If you can get past the sluggish pacing and incessant overcomplication, MLB 2002 is a wonderful game.
Baseball's 2001 season is already a month old, but like a power hitter fresh off the disabled list, Sony's MLB 2002 is already swinging for the PlayStation's fences. At first, this latest installment in the MLB series feels like a carbon copy of last year's release. However, closer inspection reveals many minor enhancements and additions that should prove pleasing to both series veterans and newcomers alike.
Graphically, not much has changed. MLB 2002 remains a colorful, crisp, and well animated rendition of 3D baseball. The amount of detail is nowhere near that of EA's Triple Play, but the polygons saved by using simpler field textures allows for greater realism in player movement. If you're familiar with things like Tony Gwynn's cumbersome base running or the cheetahlike throws of Andruw Jones, or you enjoy games where the pitcher ducks when the batter hits a line drive, you'll like what you see here. Minute accoutrements, such as animated diamond-vision displays and updating scoreboards, continue to be the highlight of MLB 2002's non-player eye candy.
MLB 2002 also sounds just about the same as MLB 2001--with one huge, huge difference. Vin Scully's play-by-play and Dave Campbell's color commentary are both much smoother this year. In particular, Scully's repertoire mixes and mingles a greater diversity of player names and colloquialisms, resulting in such phrases as "Erstad tripled last time up" and "At the plate, Adam Kennedy. He struck out in his last at bat." Once again, Campbell plays the sidekick to Scully's deadpan, a situation that creates a faked television-style experience--even if Campbell's prattle is just as painfully mind-numbing as it is on real TV.
The fact that MLB 2002 isn't much different from last year's release in terms of graphics and sound isn't too terrible. While more detail in the stands would have been nice, baseball is still mainly a game of strategy and statistics. To that end, MLB 2002 is definitely geared toward the "sim" crowd of video game baseball fans. The mode screen includes a plethora of fantasy baseball mainstays, including exhibition, season, all-star, playoff, spring training, and home run derby game options. Once again, MLB 2002's spring training mode isn't just a six-game foray into tiny cornfields, but a career-building experience in which you'll hopefully lift a rookie player from the depths of the minors into the glory of "the show." Along the way, should you collect enough points that is, you may find yourself voted into the All-Star Game or earning bonuses for a variety of awards, including the Rolaids Relief Man, Player of the Week, and MVP honors. In all, the game includes more than 900 different athletes drawn from all 30 MLB teams and their minor league affiliates.
Fleshing things out, MLB 2002 also boasts an intense combination of general manager and franchise modes. These range from the usual gamut of player creation, draft, and trading options to such giddy niceties as total league realignment and farm system call-ups. Rosters are only current as of March, unfortunately, but a trip to the GM mode will send Rickey Henderson to the Padres and put the Yankees' Chuck Knoblauch into the outfield where he belongs. Stat heads will definitely adore this year's redesigned player cards screen, which not only gives you the portrait and vital statistics of each player, but also offers statistical breakdowns in more than 90 categories, complete with charts and graphs.
Gameplay is the area where the differences between MLB 2002 and last year's MLB 2001 really become apparent. MLB 2002 still plays a smart, responsive, and mean game of baseball, but CPU opponents are much less infallible than in previous years. However, CPU opponents are even better at the plate and will rarely swing at pitches outside the zone, let alone anything wild. It also seems like the percentage of home runs and fly balls has significantly increased, but the inclusion of the newly updated strike zone offsets this adjustment at least slightly. Although the onscreen pitching frame reflects the traditionally accepted strike zone, pitching high or outside a few times quickly reveals the truth of the matter--the high strike is here and it means business. Subjectively, the CPU AI is still a bit too difficult, but some players will no doubt revel in the resulting challenge.
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- MLB Slugfest 20-03 (PS2, XBOX, GC),
- MLB 2004 (PS2, PS),
- MLB Slugfest 20-04 (PS2, XBOX, GC, GBA),
- Major League Baseball 2K5 (XBOX, PS2, XBOX, PS2),
- Major League Baseball 2K6 (X360, XBOX, GC, PS2, PSP),
- Major League Baseball 2K7 (X360, PSP, XBOX, PS3, PS2, DS, GBA),
- MLB (PSP),
- MLB 2006 (PS2, PS),
- MLB 2003 (PS),
- MLB 2002 (PS)