For the most part, All-Star Baseball 2005 isn't much different from, or much better than, All-Star Baseball 2004. If you played last year's game to death, you'll notice that a few adjustments have been made here and there, but it is still basically the same batter-friendly baseball game that Acclaim has put out for the last three years. Whether that's good or bad depends on what you're looking for from a baseball video game. However, much of the game's strength is overshadowed by a PlayStation 2-specific audio bug that makes the commentary lag far, far behind the action.
There are four hitting interfaces to pick from, including the classic 3D cursor.
The main thing Acclaim did to make the 2005 installment better than 2004's was to expand its online features. Last year, all you could do was download roster updates. This year, you can actually play against other players in exhibition games and keep track of your stats on a number of different leaderboards. In addition to the standard win and loss rankings, you can also see how you stack up against other players in the categories of offense, pitching, and fielding. Custom tournaments aren't a part of the package, unfortunately. Online play is limited to broadband connections--dial-up isn't supported--so games usually go off without a hitch. The server evaluates the strength of each player's connection, which lets you see at a glance how likely you are to experience lag problems during a game. You may want to buy a new memory card, or at least make sure there's plenty of space free on your current one, if you do plan to play games online. The server requires players to download the latest roster update in order to participate in online games. This download takes around 900 kilobytes--roughly 10 percent of a card. However, you need to keep in mind that a season or franchise save game can take up another two megabytes.
Besides the expanded online mode, All-Star Baseball 2005 has a lot to offer in terms of teams, play modes, and bonuses. All 30 official Major League teams and their stadiums are present, along with 15 bonus teams, 44 extra stadiums (classic, fantasy, and spring training), and more than 100 legendary players drawn from the entire history of the sport. The rosters that ship with the game are accurate as of March 16, 2004. Bonus teams include three MLB Legends teams, both of last year's All-Star teams, a wartime stars team, a postwar stars team, a 2003 rookies team, a best-of-USA team, and a future legends team composed of probable Hall of Famers. Four fantasy teams, populated by members and friends of the development team, are also included. Sadly, the Negro Leagues teams that were present in All-Star Baseball 2004 are absent in All-Star Baseball 2005. Play options include the usual selection of exhibition, playoffs, and season modes, as well as separate franchise and expansion team modes that allow you to run your own team for up to 20 years.
Casual players will enjoy the game's bonus play modes, which include a trivia game, a home-run derby, batting practice, a pickup game option, stadium tours, and a mode called the TWIB challenge. TWIB stands for This Week in Baseball, which is a baseball highlights show that has aired in syndication every week since 1977. The TWIB challenge takes 21 key events from the 2003 season and drops you into the pivotal at bats that led to those defining highlights. It's your job to accomplish the goals that the TWIB challenge sets for you, which usually involve duplicating a key play or preventing a player from achieving a particular milestone. Remember the Steve Bartman incident? During the eighth inning of game six of the NLCS (National League Championship Series), Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins hit a foul ball into the stands that probably would have been caught by Chicago Cubs' outfielder Moises Alou. Instead, Cubs' fan Steve Bartman reached out and deflected the ball, which allowed Castillo to reach base on the next pitch. Eight runs later, the Marlins were on top, and the Cubs' spirit was broken. The Marlins would win game seven the next night and move on to the World Series. Cubs' fans have the chance to change the outcome of the Bartman incident in the TWIB challenge mode.
Fans in the outfield hang Ks whenever your pitcher records a strikeout.
Devoted baseball fanatics will enjoy the franchise mode, which Acclaim continues to flesh out from year to year. You can start with an existing team or create an expansion team of your own. If you create your own team, you can select uniforms, choose a stadium location, pick a mascot, and participate in an expansion draft. Just like a real general manager, you can adjust lineups, trade with other teams, and send players to the minors. The minor league system isn't as comprehensive as the real thing, but it gets the job done. There are three levels, but the teams are generic, and the rosters are limited to around 10 players per team. Like any good franchise mode, you need to keep track of injuries, deal with contract renewals, and allocate funds to your coaching, scouting, medical, and training staffs. Acclaim has added a point-based player development system this year. When your players accomplish certain feats, such as striking out a side or scoring two runs in a game, they earn points that you can spend to upgrade their attributes--like contact, power, arm strength, and these sorts of things. Pitchers can even add an extra pitch to their repertoires. The franchise mode lets you run a team for up to 20 seasons and includes spring training, the June and winter drafts, winter meetings, and arbitration deadlines.
As far as actual play mechanics go, All-Star Baseball 2005 offers both arcade- and simulation-style controls. There are four different batting interfaces to choose from. The easiest is based purely on the timing of your swing. The next two allow you to aim your swing toward specific areas of the zone. One of these setups gives you the option of aiming with a batting cursor to select exactly where the sweet spot of the bat will travel. The last hitting option is the classic 3D cursor that the All-Star Baseball series has used ever since its days on the Nintendo 64. By tilting and rotating the triangular contact area, you can lift the ball, swing toward the opposite field, or aim for a particular hole in the infield. Each batting interface gives you the ability to guess the pitch that the pitcher will throw. A correct guess increases the odds that you'll make contact, and a wrong guess has the opposite effect. If you find yourself having trouble just making contact with the ball, there are also four different pitch-speed settings to choose from.
Pitching, by and large, is set up perfectly. Each pitcher has between three and five different pitches that you select using the controller buttons. After selecting a pitch, you have the option to throw the pitch, make a pickoff move, or pitch out instead. A pitching cursor allows you to aim the pitch anywhere in the batter's box. You can adjust the placement of the pitch right up until the ball leaves the pitcher's hand. In the early innings of a game, pitches tend to cross the plate wherever you put the cursor. As your pitcher's stamina decreases, however, pitches will break less and will fall more quickly. If you need to bring up a pitch history or a scouting report on the hitter's hot and cold zones, you can do so by pushing in on the right analog stick. Pitch selection has decidedly improved since last year. Starting pitchers tend to have at least four pitches to choose from, and some aces have five or six.
The basic pitching view uses a broadcast-style camera, but you can change this in the options.