Once flashy but shallow, Hardball has improved with each new version, and the same can be said with number 4. It’s a game with some obvious upgrades, but also some minor drawbacks. The batter/pitcher screen — with its digitized-video renditions of the batterâ€™s swing and the pitcherâ€™s delivery — is much improved. So how can a game that looks this good, built on a solid statistical foundation, possibly go wrong?
You find out quickly, as soon as the ball is hit into the field. When you switch from the batter/pitcher view to the full-field perspective, the players still look great, but theyâ€™ve suddenly become giants. These guys are huge, as tall as the outfield walls. They look like a team of Shaquille Oâ€™Neals playing on a pee-wee baseball field. OK, maybe I can live with these bigger-than-life players, but the action on the field just doesnâ€™t measure up to the graphics. The plays and the flight of the ball look canned, and the exaggerated size of the players allows them to cover a lot of ground in the field. Thereâ€™s just no sense of uncertainty — you know immediately if itâ€™s a hit or an out.
The new focus on stats is a welcome change to Hardball, but thereâ€™s still some work to be done. When simulating a season on “background” — with the computer playing all the games — the results are reasonable enough, with the numbers-crunching producing believable statistics. But the games in which the player actually participates yield considerably more suspicious results. Hardball 4 suffers from the same flaw as its predecessors — too many home runs, most of them solo shots. In fact, a dozen home runs isnâ€™t uncommon in Hardball 4.
Hardball has always excelled at arcade play, and the new version is no exception. Despite beefing up its statistics, thatâ€™s still where Hardball 4 belongs — in the arcade category. Controls for pitching, hitting, and fielding are all friendly and intuitive. Its strength as an action game makes Hardball 4 an ideal two-person sim. With this game, the series once again steps up to the plate with fresh graphics and more attention to statistical detail. The result is a friendly, fun, and beautiful re-creation of Major League Baseball, minus much of the realism.
System Requirements: 80486/33 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS
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