I'm going to step up to the plate right now and tell it like it is. All-Star Baseball 2004 is about as good as it's every going to get. I'm talking about the series and not comparing it to any other baseball games out there. The All-Star game is full of options, modes and all kinds of baseball nuances but it's built on the same old engine. If you're looking for some radical improvements, then I suggest you look elsewhere.

The biggest problem I have with sports games is that they see slight improvements from year to year but the level of refinements isn't usually significant to warrant a purchase. My recommendation is to purchase a game of a specific sport once every second year. That way the improvements should feel more substantial and therefore worth the money. Don't fall for the "new roster" crap and a few new modes if the gameplay mechanics are still the same.

When it comes to batting you have a choice of four styles. There's not one of them that are revolutionary but you will find one to suit your style. The easiest of the group will require you to swing the bat at the right time. It works well for beginners but it obviously lacks depth. The analog stick is used as another method for swinging the bat but this time you can move the bat to meet the ball more precisely. A cursor is used as another method and lets you target the ball for more powerful and accurate hits. Finally, the normal method allows for the most control and is more interactive. It's the most difficult to master but it makes the game more challenging as you attempt to identify pitches and press the appropriate buttons quickly.

The pitching is limited to a few different throws but you can actually strike out the CPU in this game - although I never even came close. Controlling the fielders is a disappointment as they receive their commands with a delay and never move as fast as the ball. On the other hand, when the CPU is in the outfield, the fielders seldom miss a catch. It's for that very reason I recommend you play against another human as he or she won't have that unfair advantage.

Graphics are a mixed bag. The players look great but their animations are awkward and, ultimately, very unrealistic looking. The crowds and the stadiums are great but all too often the textures appear dull and blurry - especially the fields. The usual ballgame organ tunes are all here as well as some rocking tunes by the likes of Smashmouth and House of Pain. The commentary, which is supplied by Thom Brennamen and Steve Lyons has been butchered by poor editing. Instead of a flowing dialogue, bits and pieces of commentary are pieced together like phrases in a word processor. The end result is that the inflections and timing don't always match. It may look good as text but it sounds crazy as it fails to take human emotion into account.

All-Star Baseball 2004 is in the same leagues as High Heat Baseball 2004. They've both reached their peak and they should consider this their last season before retirement.

System: PS2
Dev: Acclaim
Pub: Acclaim
Released: March 2003
Players: 2
Review by Stew XX