VR Baseball 99
Even though it's in its second season, VR Baseball '99 " is still clearly a rookie in the big leagues, lacking the pro polish of Triple Play '99 and the major-league depth of MLB '99. But VR's got something more important--the kind of great controls and playability that should attract a following of baseball fans.
VR steps into the batter's box with a decent roster of features, including all the pro players, teams, and stadiums; Season, Exhibition, and Home Run Derby action; and instant replays. Managers can adjust their outfielders' positioning (but not their infielders') and make trades (but can't run drafts or create players). Impressive features, like a slick Pitcher Status screen that maps the location and type of all your pitches, score big, but some little things are missing, such as in-game access to the options or adjusting the view.
While games like MLB definitely offer more depth thanks to key features like create-a-player and Spring Training mode, VR's fast, entertaining action and intuitive controls make up a lot of lost ground. Everything feels natural and very playable right off the bat, and the pitching, batting, and base-running controls are some of the best in console baseball. Once again, though, some smaller details are missing, like speed bursts and the ability to move your batter in the box.
Fast-paced, action-packed gameplay also heats up VR's chances. The crafty A.I. makes for a tough opponent, gunning down steals and smartly rounding the bases, while the realistic but well-paced action delivers a fun day at the ballpark.
All of this year's PlayStation baseball games have problems with their graphics, but VR gets the most important thing right by delivering fast, clean action, speedy load times, and no choppiness. The cool stadiums and the CPU-controlled perspective rock, too. But the players, while well-modeled and well-animated, look too similar, and the pitcher pixelates in weird ways.
VR's over-the-top sounds definitely commit an error, though. The amped-up crowd and vendors shriek at you with annoying intensity, while the PA announcer sounds like he got lost in an echo chamber. The in-game sound effects are tight, but a commentator or two would've added a lot.
While MLB '99 takes top honors this season, VR's got a lot to offer baseball fans, especially those who hate cursor-based batting and pitching. Despite all the rough edges, VR deserves to be scouted out--for many, it'll be worth trading for.
- On defease, be sure to hit the cut-off man when the ball's deep in the outfield. If you're lazy about getting the ball in, the tough CPU will milk you for that extra base.
- Don't be shy about throwing balls, especially to set up strikes: For example, blast a fastball outside, then follow it with a curve to the same location that breaks in and grazes the edge of the strike zone.
- If you only use power swings, you'll get lots of pop flys and outs. Mix in some contact swings to get runners on base or when you're in a tight spot, like 1-2.
- You can apply aftertouch to the pitch (using the directional pad) only until the pitcher releases the ball. Always put some movement on the pitch, or it'll usually get clocked.
Download VR Baseball 99
After a fairly successful rookie season. Interplay is returning to the diamond with VR Baseball '99. One big plus to this year's game is the fine-tuned graphics, which imbue VRB '99 with a smoother, more polished look. The players and stadiums look good, and the fields aren't plagued with the awful draw-in evident in VRB '97. Unfortunately, in the unfinished version we played, the gameplay speed was a little slow, and the player animations weren't as dynamic as those in the MLB '99 preview version. The pitching interface also isn't as intuitive as Triple Play '99's--you can apply hardly any aftertouch.
As for features, VRB '99 hits the field in Exhibition, Season. Playoff, Horne Run Derby, and Practice modes, and it sports all the current teams, players, stadiums, and official logos. If you want to play GM, the standard trade feature is included as well. You can also compile a highlight reel and save your best replays to a memory' card. If VR Sports can speed up the play a little and add more variety to the pitching, VR Baseball '99 could gain recognition as a solid title.
In the off-season, VR Sports gave its baseball series a much-needed facelift, and now that spring training's arrived, VR Baseball '99 packs the potential to make it to the big leagues this year. Vastly improved graphics make this video game version of "The Show" much easier on the eyes, and it connects solidly with slick polygonal players and well-modeled stadiums. Better yet, VR Sports has promised to crank up the frame rate and the game's pace, and to smooth over that nasty hiccup when the bat connected with the ball.
On the features side, all the stats and standard options are here, including the real-life teams, stadiums, and players. Gamers can also relive their glories in instant replays that can be saved to memory cards, create custom teams and players, and glide along the base paths with intuitive base-running controls. If VR Baseball '99 delivers game-play as smokin' as its graphics, there might just be a new game in town.
Attempting to improve on last year's 3-D polygonal effort, VR Baseball '99 promises to have a faster frame-rate, better graphics and smoother gameplay.
New, more detailed player models coupled with a larger library of motions should give the boys of summer a more realistic look overall. In addition, stadiums have been retooled to display richer colors and a deeper 3-D appearance.
Five play modes include: Exhibition, Season, Playoff, Home Run Derby and Batting Practice. Look for create-a-player with a custom uniform option as well as updated rosters for the '98 season. As the team manager you will also be allowed to trade, sign and re-order rosters as you go along.
There's no doubt that the baseball genre has become very crowded in the last year. Let's hope VR Baseball '99 can make a strong showing among the heavy-hitting competition.
- MANUFACTURER - VR Sports
- THEME - Sport
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2
The VR Sports team is back for year number two of their baseball series. Last year's VR Baseball 97 (where did 98 go?) was average at best, but showed some potential. Slow gameplay plagued that game, and this, along with a graphical overhaul, was one of the main focal points for the development team. After your first inning, you will see that they were successful in both of these areas along with others.
VR Baseball is bursting at the stitches with options and upgrades over the previous version as mentioned above, including the gameplay speed and new graphics with size scaling. Add to the list better AI, new camera angles called "Smart Cam," motion capturing and some of the best in-game sound effects. Of course the game carries all of the full licenses so you have the real teams, players, stadiums and logos. With all of this, VR Baseball can now be called one of the big leaguers when it comes to baseball games.
Let's cut to the chase and lay it all on the line. This is a good game when you configure it in a certain way (I will explain this later) but it is not without its flaws. I would say that it is the most improved baseball game of the year and you can really tell that the developers listened to the critics about the flaws in last year's game. If they listen again this year, I think next year might be the year that VR Baseball takes home the pennant.
The first thing that I liked about this game was the ease of fielding, pitching, running and hitting. How many games have you played where the fielding is difficult (think Triple Play 99?) How about games that make controlling your runners a nightmare? Both of these things are a simple and easy to execute in this game. First, when it comes to fielding, this is one of the best games at selecting the correct fielder to make the play. You know what I mean, like when a ball is hit up the middle closer to the shortstop but the computer picks the second baseman instead of the shortstop to go after the ball. In this game it almost always picks the player that is closest to the ball so you don't move the wrong player away from the ball. How about on the base paths? How many times have you hit a ball in the gap with a man on first and you want to try to score the runner and keep the batter at second? Sounds easy enough but in some games it is not that easy. I can't count the number of times in other games that I would try to stop the batter at second but keep the lead runner going only to have both of the stop and go back or to have the wrong runner stop. Not in this game. The base running is easy as can be which is a very refreshing change.
In the first paragraph, I said that this is a good game when it is configured in a certain way. What I mean by this is that I really did not enjoy the game much until I turned the difficulty up to all-pro which changed the pitch speed to fast. When played on lower levels, the pitches come in slow giving you time to read and react to the pitch. When on all-pro with fast pitching, you have only a split second (like real baseball) to decide if the pitch is a ball or strike. I think that the game should have defaulted to this mode. Hitting on the other modes was way too easy and ended up looking like the homerun derby. Even on pro, the middle setting, I won my second game I ever played 19-5 and hit 12 homeruns. When I started playing on all-star, the games started to be a bit more realistic with scores like 5-3 and 7-4 but most of the scoring still came via the long ball (see complaints). If you are good at baseball games at all, I suggest skipping the other difficulty levels and heading straight to all-pro for the real challenge. I guess the other levels are good for the beginners but the veterans will tire of them quickly.
One thing that has really been stepped up is the computer AI. No longer does the computer make stupid plays but instead takes advantage of your stupid plays. For example, on a hit, if you try to throw to the base behind the runner, he will attempt to advance. This means that when a ball is hit out in left field and the runner is at first when you pick up the ball, if you try to throw to first the runner will advance to second on your throw. This gives the game a more realistic feel. Also, the pitchers seemed smarter. Sure, they would hang a breaking ball over the middle of the plate a bit too much but they also seemed to get better in certain situations. If you have a guy on third with less than two outs, the pitcher seems to get tougher and make better pitches. This was great because it really makes you have to concentrate instead of swing wildly, making the game more realistic.
One last quick thing that I found cool about this game was the pitchers. Well, not the pitchers themselves but the way the game handled pitchers. First, you have to warm pitchers up in the bullpen. I don't understand why all baseball games don't make you warm up pitchers. In real baseball, you can't just stick somebody in the game without warming them up but most games let you. Not this one. The other cool thing is that you can always check your pitchers stamina meter. If you keep pitching him after his stamina is gone, you will be warned that you are risking injury if you keep pitching him. If you don't bring in a reliever, you will injure your pitcher. This was awesome because it forces you to actually manage your pitching staff which is something I have not seen in a baseball sim in a long time, if ever.
Unfortunately, all is not perfect in VR land. The game does have a few things that could have been a bit better. The first, and most glaring, is the fact that there are way too many homeruns. It is very difficult to find a good balance between homeruns and base hits but this game is a bit out of skew. There were games where all of my scoring came from homeruns and I can't remember a game that I did not hit at least one homer with 3 and 4 being quite common. Also, I would have liked to have seen more shots to the warning track and wall. Usually, if it looked like it was going to go out, it almost always did. In real baseball, how many times has a guy taken one to the wall or warning track but just not quite over the wall? I think that if they toned down the power a notch, the game would have been much better or at least more realistic.
The second complaint I have is minor but I really had problems reading and maneuvering the game setup menus. It was very difficult and I was constantly exiting when I did not intend to do so. Also, sometimes the writing was small and blurry making it difficult to tell what setting you were changing and I was playing on a 35" TV. I feel sorry for anybody with a smaller set. Also, there were a number of times that I thought I put somebody up in the bullpen only to go back to bring them into the game to find out that I did something wrong and did not have anybody warming up at all.
Graphics & Audio
I will say that the graphics have been improved over last year's version, but they still do not look as nice as the other games on the market. They are not bad but the pitcher has no face and looks very jumbled. The same goes with the fielders. The batters look okay and the stadiums are fairly accurate and it is a definite step up from last year. One thing that was a big step up was the "Smart Cam", changing the camera to the best angle for viewing the ball was nice. I was really surprised that I would rarely not be in position to make the play. This was very impressive.
Normally I do not mention the sound effects in games unless they are really good or really bad. In the case of VR Baseball 99, I loved the sounds. The first thing I would do is turn down the crowd murmur and turn up the vendors volume. This game has some of the best vendors and crowd noises in any game. It does not have a play by play announcer, which I actually liked. Also, the bat sounded different depending on how well you hit the ball. If you hit a crappy little grounder, the bat made a hollow sound. When you really got a hold of one, the bat made a nice crack sound. All in all, I think the different sound effects made this game more enjoyable.
If you turn the difficulty level up to the max, this is a pretty fun game. Yes, there are too many homeruns but the good fielding and running controls make up for it. I do wish that there were more balls that were hit deep in the outfield instead of either being a homerun or line drive. The pitching management was a great addition and I don't know why it took someone this long to implement it. This game is one of the best when it comes to background sounds and the different vendors will keep you laughing. If you can get over the graphics not looking as good as the others, you will have a good time with this game.