Review: Ultimate Baseball Online 2007

UBO 2007 Platform: PC
Publisher: Netamin
Developer: Netamin
Release Date: 5/22/07
Genre: Sports – Baseball
Players: Massively multiplayer

Compared to other major sports like football, basketball, soccer, tennis and golf, I don’t get much into baseball. The sport itself is great, but the slow pacing of actually watching a game, frequent and ridiculously immature manager temper tantrums, and the constant machismo-fueled pitcher/batter standoffs have just sort of turned me away in recent years (not to mention all the steroid controversy). That said, I’ve always found a lot of enjoyment in baseball video games, mainly because I can cut through all that crap I don’t care for and experience the strategy and thrills the sport has to offer in its purest form.

After recently being turned on to Ultimate Baseball Online for the first time in its 2007 edition, I must say that no baseball videogame I’ve ever played has captured the purity and team camaraderie of the sport any better than this. As the first and only massively multiplayer online baseball game (the only MMO sports game in general too I believe), UBO brings gamers and baseball fans from around the world together to form virtual teams and compete in tournaments and leagues or in friendly pick-up games just for fun and bragging rights.

Like with any MMO, UBO first starts you off with creating a player, of which you can choose any baseball position you desire, be it a pitcher, short stop, catcher or anywhere else in the infield or outfield. You can also change your position at any time (even during the middle of an on-going game), so don’t worry about being permanently stuck in one role. Once finished setting up a player avatar, it is then off to practice where the basics of the pitching, fielding and hitting mechanics are taught via simple training drills. And you’ll definitely need the training because for all that UBO gets right, its play mechanics are a little on the stiff and dated side, and not quite as intuitive to pick up right away as one would hope for. That’s not to say the game plays poorly by any means, it just takes some time and practice to get comfortable with.

You’ll want to take the time to learn and master the mechanics too, as UBO’s character-building and community aspects are fantastic. During a game of UBO, every character on the diamond is another human player, which means you, along with the rest of your team, are responsible for your area of the field and must always be at the ready to backup your teammates. By performing well on the field – getting hits, scoring runs, making catchers, striking out batters, etc. – you earn experience and gain levels (up to a cap of 99), with parameter and skill points awarded every level to put into enhancing various player attributes, such as stamina, body and arm strength, throwing accuracy, speed and so on. Trophies and achievements are handed out as well as you reach certain performance milestones, all of which are logged on a personal stat-tracking page at the UBO website.

These personal player pages are only a small part of the game’s robust community feature set too. Sure, you can merely focus on building your own character if desired, but UBO is clearly at its best when you join a serious team and begin competing in full-on leagues lasting months at a time and regularly held tournament events offering special prizes to the winners. Joining a team does come with responsibility, as these leagues and tournaments are thoroughly structured and require you to be logged in with your team in time for each game. If playing out on the field isn’t up your alley, you can also choose to become a manager after reaching level 10, granting you power to control the team lineup and strategy.

As far as new content is concerned, the 2007 season of UBO introduces a number of features. But none are more important than the new AI Match option, which allows you to play by yourself or with others in pick-up games against computer-controlled opponents. Being a newcomer to the game, I found this mode particularly helpful in learning the ropes early on without embarrassing myself with crummy play against live opponents. An upgraded graphics engine is also touted with the launch of UBO 2007, but overall the game still needs some work in this area. Player models look decent, but the animations are rigid and the stadiums are geometrically and texturally bland. MMO’s are never the benchmark for great graphics, though, so it’s not hard to look past a few rough spots.

Whether you’re a hardcore baseball enthusiast or more of a casual onlooker of the sport like me, Ultimate Baseball Online 2007 is a game worth downloading and giving a try. Yes, the play mechanics and graphics are a bit dated compared to other modern baseball games from publishers like EA and 2K Sports, but the robust roster of modes for players of all styles and skill levels and outstanding community features truly make you feel like you’re part of a real baseball league, and for that UBO deserves major props. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. UBO is completely free to download and play, so there’s absolutely no reason not to at least give it a shot.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!