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

I turned on ESPN the other day and saw a baseball game. Really. It wasn't a pro game, because the pros decided that they won't play unless the owners can pay them an unlimited amount of money. It wasn't a minor league game . . . thank God. No, it was a "legends" game, which basically consists of guys in their late 50s and 60s trotting around lamely, trying to relive the glory days, which, incidentally, are called that because baseball was a great game then. Baseball today will be remembered years from now as a time where strikes weren't things you swung at.

Now that I've gotten my little "sportorial" out of the way, I'll move on to reviewing Sierra's new Front Page Sports: Baseball '94, a game so good that it's better than the real thing. True, it may not accurately simulate the real thing because there's no player strike option, but other than that, it's the best I've ever seen. Borrowing the menu interface from Front Page Sports: Football, Baseball '94 offers you the opportunity to QuickStart a game immediately. This option is great for people who couldn't care less about management features and only enjoy the arcade elements. On the field, Baseball '94 plays very much like other games of its type, except that every aspect of play (fielding, hitting, pitching, running, coaching, etc.) can be controlled by the computer, or by you in three different complexity levels. The BPI (batter-pitcher interface) is done in 640x480 VGA and will make fans of games such as Earl Weaver and Pete Rose Pennant Fever drool uncontrollably.

But Baseball '94 is a complete baseball sim, and while actually controlling a game is a lot of fun, managing is surprisingly fun as well. Creating a baseball association is a lengthy process, especially if you don't have a top-of-the-line computer. This game is one of the biggest resource hogs I've ever seen. If you have the time and storage to spare, though, Baseball's administrative functions are top-notch. Associations can have any number of teams in any practical number of leagues. You can create your own teams or import ones from other leagues, and pool team rosters into a new draft pool to rearrange them fairly. In typical fashion, any season game can be played through, watched, or simulated. Because of the level of accuracy that Sierra wanted to achieve with the Front Page Sports games, though, simulation takes a while . . . in the range of 2 minutes per game on a Pentium. For stat freaks especially, the wait is worth it. Complete team stats and boxscores are available after a day of simulation is completed, and you can print the outcome of that 13-0 drubbing you laid on your friend.

During a season, you'll go through the trials and tribulations that real managers do . . . player injuries, losing streaks, etc., and you'll have to fix them the way real managers do, too. Bench your starters in favor of rookies and make any trades you can. Trades are made on a one-for-one basis, and the computer won't be stupid . . . trying to get a Barry Bonds for a Fred Smith with prove rather fruitless. You can always try, though.

More realism (as if we needed any more) is dished up courtesy of the stadiums and sound effects. Many MLB stadiums are recreated in Baseball, and no matter where you play, you'll hear the fans. I don't mean you'll hear a loud constant cheer, I mean you'll hear INDIVIDUAL fans. Rude ones that say things like "you ain't nothing!" and "whiff city!". And then there's always the program and popcorn vendors. I don't know what kind of people Sierra put these sound bits in for, but they sure are entertaining. They're kind of loud, too. I hope you have a volume control on your speakers.

I must admit . . . I'm not a big baseball fan, but Front Page Sports: Baseball '94 was a heap of fun to play. It has everything I could possibly want in a baseball game . . . maybe the diehard fan will be able to find something missing, but I doubt it. With all the players and great playability, Baseball '94 is a great game from a great company. If only it let you strike . . .

Play the demo for this game directly in your browser