Crystal Dynamics hits a solid double with 3D Baseball, their much anticipated (and much delayed) entry into the 32-bit ballpark. Striving to bring in a new era of baseball simulation technology with their "real time motion control" graphics and gameplay (using their proprietary 3-D engine), this game may just make up for the disappointing Slam N Jam '96.
3D Baseball includes all the familiar play modes (season, exhibition, etc.) in addition to the usual range of features. While all the major league players, with their stats and digitized pictures, are here, there are unfortunately no real teams or ballparks (in fact, you have a choice of just four ballparks). Players of 3D Baseball will find many good customizable options, including variable fielding control, roster swapping, pitcher and batter reliefs, management options, and replays.
The graphics are great and the polygon players look terrific at the plate and on the field. Each player is textured in great detail, and each ballpark is beautifully 3-D-rendered. The graphics and gameplay are what make this game a contender, and the 13 different camera angles really showcase this game's attention to detail. The introduction also has some cool highlights, but it suffers from the low-grade full motion video.
The solid graphics and gameplay are accompanied by the voice of CNN sports reporter, Van Earl Wright, who adds extra excitement to the game. Wright even changes the rolls on his Rs for some of the players' names, like Roberto Alomar, Reggie Sanders, and Robbie Thompson. If anything, the audio commentary shows how far video gaming has come - only four years ago Sega's SportsTalk Baseball "Speak and Spell" commentary was the best thing going.
Crystal Dynamics seems to be heading in the right direction with this title. However, it's still a step behind the competition of Sega's World Series Baseball 2 and EA's Triple Play 97 - not to mention Sony's MLB Pennant Race. The game looks and plays as well as the other baseball titles out there, but lacks the polish that the others' major yearly updates bring. 3D Baseball is an excellent rookie attempt, and future updates could easily become contenders for the MVP award.