High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 Review
By Jimmy Vails |
It can't be easy to be in 3DO's position. For any sports game they make, they've got to go up against market-leading behemoth EA just to eke out a tiny share of the sports game market.
That's exactly where they find themselves with High Heat Baseball. The 2002 version is as good as some of the previous High Heat titles, but does it measure up to the EA juggernaut Triple Play? In a word, yes and no. The graphics are mostly on par with this year's Triple Play entry, but some of the gameplay and animation feels a bit behind the venerable EA title.
One thing I always look for in a baseball title is a sort of brain, thanks to my early-age addiction to Earl Weaver Baseball for the Amiga. It had some of the best baseball brains this side of Joe Torre, and just seemed to put players on hot- and cold-streaks, without explanation.
I can't say High Heat 2002 had a thinker like that, but it does have it's good points, too.
Mostly, it's the graphics that make this game a winner. The game's graphics are solid all around, with nice player bodies and stadium graphics that really put you in the ballpark, wherever that may be. I'm a Cubs fan, so Wrigley Field in the game felt just like home to me. The ivy-covered outfield walls, the manual scoreboard, it was all there.
Players are nicely drawn, too. With big slugger bodies easily outweighing and outsizing puny little shortstops. Faces on the bodies aren't nearly as good as Triple Play, though. The faces here are little more than mustaches and eyebrows pasted onto the front of head polys. Some of the nice touches are little graphical additions that can make the game come alive. For instance, players on base will knock the dirt from their cleats, and after a player is hit by a pitch, he'll shake his fist at the pitcher as if to instigate a fight.
The animation could have been better, though. From time to time the graphics jumped and jerked like the players were white guys trying to break dance. The crowd graphics were pretty lackluster, too, with a big smudge of "crowd" painted across the stands and hardly any individual heads at all. We know this speeds up the graphics, but it does get a little distracting when you look out into the stands and see nothing but blob.
Sounds in the game are adequate, but nothing special. The announcers do a good job of calling the game and throwing in a few ad-libs from time to time. For instance, as I was starting my game at Wrigley Field, the announcer mentioned that Wrigley was the starting place for fans to keep foul balls and for fans to throw back the opposing teams home run balls. Game sounds are good, with the satisfying crack of ball on bat and the nice thunk of ball into leather for a catch. There's also decent, random crowd sounds. From time to time, when the oppossing team was at bat, I could hear my home crowd say, "C'mon, get this guy!" Very nice.
The pitcher-batter interface, the heart of any baseball game, is pretty good, with excellent graphics, but we couldn't help but think the pitching control was a little lacking. You do get to chose whether a pitch will be a ball or strike, but the location of each pitch is a little iffy, since you must choose which pitch you'll throw and aim with your D-pad. An easier option would have been to assign certain pitches to certain controller buttons, thus taking that element of error out of the equation. As it now stands, it's very easy to pick to wrong pitch if you mis-aim the D-pad. Another thing we missed from Triple Play was the ability to power-up pitches so they come in faster and harder than others. In Triple Play, all you had to do was hold down the button a little longer to put a little extra mustard on the ball, but there's no such option here. It's a feature we miss, and one that should have been included to make pitching a more complete exercise.
One nice feature the game does offer, though, is a replay of the pitch sequence for an individual at-bat. Usually, after a batter strikes out, the game will replay the pitch sequence with a 3D superimposed pentagon of home plate above the actual plate, showing where each pitch came into the batter's box. It's a very nice feature that shows you exactly what you missed and by how much you missed it.
Hitting in the game is handled well, but it could have stood for more control. The only options you're given are bunt and swing. It would have been nice to be able to swing in locations, like certain console baseball games we've played. That makes for a much more interesting pitcher-batter match-up, and one that doesn't tire nearly as quickly.
One of the worst things we found in the game, though, was a serious bug. And this was in the final, boxed copy, no less. The opposing team hit a short grounder to my shortstop. I ran over to pick it up, but couldn't. In fact, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't stop the game, go to the main menu, or anything. Eventually, I had to reboot my computer. Not too good, especially since this happened to me again a few hours later.
After the game, the there's a nice statistical round-up for folks who are in to that kind of thing. It even includes a game summary with everything that happened in the game -- a very nice touch.
There's also a post-game highlight option, which allows you to check off all the in-game plays you'd like to see. Just click off the boxes next to the plays, and the computer will replay them for you. Another excellent idea for people who feel they were cheated of a replay on the 6-to-2-to-1 double play they turned during the game.
Overall, High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 is a solid effort with excellent graphics that doesn't quite live up to its look in terms of gameplay. With just a few things adjusted, this title could be swinging for the fences and hitting it over.
-- Mike Morrissey
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