High Heat Baseball 2003
Review of High Heat Baseball 2003
It’s cold outside. The snow is falling and the fireplace’s are swallowing up wood by cord. What better time to snuggle up in your favorite Lazyboy recliner and play some armchair baseball. That’s right, it’s videogame baseball time and 3DO is the first out of the gate with their critically acclaimed title –High Heat Major League Baseball 2003- for the PS2.
Last years effort was a good one, with the game delivering an accurate baseball sim, but the title fell well short in the graphics and animation department. Does 3DO improve for this years title or is it merely a line-up shuffle…read on to find out…
3DO has dedicated their team of programmers to develop for the PS2 videogame console. To date, some of their results have certainly hit the mark but for the most part, their titles have proven to be rather uninspired. With a year under their belt and the second shot at a baseball title for the PS2, 3DO has hit a triple.
Baseball games can really be broken up into two distinct categories. The first is how well the title simulates the game itself. This will be covered under the gameplay portion of my review. The second area is in the presentation and how well the title “looks” and captures the “mood” of true baseball. I will handle this in the graphics area.
HH 2003 brings with it the promise of the most accurate baseball sim on the market. Stat tracking, CPU AI and pitcher/batter confrontation has always been the strong points of this series and in this respect HH 2003 has hit an all time high water mark.
Besides the traditional (and expected) modes of Exhibition, Season, Batting Practice and Home Run Derby, HH 2003 also has a Two on Two Showdown mode that is perfect for parties. This mode pits a batter against a pitcher with no fielders and has the umps calling the plays and delivering points based on where he thinks your hit would have placed you on the bases. Gameplay is furious and it really presents the pitcher/batter battle in an all-new light.
There is also a wonderful fantasy draft mode that lets players create their dream teams and manage/play through an entire season. Finally, there is the “shortcut to the playoffs” mode for those of you that are just too impatient to play through a whole season.
Of course the real meat of the game rests in the season mode. I decided to go in and create a few players first and then trade them onto the team that I decided to play (the Mets of course). Creating a player is extremely simple and there is a good deal of parameters and options that can be selected. I did however feel that it fell a bit short in the area of player appearance. I would have liked to have seen a snapshot of the player I was creating so I could see how all of the changes I was making would effect his appearance instead of waiting until my created player actually took to the field. Like I said, the options of actual appearance were a bit “light”…but I managed to get over it.
Once I created my players and assigned them a position I immediately traded them onto the Mets and began my season. There was a little trial and error in getting the players I created to STAY on my team…for some reason every time I started the game it would always default to the actual Mets line-up. I finally corrected this by letting the CPU fix the line-up when the option popped up. I still can’t figure out why this happened, but at least I had my line-up in place and was ready to play ball.
As I expected, HH 2003 really delivers an incredibly realistic baseball experience. In Pro mode, the computer AI is flawless in executing plays and in overall fielding in general. There was never a time when I felt cheated or robbed…If I got nailed it was always my fault. I was very impressed with the AI and it really enabled me to focus on my game and not worry about cheap plays.
The pitcher/batter interface is a thing of beauty. Gamers have the option of trying to guess which pitch is coming down the pipe and if correct, stand a better chance of connecting with the ball. Of course, if you guess incorrectly there is a real good chance of just getting smoked. This option is best used when gamers have a real good idea of what is coming down to the plate. It does of good job of simulating an actual confrontation though and ended up being a great option instead of just another cheap gimmick.
Gamers have total control over their players at all times. Infielder and outfielder positioning can be adjusted play by play if you like, pitching selection closely mimics the real life counterpart and the batter can of course “place” their hits. The only thing I couldn’t do was to change the position of my batter in the box. Other than selecting the batters initial stance in the create-a-player section (or the pre-determined stance of each player on the team), there didn’t appear to be any way to move my batter around once he was in the box.
The rest of the gameplay is nicely executed with special note going to the base running…which is quite superbly mapped on the controller. All of the base running aspects can be easily and precisely pulled off with gamers even having the ability to stop a baser runner in their tracks instead of merely going back and forth during a pick off play.
The game has also got things covered in the stat-tracking arena…for the most part. At the end of each game players are presented with a plethora of information including an inning-by-inning assessment for each team. High Heat will also select the games MVP in this section. What I wasn’t much impressed with however was the player stats as they progress through the season. I could easily go in and grab team stats, player stats like averages, etc., but I was never able to find the details for each individual player like how many doubles, triples, homers, etc. that player has up to that point in the season. I thought this was a little odd and figured perhaps I just couldn’t find it…but if it is in there it is well hidden for some strange reason.
So, now you know that the game plays well…REALLY well…but how does it look? Well the good news is that it looks leagues better than last years attempt. Being that last years game almost looked like a PSOne title though, it should really come as no stretch that this years game does in fact look better in comparison.
Unfortunately the game still cannot hold a candle to last year’s Triple Play effort. The players now sport a nice clean appearance to them, with bodies that look like their real life counterparts. The modeling is also well done, right down to the stitching in the uniforms and the wrinkles on the clothing. What aren’t so well done are the transition animations. Players walking up to the batters box all appear to be Neanderthals in their strut and stances (you have to see it to understand). Players sliding to a base will almost always get up and stiffly move their arms up and down to simulate wiping off the dust…but the appearance is so poor I almost cringed each time this happened.
The actual playtime animations though are very well done with batters swinging, pitcher throwing, players running the bases and fielding all very realistically portrayed. There is also some sweet Matrix style replay’s for double plays that has the players stop motion while the camera pans around the play and then follows the ball in slow motion. There was a few instances though that I felt the camera was not in the optimal place on a few plays such as some diving stabs in the infield. The players tended to obscure the ball and the follow-through throw to the base was cut off completely. This was rare but it did happen on repeated occasions.
Stadiums are very nicely modeled and mimic the real thing to a fine degree of accuracy…except for the fact that the scoreboards are all dead. That’s right, every damn scoreboard in every damn stadium is non functional….what the hell?? The crowds are your typical 2D cardboard cutouts as well. When will we see a system with enough power to render a decent stadium crowd…I wonder… I also noticed that home run celebrations specific to each stadium were noticeably absent like the big apple popping up at Shea Stadium.
So while the overall presentation of the game is not what I would call “TV Style”, the overall graphics are quite functional and will not cause gamers to look away in disgust anymore. I just wish the overall appearance didn’t come off quite so sterile.
The games play-by-play is very well executed. The announcers have a full compliment of tag lines, a nice vocabulary and a good recap of each player’s previous at bat. There is also a nice amount of color commentary and a good rapport between the two. The biggest complaint here is the time lag in some of the play calling. For instance, when a player hits a homer there is a good second or two before the enthusiastic announcement of a HOMER is added. There was actually a few times where it was omitted all together. This is a perfect case where using the DVD medium as opposed to CD would have made a world of difference with DVD’s improved access time of the disc. The rest of the sounds are pretty much what one should expect in a baseball game and do not exceed into the realm of being anything memorable.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'High Heat Baseball 2003' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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