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Reality Bytes Cool features aside, this year's baseball games are best judged by how well they mirror the Show

World Series Baseball 2K3
Sega, $49.99

Cycling through the options screen on this game is like rummaging
through Jay-Z's closet: throwback jerseys galore. But the
uniforms aren't what make 2K3 the cream of this year's baseball
crop. The graphics are superb. Players move smoothly, and pitches
move realistically--Randy Johnson's slider has wicked bite, Kerry
Wood's fastball explodes, and Barry Zito's deuce falls off the
table. When a hitter comes to the plate, the pitcher can call up
a mini-scouting report that breaks down the hitter's strike zone
into hot (red) and cold (blue) zones, allowing for a more
strategic pitch selection. The game's lone flaw: It doesn't have
the White Sox' 1981 unis. Who wouldn't want to see Frank Thomas
play in shorts? Grade: A

All-Star Baseball 2004
Acclaim, $49.99

Two features make this game stand out. First, in addition to
current major leaguers, the game includes a team of Negro leagues
All-Stars and a squad of major league old-timers. Second, a
selection of old parks is available, including Rickwood Field in
Birmingham, former home of the Black Barons. So it's possible to
have Satchel Paige pitch to Willie Mays in a former Negro leagues
yard where each of them played before making it to the bigs. (It
also has "future stadiums," though Future Fenway looks a lot like
the current one.) On the downside, the instructions aren't clear
on features such as the ability to guess pitch location and
"future throws," which I figured out meant pressing a button to
throw to a base before you've actually fielded the ball, thereby
making for a smoother play. Overall this is a very good
game. Grade: A-

MVP Baseball 2003
EA, $49.95

EA's games are strong in virtually every sport, but its baseball
entry is the weak link. Player movement is stilted, and the fans
in the seats are as two-dimensional as the townsfolk of Rock
Ridge at the end of Blazing Saddles. On a clean single to
rightfield, a batter can be thrown out at first base without much
problem. When a shortstop snared a Texas leaguer, the announcer
declared the catch was "just like Willie Mays!" And Kerry Wood
hit 112 on the radar gun. On the plus side, MVP has the best
pitching feature of this batch of games: Throwing a good pitch
requires three well-timed taps of a button, unlike the others, in
which it's press once and hope for the best. Grade: B-

High Heat 2004
3DO, $49.95

Realism is not a hallmark of High Heat. A Wiffle ball in heavy
winds flutters less than the pitches in this game. C.C.
Sabathia, who possesses one of the sharpest sliders in baseball,
has been equipped with a "power curve," which looks more like
Rip Sewell's eephus pitch. But when HH tries to be
extrarealistic, it falls extrashort. On visits to the mound, the
pitching coach looks as if he's reminding the pitcher which arm
he's supposed to throw with, while in the background the
infielders put themselves through what appear to be Marine-grade
calisthenics. That's not to say the game is without merit. If
you're looking for an easy game to pick up with an arcade feel,
give High Heat a go. Grade: B-