Dreamcast baseball never played so well

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Last year, gamers eagerly awaited "World Series Baseball" for the Dreamcast. They were greatly disappointed.

Simply put, Sega struck out. The game was clunky, featured bad play in the field, a shortage of play modes and was pretty much a serious flop.

Enter "World Series Baseball 2K2."

Developer Visual Concepts has redone the game from the national anthem to the last out. It's a big improvement, but problems remain.

Key to the game is a new pitching mode. When you're on the mound, you get a box with squares coded red to identify the areas where the hitter is most dangerous. Target your pitches at the blue or transparent areas, and you'll have a good chance of getting the ball past the batter.

When you're at bat, you have a controllable cursor. Line it up with the incoming pitch and you improve your chances of getting a hit. It's not as easy as it sounds, so plan on a lot of practice.

Another bonus is better control over fielding. You have to line up the player with the ball, using a pair of overlapping colored targets. Last year's auto-fielding is history, and good riddance. The new method makes you much more a part of the game -- and you only have yourself to blame if you drop the ball that costs you the division lead.

While gameplay is a big plus, graphics are not. Sega's Dreamcast sports games have been praised for their wonderful graphics, but "World Series Baseball 2K2" is a step backward. The venues are gorgeous, but the players seem to be reverting to the "blockhead" era of human animation -- clunky, awkward, graceless.

This game takes advantage of Dreamcast's built-in modem for online play against other real people.

Play modes include exhibition; quick start, which gets you right out on the field; season, which lets you play a season of a length you determine; playoffs; home run derby; and franchise, which lets you run a club just like a real general manager.

Graphics get a C. The graphics on last year's "World Series Baseball" were better. Combining them with the current pitching and hitting modes would have made a much better game.

Sound gets a C-plus. I love the fans, who howl and boo and cheer at all the right moments. Ted Robinson, the lone announcer, sounds great. Unfortunately, there are only so many comments you can cram in, and they get very repetitive. The word "wheelhouse," for instance, seems to be uttered in every other sentence. The game and the announcer often are out of sync and wrong calls are common.

Control gets a B. I really enjoyed the new pitching and hitting methods, and the manual fielding is great, once you get the hang of it. Controls are easy to learn and extremely responsive.

Give "World Series Baseball 2K2" a B-minus.

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