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MLB 2004

Developer: 989 Sports | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 03/10/03 | Genre: Sports

Considered by many to be the best baseball game on the PlayStation, this franchise has been strangely absent from the PS2 lineup. It is no secret that 989 Sports has gone through some tough times as of late. With delays to their PS2 games, the decline in quality to their recent releases, and an incredibly crowded market, unless 989 can get their titles back to the level they were at during the early PlayStation days, the days of this company could be numbered. Can anything save them? A renewed emphasis on quality has seen this year’s lineup of titles to be much better than in recent memory. And despite a few problems, the first PS2 version of MLB 2004 is a solid outing.

The only market of sports titles more crowded than football is baseball. With EA, Sega, Acclaim, 3DO, and 989 all making high profile titles, it is very difficult to stand out. Each of the titles from these companies have their pro’s and cons. While MLB 2004 has a few unique features, 989 has tried to implement several features from all the other titles in hopes of creating the best baseball title.

One of the unique features of MLB 2004 is the Spring Training Mode. Like other 989 titles from this year, you can create a player, try to get him on a Major League Squad, and then keep him there. Each time your character goes to the plate, you need to keep performing well in order to progress. However, even if you do reach the majors, one false step and you will be back at the minors.

Another unique feature is the one or two player season mode. Now you don’t have to face the season alone. However, I really like the Fantasy Draft. Here, you can draft players but you only get so many points to spend. Unlike the Yankees, you won’t be able to afford all the best players of the game. Now you know how the other Major League teams feel.

An interesting touch to MLB 2004 is the Play of the Game. This feature allows for you to see the biggest play to the game. I am surprised that other baseball titles haven’t already included this feature in the past.

I have spoken kindly of MLB 2004 so far. However, not all elements are good. There are several bugs I ran into while playing. The physics engine seems to be unpolished. Over the course of my playing time with MLB 2004, balls would magically bounce into gloves or fall from the sky at strange angles. It is almost as if your players have a ball magnet in their gloves propelling the ball to them. Players also can make incredible leaping/diving grabs with ease. Never in my life have I seen players or balls act like this in a Major League game.

Another problem I see with MLB 2004 is that the graphics are just slightly updated over the PlayStation visuals. With the extra time 989 has had, I am quite disappointed that they are using more of what the PlayStation 2 is capable of delivering. The game has a dark look. It is almost as if things are muddy. Some of the players mirror their real life counterparts. However, quite a few players have generic looking faces. The stadiums are pretty nicely done. And the introduction to the game--showing the crowd go into the stadium--looks great.

This brings up another issue… the crowd. In MLB 2004, there is no excitement. Fans aren’t screaming and yelling. The announcers call the plays wrong… (“It looks like a pop up to third base…â€? When in reality it is a popup to shallow center field.) At times, there is complete silence in the ball park. I will admit that the great American pastime isn’t quite as exciting as it once was. However, should there ever be periods of silence during a game? I think not.

But the biggest issue I have with MLB 2004 is the pitching. Every pitch thrown appears to be a fastball. Even the slower pitches aren’t that much slower. It appears that 989 may have been trying to make the game feel more arcade like instead of a simulation. However, this is unlike their past titles in the franchise. Another issue with the pitching is that the starting pitcher seems to throw the ball in the exact place you tell him every time. Very seldom does he ever tire or need to be replaced. This may bother fans of simulation baseball games. But those of you who prefer more of an arcade style probably won’t understand why I am complaining about the pitching.

Overall, MLB 2004 is a solid outing and one of the best titles 989 has put out this year. True, there are some rough edges. But if you are in the market for a baseball title and are not sure what to get, give MLB 2004 a try. It may just offer the right elements to keep you playing all season long.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 03/24/03
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Screenshots for MLB 2004

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