camera angle, to throw the ball to first you simple press the "O" button. None of this crap with pressing a button and moving the directional pad...one button - bang, the ball is there. Double plays are now no longer an exercise in futility.

Infielder and outfielder positions can be changed by a simple button press. Infielders can be set for normal coverage, bunt, double-play depth, shallow and corners in. Outfielders can be placed deep, normal or shallow. Actual control of the fielders is wonderful. You can make a player dive for the ball, and while getting to his knees, throw the ball to a base or to a cut-off man...yes that's right, you actually have a cut-off man that you can throw to this year. In addition, you can jump up on the wall to rob players of home runs...this trick is really cool. You also have the option of turning the ball marker on or off. The marker in this game is huge and leaves little doubt as to where the ball will be landing. Overall, fielding is handled extremely well.

Next up you have your pitcher. Pitchers in the simulation mode come equipped with their four best pitches, each represented by a control pad button. The pitchers emulate their real-life counter-parts with their throwing style as well. You have side-arm, three quarter and over head moves to are quite distinguishable from one another. Before each pitch you are presented with a display indicating the pitchers stamina, pitch selections (this can be toggled on or off), current ERA, walks and strikeouts. You can ever control the speed of the by having the pitcher hold onto the ball for varying amounts of time. Want to through a smoker? Just have the pitcher hold the ball for a few seconds before delivering your throw. I've had Randy Johnson firing bullets up to 96 mph! Pick off plays are a breeze...again, you just punch the button that corresponds to the base you wish to throw the ball to and off it goes.

When stepping into the batters box, you are giving a good amount of control as well. You can choose to have the batter swing in a normal or power mode, move the batter in the box and also change the batters stance! The hitting interface is very well done. Just time the ball and swing the bat. By changing the stance and plate location of the batter, you can place the spot you want the ball to go...it works great on bunt plays...just try doing that on any consistent basis with any other b-ball game. Your batters can also drop the ball in the gap for a double or try to leg it out for a triple...something virtually impossible to do in Triple Play '98.

Once you arrive on base, you will find that base running is also a snap. Your runners can steal, slide head or feet first into the base and even hold between bases to see just where that fly ball may end up. You also have a speed burst to use...this comes in handy when stealing or trying to beat out that throw to first base.

While playing the game you are given two views...from the pitchers perspective or the batters...or you can choose alternate away/home views. There is also four camera angles to choose from; two low, one medium and one high, each giving you a different view.

Onto the options. You can individually adjust the sound effects, announcer and crowd volumes...set auto sliding and lead-off on or off...other on-off setting are as follows: wind, errors, time of day, DH, crowd sound, announcer sound, radar gun, distance meter, marker and umpire calls. You can also set the number of innings you would like to play in a game.

Another really nice feature is the create a player option. You are given a good number of categories and player attributes to modify; power, arm, fielding, jumping, average and speed for the fielders and stamina, arm, fielding, etc. for the pitcher. In addition you can also name the player, assign a jersey number, set the players height and build, throwing arm, batting, skin color and face (beard, mustache, etc.). I found it amusing to create a 5 foot tall pitcher with a heavy build...when my player runs to cover a base, the other fielder are towering over him! It's really quite well done.

You can choose to play an entire season, go to a home run derby, enter into the playoffs, start-up an All-Star game or play in arcade mode. You've got plenty of options to keep you busy, and the games never drag along...in fact an average 9-inning game takes around 45 minutes or less to play. There is virtually no loading times with in-between inning filler crap to bother with...you get the scoreboard for a few seconds and then your into the next inning...fast!

Now for the bad news...and in my book, it's really bad news. The game has some serious bugs in it that should have been corrected before this game was released. I will try to describe what I have encountered while playing this game.

The first time I played MLB '98, I naturally went in and created a few players...one named after myself which I made a 3rd baseman and one after a friend who I made a pitcher. I picked the NY Yankees as my team and did a bit of shuffling. I moved Wade Boggs from 3rd baseman to 2nd baseman, moved the existing 2nd baseman to a bench warmer and assigned myself to 3rd. I played around three games (one with my created pitcher) and noticed that the roster had been changed. Wade Boggs was now a pitcher as well as the second baseman. He had assumed my created pitchers attributes, my created pitchers name was gone and Wade had 2345 hits as the second baseman! Quite a feat considering I had only played 3 games...Okay, so I decide to go in and reset the roster and start over..well low and behold, my season was also reset, memory card and all...Well, I figured it was only three games so I didn't much mind. I went in and re-created my players and decided to trade Boggs instead of moving his position. Fine...I played around 30 games and had my created played batting at around a 360 Ave. and leading or close to leading in every major category...Excellent! It's around this time that I decided to trade for a new second baseman to strengthen my teams depth. Guess what, after I made the trade I noticed that my season had been reset to the beginning again...my 30 friggin' games shot to hell! This really pissed me off, but being the glutton for punishment that I am, I went in and started up the season again...into the forth game I decided to look at the league leaders and see where my players were at. I noticed that Randy Johnson had been posted as completing 4 games already with something like 40 strikeouts...Albert Bell was already up to 15 home runs...some amazing stats for only having played 4 games. Oh, MLB '98 also didn't give my players credit for making steals during a game...

At any rate, I find these types of bugs to be inexcusable...Sony should be ashamed, releasing a game riddled with problems like these. Especially considering the game is "stat rich" and covers almost every conceivable statistic you would want to track during a season. For me, it almost completed ruined the game. A word or warning if you wish to avoid these problems...make ALL of your trades, created players and moves BEFORE you begin a season. This worked for me, but it took four times to get it right...I am almost afraid to do anything after a game for fear of losing an entire season again!

Value for Money

With all of the options, home run derby, play-offs, season/arcade modes and All-Star games, it's a baseball lovers dream come true. The game retails for $49.95 US dollars, but can be found for less if you look around...An overall good value for the buck.

Opinion

TOM

GRAPHICS:

Brilliant

This is an incredible baseball game. It's a shame that it has to be ruined by the above mentioned bugs. If not for that and the few little extra's that could have been added, this game would have been awarded my first perfect mark of a 10...As it stand now, I cannot recommend the game for the simulation minded players that like to do trades and create new players mid-season...For those of you though that just want to get in and play in arcade mode, have a wonderful two player game or just don't mind the bugs I mentioned, then by all means get this game...Once your into the game, it plays better than anything else out there by far!

SOUND:

Average

PLAYABILITY:

Brilliant

VALUE:

Good

OVERALL
8/10

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