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