Microsoft Baseball 2001 has a lot of glitter. It has nicely detailed and fluid graphics, and its managerial options are impressively deep. Unfortunately, it's also riddled with bugs that make it annoying to play.
The game's strong point is undoubtedly its graphics. All the character models are well modeled, and have only the slightest hint of polygonal edginess to them. The big-name players have been modeled with even more care, and possess realistic facial texturing. Player motion sequences are, for the most part, remarkably fluid. Were it not for the rather plain crowd textures, you could even fool yourself into thinking that you're watching a real baseball game.
The music and sound effects are less impressive. Microsoft Baseball 2001's music is just plain dull, and serves for the most part just to keep the game from going silent. The play-by-play commentary is decent enough, though not particularly notable. If you set the game's resolution to high, you'll start to hear the sound and music stutter and skip quite frequently.
The game's single-player mode should have been better than it is. Microsoft Baseball 2001 offers some detailed management options, an extensive career mode, and a batting interface that looks simple but is actually deep. Yet a diverse variety of bugs basically ruin any fun you may get out of the game. You'll see a huge number of throwing errors, for instance, on both human and CPU-controlled teams.
It's not uncommon to see ten or more wild throws per game, which ruins the simulation aspect. Even more frustrating is when the baseball actually disappears as you're trying to field it. While wild throws are just annoying and can be played around, disappearing baseballs are another matter entirely. Other errors include batters that sometimes stand right on top of the plate, commentary that's just plain wrong, and base stealing attempts that register as being successful even when they're obviously late.
When you are playing, you feel like a beta tester instead of a consumer who just paid money in good faith for a finished product. And since you're not being paid to find the bugs, you won't be a happy beta tester. Microsoft Baseball 2001's multiplayer capabilities won't impress you either. The only way you can play against a friend is by having two people at the same PC, as there is no Internet support. This is disappointing.
Microsoft Baseball 2001 could have been a contender, and would probably have been a contender with a few more months of testing and polishing. But the harsh reality of the videogame sports business dictates that if you don't get your baseball game out in time, you might as well not get it out at all. Perhaps next year Microsoft can release a baseball title that combines a solid and bug-free engine with an enhanced version of the glitter that adorns this game.
Graphics: Great character models that move fluidly.
Sound: Decent sound effects and commentary with bland music, but suffers stutter problems with the graphics resolution turned up.
Enjoyment: The potentially enjoyable gameplay is ruined by an amazing number of bugs.
Replay Value: Microsoft Baseball 2001 has some pretty deep management options, plus a great career mode.
People who downloaded Microsoft Baseball 2001 have also downloaded:
MVP Baseball 2005, Hardball V Enhanced (a.k.a. Hardball 5 Enhanced), MVP Baseball 2004, Triple Play 2001, Oldtime Baseball, High Heat Major League Baseball 2003, Tony La Russa Baseball 3, ESPN Baseball Tonight
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