The characters look fairly detailed.
The camera angles also made life difficult for outfielders, since they don't zoom in to make it
easier to field a ground ball or a fly ball over one's head. I gave up a couple of
inside-the-park homers for lack of ability to see the little white dot rolling around out there.
The batter-pitcher interface has undergone a bit of an overhaul since WSB2k1, eschewing
the trigger format in favor of the standard batting cursor. Again, you may remember the
contact/power batting icons in ASB2002 Those, I thought, were pretty handy. Visual
Concepts evidently feels that less is more, choosing to go with a single, circular icon.
On the surface of it, you would think that this would present a more realistic game of
baseball, since your performance would be determined not only by where you swing the bat,
but also by the speed of the pitch, the exact location of the ball on the bat, where you're
moving the cursor as you swing (i.e. bat vector), the hot and cold zones of the player, and
so forth. In practice, the difference between Gary Sheffield and Alex Cora is effectively
negligible -- the batting icons do differ in size based on batting average, but not
significantly. The first game of WSB2k2 I played resulted in a 7-0 win, with my Dodgers
pelting seven hits...all solo homers. In fact, the only regular starter not to homer was
leadoff hitter Paul LoDuca. Three games into the season, Cora had three homeruns. Granted,
that was "Pro" as opposed to "All-Star," but even on "All-Star," I had very little difficulty
hitting homeruns with guys who had no business hitting homeruns.
One additional thing I noticed is that the strike zone indicator is incredibly unreliable. I
saw numerous pitches that appeared to come in solidly in the strike zone that the ball-strike
icon showed as having been in the dirt, and pitches that looked a mile outside be called
down-the-middle strikes. This predominantly happened with the low camera view. The medium
was slightly better -- though not much -- and the high blimp-cam view of homeplate, oddly
enough, provided the best angle to judge balls and strikes from.
On the pitcher's side of the ball, it's not much better. Foul balls and walks are few and far
between, and the corners are as inviting to nibble as a cow to a school of pirhanas, leading
to many a complete game from my starting pitchers. And even if your pitcher DOES get into
trouble, never fear -- there's no need to warm up a reliever; you can just bring one right in.
This, naturally, negates much of the strategy inherent in the pitcher-batter matchups, since
the only way to influence your opponent's choice of hitters is to actually USE a pitcher.
Unlike its prequel, WSB 2K2 features the ability to field.
As far as the sounds go, they're generally pretty solid, with one major exception -- the
announcing. I don't know what in the world possessed Sega and/or Visual Concepts to choose
Ted Robinson for the job, but as any High Heat fan will tell you, the man STINKS. He has
next to no emotion when calling plays that could be the turning point of the game, and his
general repetitiveness will be familiar to anybody who has played the High Heat PC games.
In addition, he generally can't find his head from his ass from a hole in the ground where
WSB2k2 is concerned. I've never seen so many popups behind the plate called "long fly
balls just foul down the line to right" in my entire life, let hearing somebody consistently
mix the left side of the infield up with the right side. If you absolutely have to have
game sounds, do yourself a favor and turn the announcing off and just listen to the ambient
stadium sounds, such as the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and the call of the
This brings me, really, to the last major change in WSB2k2 -- online play. On the
surface of it, you'd think this would be a welcomed addition -- after all, the same feature
breathed new life into the NBA2K and NFL2K series, allowing DC owners all over the country
to get their schwerve on. Still, there's no sport where lag is more critical than in baseball,
especially where the pitcher-batter duel is concerned. Even minor lag can affect timing
on the swing, which can foul up a whole lotta games.
Speaking of timing and convenient segues, there are no pitcher or batter icons visible in
the online mode...at all. The pitcher can't even see his ball icon, and the batter can't
see his batting icon. The cat-and-mouse game present in offline mode is basically reduced
to "select a pitch and hope the batter doesn't time it just right." Word has it that
Visual Concepts may be working on a server tweak that would allow the icons to be visible,
and perhaps even include voice chat, although that's hardly official. Would be nice,
All in all, what we have here is a baseball game that, while flawed, might be enjoyable if not
for the lofty expectations the Visual Concepts reputation holds it to. After ten months of
speculating about the greatness everybody assumed this game would have, it's more than a small
letdown to pop the CD in the drive and discover that this is nothing more than an average
baseball game at best, wrapped in the Visual Concepts name and served to a Dreamcast audience
that, if we're to be honest, has nowhere else to go. "You'll eat it and like it" seems to be
the sentiment here. One can't help but wonder -- despite the 10 months Visual Concepts had to
prepare this game, would it have been a better idea to hold it until next season rather than
releasing it in August, and use the extra time to make sure the Dreamcast's last fling with
the boys of summer was a memorable one?
One can only hope that Visual Concepts will defy expectations and perhaps spend the next seven
months fixing the flaws in WSB2k2 for one last hurrah in March of 2002. It's unlikely,
of course. Conventional wisdom is that this is the last baseball game the Dreamcast will see,
with both Sega and VC focusing their long-term attention on multi-console development. That's
a damned shame, too, because the Dreamcast deserved better than to fade into the annals of
history without even a great baseball game to its name -- a fate that neither the Saturn nor
the Genesis suffered. To paraphrase the poet:
"Oh somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -- Visual Concepts has struck out."