It’s that time of year again, where the birds are chirping, the grass is growing, and the highly over paid athletes take the field. If you haven’t guessed it yet it is baseball season and as Spring Training comes to a close, we are starting to see the first wave of baseball games hit the market. One of the first baseball titles out on store shelves is MLB 2004 from 989 Sports, 989’s first attempt to take their PS One baseball franchise to the PS 2 market.
As we look through the history of Sony’s 989 Sports we haven’t seen really any title be the top game for its specific sport. The gameplay just never has the right stuff to compete with what I call the big boys. The one thing though that all 989 Sports games seem to have in common is a ton of different gameplay options, which once again remains very true for MLB 2004.
In MLB 2004 you have a wide variety of modes you can choose from. The modes range from the normal exhibition and season modes, along with an All-Star game, Spring Training, Playoffs, and a Homerun Derby. There are also the options of starting a Career Mode, Franchise mode, Manager Mode. So as you can see from this laundry list of game modes, there are just a ton of modes you can choose from that could keep you occupied for a long time to come.
Although like I mentioned earlier though like most 989 Sports games the game modes are there but they never seem to come with good Gameplay. This is sadly once again the case found in MLB 2004. There are a lot of things in MLB 2004 that just don’t seem to flow right.
One of the most noticeable flaws I saw in the game right from the get go was the over use of the pitch out. The computer AI seems to think at anytime there could be a possible steal on my part they need to do a pitchout to catch me from stealing. Well in baseball they do use the play once in a while but not to the extent of every inning which not only is annoying, but it slows down the game a great deal.
This leads me to my next complaint, we all know baseball is a long grueling game that is tough to watch, but the game, but that doesn’t mean the game has to be long and boring. Well in MLB 2004 the games seem to be slowed down a great deal from the pitchers routines and the batters routines taking up the majority of the game, which will end up making the games last a lot longer than necessary.
Probably the biggest complaint I have with MLB 2004 is the base running. It really boggles me as to what 989 Sports was thinking when they worked on the base running for MLB 2004. It just doesn’t make any sense; it is just downright confusing. Instead of having to press two different buttons at a time to get from base to base, a single button would have been much more effective.
Not all is terrible in MLB 2004, the batting is nothing spectacular but it’s not that bad. Although the pitches seem to fly in at the same pace no matter how fast the ball comes in, but for the most part the batting interface works just fine. You have the option to swing normal, or for the fences which will change the size of your hitting area and will change your ability to get the bat on the ball.
The commentary of MLB 2004 is not anything spectacular or even good for that matter. The commentary of MLB 2004 isn’t what I would call very active; in fact they seem to remain quiet throughout the game. Which isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s always nice to hear some stats about the upcoming batter, or some interesting trivia to keep you going throughout the game. The crowds are also unnoticeable, for some reason they never seem to cheer or boo, they just stay quiet throughout the games.
This is actually a hard portion of the game to evaluate for one main reason. MLB 2004 doesn’t look all that bad. But when compared to the rest of the baseball games on the market; well let’s just say MLB 2004 is still trying to catch up. The character models aren’t anything you are going to brag about but they do the job in rather nice form.
The biggest graphical issue with MLB 2004 is the animation. Instead of the smooth feelings you find in the All Star Baseball or High Heat series, you find a lot of choppiness and what we would like to call a lot of weird animation. You will find that things don’t move smoothly, and catches don’t look as pure and solid as you will find else where. You will also find a lot of times out in the outfield that fly balls don’t always seem to go into your mitt, but you still get the out.
MLB is definitely not an ugly game, but compared to the rest of the baseball games on the market it is going to need a serious face lift if it is going to want to compete with the big boys.
This is also a quite difficult section to write about for MLB 2004. Because if you leave MLB by it self just as a game then sure it’s fun, but when you compare it to the other games on the market, you will have plenty more fun elsewhere. The one thing that kept me interested in MLB 2004 was the Spring Training mode which let you create a player and try to work with him to try to get him to make the team; this was a quite fun challenge that was pretty interesting. It’s just too bad the rest of the game wasn’t very fun.
Although this is 989’s first try at the MLB series for the PS2, it still comes as a pretty big disappointment that this game didn’t fair better. The gameplay is iffy, and the graphics are average. This all adds up to a game that is going to need some new ideas to get this series back up on its feet.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.