Interplay's VR Baseball '97 resembles a bad Hollywood movie: It had a long, delayed production, topped off by an enormous budget, and the final product ended up being neither entertaining nor worth the price of admission. One of the most ironic things about VR Baseball '97 is that it has been in production for about two years, yet it looks very rushed. The finishing touches that usually make a game feel complete (intuitive menus, crisp animation, and finely-tuned game control) are conspicuous by their absence. VR Baseball '97 is pastiche of features, graphics, and other little things that just don't mesh together.
Perhaps the best example of this is the game's graphics. The players look pretty good - that is, as long as they stand motionless on the field. Heck, you can even move the 'free float' camera anywhere on the field you want, enabling you to see the players from an infinite number of camera views. That's all fine and dandy, but players have to move. And when these do, they are jerky - thanks to the exceedingly poor frame rate during many parts of the game. In addition, the polygons break up on the field. The menu, scorebox, and substitution interface also look utterly amateurish and uninspired.
Even worse, VR Baseball's gameplay is sluggish. In baseball terms, the game is too full of errors to be enjoyable. The whole flow of the game limps along at a snail's pace: Players move slowly as the screen jerks along trying to keep up (you should see the camera trying to follow a flyball). The most important and exciting confrontation in baseball, the pitcher/batter duel, is completely frustrating to play. The batting animation is completely choppy, and what's most unforgivable is that you don't even see the bat make contact with the ball (though for some odd reason the Home Run Derby doesn't have this problem). Instead, you only see the bat coming close to making contact, hear a bat cracking sound, and then suddenly you see the part of the field where the ball will land. This is akin to playing a boxing game that doesn't show a fighter landing a punch.
But maybe I'm being too harsh. The horrible batting interface isn't that bad, at least when compared to the dreadful and frustrating pitching play (VR Baseball really has a remarkable balance of bad gameplay). To pitch, you pick among four different pitches, adjust the speed of the throw, and then proceed with a series of button taps to guide the ball's direction. Unfortunately, all of these little taps aren't easy to get a handle on - often you end up sending a juicy meatball right over the top of the plate, a pitch just begging to be turned into a homerun.
The game's good points can be summed up in one paragraph; the audio is pretty good and so are the gameplay options. Organ music is played at the right moments, and the grumpy umpire who makes the calls behind the plate sounds good. Season and Homerun Derby modes are offered, as are extensive statistical tracking options - so there definitely are some good things to this title. However, most baseball games on the market offer these features.
After so long in development, and two years of promises, VR Sports has delivered a bad game overall. With boring, flawed gameplay and lackluster graphics, VR Baseball '97 is a very poor way to start off this video game baseball season.