Finally! Sega Sports has come back to World Series Baseball. And this year’s game is running the bases in a whole new way. Visual Concepts knows they dropped the ball with World Series 2K1 and so this time round they’ve gone with a completely new gameplay engine that has a bit of a learning curve, but with a little practice is sure to gratify most loyal fans of the WSB series. It just further goes to show that when gamers talk…Sega listens.
It’s no secret that last year’s version of the game had many "issues" ranging from poor control or should I say, "lack of control" to 2D sprits for crowds and dry commentating on down to a super-steep learning curve that left most gamers striking out in the WSB enthusiasts department. And it really didn’t help that there was no Practice Mode or Homerun Derby to help a player work on their swing.
Thankfully the dismal days of this baseball series is behind us and after tons of "thumbs down" reviews and gamer hate mail, all pretty much gearing toward the common theme, "WSB2K1 SUCKS!!", Visual Concepts steps out of the bullpen this year with a solid title that’s sure to be to everyone’s liking. So with that said, "Lets Play Ball!"
First off, we have major changes in the graphics department. Stadiums sport extreme detail and player models are very well done from cap to shoe boasting awesome facial detail, body tone, cool jerseys and a sweet set of cleats that really set off the uniform. Of course all your star players like Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark Macguire all emulate their real life counterpart’s batting styles and stances fairly accurately.
Unfortunately we won’t get to see Sosa’s signature wave to the crowd (pound to the chest, peace sign to the universe) when he knocks one out of the park but you’ll soon come to grips with some of the cool celebrations at the plate after the homerun.
Cleaning up the running animation in the game is by far the greatest improvement not only to graphics but also to gameplay. If you remember last year’s version, you’ll recall the runner looking as if he was "running like the wind" but seemed to slowly skate towards base and was more than often thrown out. This happened a lot particularly when trying to get on First.
Well, this year the batter catches some serious ground underneath his feet and is not thrown out at first or caught too far out of position on a pop fly nearly as much as last year’s version. There’s nothing better than outrunning a potential double play when the chips are down.
The sound of the game is banging from presentation to commentating and gameplay. I always make it my duty to watch the full intro movie before I take to the diamond. It’s easily some of the coolest adrenaline pumping footage and soundtrack I’ve seen in a baseball game in a long time. If you’re not hyped up after viewing the intro, something’s wrong kid, don’t even step up to the plate.
Even more so though, I’m impressed with the little bells and whistles that compliment the gameplay. If one has a careful ear, you’ll realize that VC has perfected the sound of the ball hitting a player’s mitt as well as the sound of nailing it with the sweet part of the bat most of the times indicating you’ve knocked the ball out of the park. Add to this the emotional crowd that virtually goes ballistic when you hit a homerun, bat a runner in or make a great play and you’ve got all the right elements for the true-to-life sights and sounds of baseball.
Gameplay is where it’s at though, no doubt about it. With a complete overhaul of the former game engine, hitting the ball is much easier but at the same time still requires a fair amount of skill and timing. Last year’s version of the game involved holding the R-Trigger for the wind up while lining up the crosshairs with the pitch and finally releasing the R-Trigger to make the swing. Personally I thought this to be a cool feature at first until I began playing "Legends Mode" where the pitch is a lot faster. Most of the time the ball had crossed the plate before I finished winding up. Needless to say, that got old really quick. Thankfully this year Sega has replaced the R-Trigger bat function and gone back to the traditional one-button hitting style of former baseball genres enabling a more quick and accurate response time to the pitch. Now players can concentrate more on lining up their crosshairs and looking the ball in rather than worrying about the wind up.
Taking the outfield this year is both exciting and indeed a task all at the same time. The biggest complaint heard round the Web last year was the "auto-fielding" feature in the game, which basically left the player feeling like their hand was being held.
Well, well all you BABIES out there be careful what you ask for cause ya just might get it! You wanted control? You’ve definitely got control. Control of virtually everything that happens out there on the field is under your command. If you don’t budge, neither does your outfield. You make all the adjustments, do all the fielding and make all the big plays. If you find yourself getting dogged in a game there’s no one to blame but yourself. Face it man, you suck.
With the computer AI much more advanced than ever you’re gonna have your bases loaded for a good while till you get the hang of things. Fortunately, the plus side to all this is a great feeling of accomplishment and victory when you make the big play or come out on top in a down-to-the-wire slugfest.
It’s not hard to see that this game is geared for online play, as right away you’ll notice the quick transition between innings, which cuts down on time. I’m now able to play a full game without catching a "boredom bug" between innings. I shortened last year’s version to six innings so I could progress through the season faster. This year nine innings is a synch. This saves oodles of time when playing online and when you’re losing badly you can actually "get it over with" quite quickly.
If you’re not an online fanatic (yeah right), then there’s more than enough modes offline to keep you busy as well from Franchise Mode or Season Mode to Home Run Derby or even player creation. It’s all there. Sega’s covered all the bases. The rest is up to you.
Bottom line: WSB2K2’s got graphics. It’s got gameplay. It’s got Homerun Derby. It’s got Franchise AND it’s online. Repeat after me. Can you say, "Sega-Sega-Sega!!!" I knew you had it in ya sport.
That’s all for now my fellow sluggers. When you get good enough, look me up online as "GINMAN" a.k.a "2Hyped" a.k.a "Get-A-Life" a.k.a , "Yo’Mama!" See ya on the Diamond sucka. This game gets 4 1/2 out of 5 possible GiN gems for it’s newly improved solid gameplay, new host of features, and lasting appeal.