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Hardball is another great sports/sim from US Gold which arrived here just at the right time -- when I'd finished watching my first look at US Baseball on Channel 4. The graphics are amazing -- consisting of very large, smooth, beautifully animated graphics. The sound contains some nice spot FX, especially the skidding of the men when diving to 'steal' bases, there's also a nice tune at the beginning of each innings, but it is stopped when you start playing.

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The moves you can use are very extensive and contain a few sly ones from the US league, like 'bunting' and 'stealing' bases. My favourite bit was the pitching (mainly because I couldn't score a run), I found I could do no end of 'fast balls' and 'curvers', often putting my opponent into a very awkward position.
Hardball is one of my favourite sports/sims to date and fills in the long weeks between the American Footy.

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Hardball is an absolutely incredible sports simulation!!! The animation on the strikers and pitchers is the best yet; from a distance it looks like it could be a televised game! Hardball brings every aspect of baseball in the 64 and the depth into which it goes is fantastic -- Imagine's World Series was a game, this is a real-life simulation.

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Accolade have struck the balance of difficulty perfectly; although very hard at first, once you know what you're doing it is possible to hit or pitch the ball wherever you see fit. Another excellent feature is where all aspects of baseball have been included in the game, from hitting the ball round the field to the tricky job of managing and fielding the right sort of team -- the potential of the game is just immense.
Hardball is surely the best real life sports simulation to date and sets new standards in gameplay, depth and animation.

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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Hardball
1985 Accolade
Programmed by Bob Whitehead
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the eleventh issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: February 9th, 1986).
 

HARDBALL
US Gold/Accolade, 9.95 cass, 14.95 disk, joystick only


Hardball is the third attempt to bring the American national sport of baseball to 64 owners. The game has a different approach to both its predecessors and involves all aspects of baseball, from playing the game to making crucial managerial decisions.

The game commences with an options screen allowing you to choose between one or two players. In one-player mode the 64 either takes over the home or away team, depending on which you choose. Once those formalities have been completed then a list of both teams is shown. Each team has 10 players which are picked from the team's pool of 25, and during this period you can change and reassemble your team.

The players each have their own personalities, weaknesses and strengths which are all shown. The upshot of this amazing depth of player differentiation is that, with practice, you can assemble a team to suit your own playing style and end up with one which becomes a powerful force with you behind them.

Once you've sorted out the teams then the game begins. The home team is always put into bat in the first innings, whilst the away team fields. Batting and fielding is all controlled through the joystick, and although being tricky (playing professional baseball for the first time always is) is mastered with a little practice.

PITCHING AND FIELDING

A special screen is used for batting and pitching, showing a 3D view from behind the pitcher, which includes the striker (batsman), pitcher and catcher. Your pitcher always has four special moves, one of which has to be chosen before you can pitch. These are usually fastball, screwball, changeup and curveball, although these may differ depending on the pitcher fielded. To choose a throw, move the joystick in the relevant position (shown in the pitcher information box at the bottom of the screen) and press fire. The nice feature of this is the fact that it's possible to choose your throw without the other player knowing, just like real life! When the type of throw has been chosen then you can move the joystick up, down, left or right in conjunction with the fire button to pitch high, low, inside or outside. There is massive potential to pitching and once sussed, it is possible to pitch all manner of balls, both legal and illegal.

If the striker misses the ball then the catcher automatically catches the ball and a 'strike' is added to your total. Three strikes in a row and the striker is struck out. If the ball is illegal and the striker doesn't make a swing for it then it is declared a 'ball'. If the pitcher throws four balls before the striker connects or is struck out then the opposing team are awarded a 'walk' where each player on the playing field is allowed to move to the next base.

If the striker does connect with a pitched ball then the screen changes to a panoramic view of either the left or right of the playing field (depending on where the ball is hit). The fielder nearest the ball (whether in the air or on the ground) flashes, and the player is given control over him. The player can then intercept the ball and throw it to a base by pressing the fire button in conjunction with up (2nd base), down (home base), left (3rd base) or right (1st base) on the joystick.

Once the ball is safely back in the hands of the pitcher then the screen switches back to the original pitcher view.

BATTING

Striking (or batting) successfully is the hardest aspect of Hardball: a keen eye and swift reflexes are needed, otherwise a player will find himself struck out time and time again. A striker has only a split second to decide whether the ball is low, high, swinging out or in, and whether to actually go for the ball or not (remember, an illegal ball becomes legal if you attempt to hit it). Once you've decided that, you can make the player swing high, low etc by moving the joystick to the corresponding position and pressing the fire button. It sounds difficult, but within a few games you'll find yourself growing accustomed to the split second decisions and whopping even the most tricky pitches home.

Once the ball has been hit, the striker automatically runs for the first base. When he has done that then the player can decide whether to attempt a sneak at the second base (a risky move). If a player presses the space bar before the ball is pitched, the screen switches to the team list. Here the pitcher is able to change the position of fielders or substitute a relief pitcher. Likewise, the striker can shuffle the order of batting to give himself more of a chance.

Hardball strictly follows the rules of World Series and is error trapped for any illegal moves. The game takes place over nine innings, and if the score is even after that then the game continues until a team wins an innings, no matter how long it takes!

     

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Baseball is not a sport I find particularly interesting to watch, or play for that matter, but there is something about Hardball that makes it compelling to do both. This is probably due to the highly original approach and the exceptional graphics -- both definition and animation are first class, especially the latter attribute. Sound is the weakest aspect of the game, but what there is, is used to good effect to make up for their weakness. Not only is Hardball the most impressive baseball simulation yet seen, it is one of the best sport simulations to date, despite its possible minority appeal.
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Presentation 95%

Well thought out options, and excellently contrived joystick control.

Graphics 96%
Stunning graphics, especially the animation on the giant size players.

Sound 68%
Roar of crowd and a few jolly jingles
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Hookability 91%
Ease of use allows the player to instantly become a baseball star.

Lastability 92%
A tough nut computer opponent and two player option means that Hardball will be played long after the baseball season is over.

Value For Money 93%
The second best thing to the World Series.

Overall 93%
A truly realistic sports simulation which sets new standards.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (23 Nov 2004)

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