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Sports Baseball Edition 2000

When it was announced that Interplay's VR Baseball 2000 would utilize the high-tech graphics engine under development for Shiny's Messiah, a shiver of anticipation ran through the sports gaming community. After witnessing the impressive imagery of this high-tech behemoth, fans of the national pastime had their sights set on ultra-realistic depictions of their favorite big-league stars tearing around the diamond in glorious, hardware-accelerated 3D. But while certain aspects of the game's graphics did dazzle, the overall reception for VR Baseball 2000 was one of lukewarm disapproval. General consensus was that the title was missing some key features and lacking in the gameplay department, thus dooming it to mediocrity despite its interesting presentation.

Now, Interplay has resurrected its baseball franchise with some retooling and a new name, Baseball Edition 2000. The graphics have been touched up, a smattering of new features have been added and gameplay has been tweaked in several areas. Unfortunately, the improvements made do not come together cohesively enough to lift this title very far above its predecessors. Toss in Baseball Edition 2000's inability to escape the issues that plague just about every baseball offering on the market and you've got a recipe for disappointment. It's not bad if you're looking for a quick arcade sports fix, but there are much better options out there.

Upon loading up, players are greeted with an attractive menu and presented with a series of play options. There are basically four modes from which to choose. An exhibition mode pits any two major league teams against each other for a single match. Tournaments can be set up according to the player's wishes and variables such as series length are easily adjustable. Baseball Edition 2000 also includes a Home Run Derby, which allows you to create a long-ball contest between any number of hitters in the stadium of your choice. The configuration options for this feature are particularly noteworthy, as they are not to be found in many other games. For example, players can decide whether each participant gets a certain number of attempts at knocking one out or whether they can hit until they are struck out. To be honest, Home Run Derby is not much more than a distraction, but the flexibility available here is definitely appreciated.

The real attraction, however, is Season play. In this mode, players take the helm of any big league team and try to take it from Opening Day to the Series. Although the scope of Baseball Edition 2000's Season mode is much more limited than that of games like High Heat Baseball 2000, (management options, for example, are extremely scarce), it does offer some replayability. This long-term value is limited, however, by the exclusion of any sort of career mode or general manager functionality. Baseball Edition 2000 is, in this way, very much a throwback to its ancestors in the console world. The lack of career play does not seriously damage this title's appeal, but it is a warning sign considering the that it is a highly-requested feature not included in VR Baseball.

In truth, that lack of improvement typifies Baseball Edition 2000. Sure, there have been some improvements, but it's arguable whether the value of said enhancements is enough to warrant the purchase of a whole new game. Those familiar with VR Baseball will find themselves very much at home with this version. The graphics, powered by the Messiah engine, are appealing and a few of the glitches that typified this franchise's previous incarnation have been cleared away. Additionally, there is arcade fun to be had once you've adjusted to the product's various foibles. But I just couldn't help feeling that, in a very competitive PC baseball market, Baseball Edition 2000 is an underachiever.

Baseball Edition 2000 is a lot like a long, bases-empty pop out to the warning track. Sure, it looks pretty right off the bat and appears to have the potential to go all the way. In the end, however, there's just not enough behind it and it doesn't really accomplish anything. With the Messiah engine, Interplay Sports has the tools to create what could be the best looking baseball game on the PC, and Baseball Edition 2000 shows that they're well on their way to that goal. It must be noted, however, that good graphics can only take any game so far. It must also accurately represent the sport it is trying to emulate, as well as retaining the fun factor that keeps gamers coming back. Baseball Edition 2000 does neither. It's too shallow to be called a sim and too flat to be called an arcade winner. This confused nature leaves Baseball Edition 2000 in a dangerous middle ground; one that leads only to mediocrity.


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