So far we’ve had the chance to see the arcade style of Triple Play
2000 and the simulation style of Hardball 6 2000 Edition, now it’s
time for 3DO / Team .366 to step up to the plate with High Heat
Baseball 2000. The 1999 version was highly acclaimed, apart from
the poor graphics. The 2000 edition, simply put, is a home run. It’s
the best of both worlds, simulation and arcade, without
compromising much in either style.
The biggest improvement between the 1999 and 2000 editions of
High Heat Baseball is the graphics. High Heat Baseball 2000 sports
sweet 3DFX graphics including motion captured polygonal players
and real-time lightning. They’ve crafted beautiful 3D stadiums that
are both accurate in dimension, and beautifully detailed. There
are 38 stadiums in total, including San Francisco’s new Pacific Bell
Ballpark, and two classic stadiums, Ebbets Field and the Polo
Grounds. The sky textures are extremely well done. Whether
you’re playing under the hot sun, or the glow of the moon, it’s very
realistic. They even managed to capture the twilight sky with nice
precision. The ground textures are also smooth and detailed. It’s
obvious they spent a lot of time tweaking graphics that were
absent in last year’s edition.
The players themselves are nicely rendered, but they still fall short
of those in EA Sports’ Triple Play 2000. While they are motion
captured and animated, they still lack individuality. You can’t tell
one player apart from another besides the color of their skin and
the jersey on their back. On top of that, Hispanic and Asian
players’ skin tone are weak and really stand out. There’s also no
size difference between players, so standing side by side, Mark
McGwire and Cal Ripken look very similar. This is one area they
could definitely improve on in the coming years.
The menu system in High Heat Baseball 2000 is very nice. A
combination of pull-down and graphical menus make for an
effective and easy-to-navigate system. There are five different
modes to select from. Exhibition, Season, Career, Home Run
Challenge and Playoffs. The career mode is the highlight of the
package and far exceeds the career modes available in other
baseball titles. Besides the normal array of features, the career
mode includes a realistic aging curve, players retiring based on
age and skill level, and new rookie prospects each new season.
Not only do you handle your regular 25 man roster, but you’ll have
a multi-layered farm system to handle as well. Triple A, Double A
and Single A teams are all included, and players from those teams
will develop as the season prolongs, allowing you to develop,
recruit and trade players for the future. If one of your veterans
retires at season’s end, you’ll have the choice to replace him with
a number of different prospects in your system. While High Heat
Baseball 2000 does feature all 1999 MLBPA player rosters and MLB
team rosters, the farm system players are all fictional. Several
promising rookies are not included in the game for those diehard
simulation fans. Computer controlled teams aren’t just going to sit
there either, they’ll be making moves just as you do, and an
advanced AI allows the computer controlled teams to trade
amongst each other, and even make offers to you. When it comes
to season and career modes, High Heat Baseball has it all, except
maybe a financial model, but I suppose that’s asking a little too
much right now.
When I first started playing an actual game in High Heat Baseball
2000, I was very impressed. The flow of the game was smooth and
realistic, I experienced absolutely no lag at any time during the
game. They did a top notch job on the physics of the game. They
also improved the gameplay quite a bit. They’ve introduced a new
TruPitch technology that allows you to select from 9 different
pitches and have a little more control with the location of your
pitches. I’d still prefer to see a cursor method of control as seen in
the Hardball series, but this was an improvement none the less.
Hitting is the same as it’s always been. I suppose you shouldn’t fix
what isn’t broken.
The fielding aspect of the game has been improved as well. Once
again, the TruPlay technology has been used to create a more
true-to-life fielding experience. Fielders can dive, slide, roll and
jump in order to field the ball. Base running has also been
improved a bit, and is especially noticeable in run downs. Rather
then players stopping on a dime and making a perfect 180 degree
turn to retrieve back to their base, players will actually dig in and
lose a little momentum before attempting to return to the bag.
These little added touches are what separate the pretenders from
the contenders, and High Heat Baseball 2000 does a great job.
More cameras are implemented in High Heat Baseball 2000,
creating a broadcast type feel for the game. There are a half
dozen different camera angles to choose from when fielding,
pitching or hitting. The replay feature offers a dynamic camera
that allows you to view the replay from anywhere on the field.
Other features in gameplay include a ‘Guess Pitch’ option. When
this option is activated, players can attempt to guess what pitch the
pitcher is throwing. If they guess correctly, they’ll have a better
success rate when trying to hit the pitch. If they guess wrong, their
chances decrease. When games are completed, statistical box
scores are presented that are unmatched in any other baseball
title. You’ll be able to track dozens upon dozens of different stats
based on these reports.
High Heat Baseball 2000 isn’t without its faults though. The major
gripe I have with the game is the extremely poor way they
handled roster changes during the game. When you want to
change your pitcher, bring in a pitch hitter/runner, or make a
positional substitution, you have to bring up a series of menus that
take you out of the game. After you’ve made your change, it has to
re-load the game. It might not sound like much, but it’s a pain
none the less and it should have been made more fluent.
Simulating games is also a tedious affair. While it does manage to
simulate games with a lot more accuracy then say Triple Play
2000, it also takes a heck of a lot longer.
High Heat Baseball 2000 features Ted Robinson as your
play-by-play commentator. San Francisco Giants fans will know his
voice well. The commentary is very well done. It’s well timed and
features a nice variety of comments. It doesn’t lag the game much,
although it tends to lag it at the beginning of each game. Once you
get through the first batter though, it seems to run smoothly.
Besides the commentary from the press box, you’ll also get the
occasional heckler hassling you. In the background, you can hear
the stadium announcer announce each player as they get to the
plate. Crowd effects and field effects are your average expected
noises. The game also sports some music in and outside of the
game. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the music though, it
could have been a little better.
It all sounds good so far, but what about multiplayer? Well,
baseball fans will be happy to know they’ve improved the
multiplayer speed. Supported connections include head-to-head
via LAN, modem or the Internet. I played a couple of games on my
trusty 56k modem, and I experienced only a little lag during the
actual gameplay. There does seem to be a bit of lag between
innings as the camera pans around the stadium, but the gameplay
is minimally effected.
Baseball fans can rejoice now that High Heat Baseball 2000 has hit
the field. It’s highly immersive and incredibly realistic. It’s the
cleanup hitter, the ace of the rotation, it’s simply the best baseball
game available for the PC. I suppose that’s jumping the gun a
little, since a number of baseball titles are still yet to come, but it’ll
take a Sammy Sosa’esque swing to catch this heater.