Preview - Front Page Sports: Baseball '94 (DOS, 1994)

Baseball has come a long way. Especially in the salary department, where never-ending conflict exists between the club owners and the Players Association. At press time, the players' strike is well into its second week, and shows little sign of ending before the season does. What's a baseball fan to do? Well, you can play a computer game or twenty. Front Page Sports: Baseball should definitely be one of those twenty.

Due for release later this year, Sierra's new baseball sim carries on the tradition of quality and realism begun by the first game in the series, Front Page Sports: Football. It employs the same menu interface and allows you to do everything with a baseball league that you could do with a football league. Well, I couldn't find any way to have my players go on strike, but we won't get into that right now . . .

Let's focus on the good points of this game, of which there are several. All positive aspects of FPS: Baseball can be traced to one superb attribute: realism. This game brings the ballpark (and the executive offices) home like no other game. You can play it a number of different ways . . . taking the role of owner, manager/coach, player, or any combination of the three. The CPU can control basically anything you don't want to, so you can play a whole season without ever fielding a grounder or making a trade. Should you want to take the responsibility of drafting future franchise players, though, you can, and without much difficulty. So, seeing as though the game adapts to your style, any baseball fan will find something to enjoy here.

I still haven't figured out why this is yet, but FPS: Baseball includes real rosters for . . . um . . . unreal teams. True, Bonds, Ripken, and Alomar are all here, but they play for teams with names like the Titans, the Robins, and the Bluebirds. What gives? Oh well. It's unimportant. If you don't like the names you're given, you can change them to the Real McCoy. And why stop with names? FPS: Baseball lets you manipulate the actual structure of any league . . . letting you create one from scratch or mess around with a pre-made one. Go ahead . . . put all of the weak teams in your division. Anything to win, right?

It'll take more than just cheesy player and team-tweaking to get to a pennant race. Unless you're playing a strictly managerial position, you still have to make or break your team on the field. Graphically and not, this is where FPS: Baseball truly shines. Batter and pitcher control is fairly easy and quite similar to other PC baseball sims. Depending on the level of play, pitchers can choose from one of four pitches, and then choose where and how fast to pitch. Batters choose one of three swings, and then must time their swing to get a decent hit. The high detail level of the players and their surroundings can be lowered to speed up gameplay, but if you've got a screamer of a machine, max out the detail level and commence drooling. In 640x480 VGA, FPS: Baseball is the most graphically detailed sports game yet . . . topping even its Football predecessor. Once a hit is achieved, the perspective changes to an angled overhead view which is less beautiful but more practical for fielding and throwing.

Although it shouldn't really influence your decision whether or not to buy a game in my opinion, it should be said that the sound effects and music in FPS: Baseball successfully capture the audible chaos that exists in a ballpark. Obnoxious vendors . . . rude fans of the other team . . . cheers . . . they're all included (no, I'm not joking). Sierra went almost too far with the vendors, who, if you don't turn them off, verbally advertise their programs and popcorn every few seconds. Don't throw a brick through your screen, though. Remember, this is only a game.

Nevertheless, it's a great game, if you haven't figured that out already. There are quite a few baseball games on the market for the PC and even more available for other systems. The entire genre may have reached its pinnacle in FPS: Baseball, though, and I'd urge players of other PC baseball games to seriously consider switching to this title. It looks real, it sounds real, it plays real. And it doesn't require you to purchase add-on disks with names like "AL West Stadium Grass Seed Pack #5B".

Play the demo for this game directly in your browser