Ultimate Baseball Online 2007 Review

Potential. Potential is what all MMO and online-based games need to succeed. People don’t want to play an online game only to get bored with it after a few times logging on. Games such as Everquest and World of Warcraft exploded due to the huge amount of potential the game initially showed. Ultimate Baseball Online (UBO) shows great potential, but at the moment is far from perfect.

Setting up an account and downloading the client is simple enough. There are no fees as of yet, and all you need is an email address to sign up and get going. Once inside, you’ll have 3 slots to create the baseball player you always wished you could have been. All positions are available for your choosing although players seem to dislike people being catchers. As you progress through levels and rankings, you’ll acquire points to allocate in your various statistics: speed, body strength, quickness, arm strength, throwing accuracy, and catching. Once you’ve entered the lobby and 3 people have joined the room, it’s time to play ball.

This is where a few of the problems start roling in. For starters, this game isn’t going to win any awards for being the best looking on the block. For those who remember the days of High Heat Baseball, the graphics in UBO are very similar to the 2000 version of the game. The players are a bit blocky looking, and there isn’t very much room for customization as far as faces go. The game thankfully has a generous assortment of batting stances, which tends to give players a little more character.

The control scheme takes some getting used to. You use the keyboard and mouse simultaneously to move your character around the field before and during the plays, and it’s a bit disorienting at first. There are a few limitations; players have pointed out to me the reason I kept missing routine groundballs and line-drives was due to the fact I couldn’t move (for example, pressing A) and catch (clicking the left mouse button) at the same time. Pitching and batting, thankfully, are fairly easy and quite intuitive. Pitching uses the standard system of selecting a pitch, aiming, and selecting a strength. For batting, you use an oval cursor to track the ball and decide whether you should take or swing. Strength is determined by what most players call the "color system," where the stronger the color (pinks, reds) the harder the swing and the smaller the oval. The responsiveness of the batting is very good, with very little lag in between the actual mouse like and the swing of the bat. When not at bat, the game switches into a spectator mode, allowing you to watch the game unfold (and to pick out player tendencies). All of these aspects in the game can be mastered and practiced in the "Camp" mode, which pits you against the computer in a training session to hone your skills.

As with the graphical department, the sounds in the game aren’t going to be something you’ll talk about to your friends. While completely competent for a baseball game, it doesn’t exactly pull you in or make you think you’re actually out on the field. After a few games you’ll start to notice all the various loops and more than likely end up turning it down. Thankfully, the games usually play fairly quickly. Most of them end up being a 3 inning affair, and it’s over within 10-15 minutes. The AI is a bit suspect and sporadic; sometimes it will be picking off rocket line drives like it’s standard affair, sometimes they’re off in La-La Land dreaming about the next high paying contract they’ll sign.

The community of the game is the biggest positive I can name. All of the players I came across while playing were friendly, helpful, and actually fun to talk to. A few times conversation trailed off from baseball and into the land of general video games and life, something that you rarely get from games like WoW. When I miserably struck out on a pitch I should have hit, missed a bunt attempt, or gave up the game-winning home run, everyone showered me with compliments of "Nice try" rather than "You suck!" The players seems to be a tightly knit community, playfully jabbing at one another as if they were the closest of friends while being open and allowing outsiders into their circle as well. I would venture to say it’s one of the best online experiences I’ve had with other players.

As I mentioned at the start, UBO is a game that shows a ton of potential. With the AI and gameplay being tweaked a bit, I could see it really taking off, especially with a free (or ad-based) business model. It’s a game that, with a little love and care, could flourish into something good if not great. Lag was virtually absent except for a few random players, which makes the experience that much more fun. If you’re a fan of baseball and are looking for something different, this is definitely a game to try. For those looking for a highly polished version of MLB baseball, look elsewhere.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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