Fielding is just as simple. Move to the direction of the ball and click the mouse to glove it. Press a numbered key to throw the ball to a certain base and you’ve pretty much got a hang of things. It’s simple, but the sense of teamwork and camaraderie makes even the most routine double play an incredible thrill. It’s hard to describe the highs and lows of being complimented by teammates for a great play or scorned for a bone-headed one (like when we were picked off at first… three times in a row). What makes things really exciting is that nerves and anxiety aren’t uncommon if you see the ball coming your way when a close game is on the line.
In practice, though, the fielding is far from perfect. Errors are much too easy to come by. Often you’ll be standing right in front of a baserunner and the tag doesn’t register, or a groundball will simply zoom through you. And playing the infield is still ten times more fun than playing outfield, even with the diving catches new to this year’s version. Oh, and try to get as many real players on your team as you can, because the AI fielders look like they’ve been knocking a few back in the clubhouse before the game.
Unfortunately, the free price tag is really reflected in the presentation. The graphics are just enough to get the job done without being distractingly bad, and the game is totally lacking in either announcers or flashy visual effects (which might not be such a bad thing if you’ve ever suffered through the mystifying explosions and jet noises of a FOX broadcast). Animations are a mixed bag, where a diving catch looks good but sliding into a base looks more like tripping and falling. If you catch a glimpse of this game over your buddy’s shoulder, you likely won’t be impressed.
That said, comparing UBO to the details-heavy MLB 2K7 would be bordering dangerously close to apples and oranges territory. It offers a unique experience driven by the satisfaction that comes from teamwork and gradually building your character from a nobody to an MVP. It’s also a game built around the community, which is reflected in the leagues, tournaments and a rather extensive (though often annoying and difficult to navigate) website that showcases statistical league leaders and sports page-style tournament coverage.