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Game Over Online ~ Triple Play 2000

GameOver Game Reviews - Triple Play 2000 (c) EA Sports, Reviewed by - FKrueger

Game & Publisher Triple Play 2000 (c) EA Sports
System Requirements Pentium 166, 16 MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 76%
Date Published Wednesday, March 31st, 1999 at 03:35 PM

Divider Left By: FKrueger Divider Right

Play Ball! With spring training in high gear and the start of the regular season just around the corner, it’s time to enjoy America’s pastime, baseball. Over the next month, we’re going to be treated to more baseball games then you can shake a stick at. High Heat Baseball 2000, Hardball 6 2000 Edition, Sport Baseball Edition 2000, and MS Baseball 2000 among others. Leading off the top of the first inning is EA Sports’ Triple Play 2000. Like the 1997-98 MLB season, EA Sports is hoping for a comeback season with Triple Play 2000, since last year’s offering was less than impressive. They promised to shuffle the roster this time around, concentrating more on action and less on simulation. Did they produce a winner?

Well, shuffle the roster they did. For the 2000 edition, EA Sports brings to the plate authentic looking ballparks, Major League Baseball and MLB Players Association licenses, authentic looking players, lifelike facial expressions and gestures, batting stances, and the usual array of features you’d expect in any given baseball title. It all looks good on paper, but then again so did the Baltimore Orioles last year, and look where they ended up.

Triple Play 2000 supports both Direct3D and 3DFX modes, and both look and feel great. The players are rendered much better this time around, and some of them actually look like their real-life counterparts. When Gary Sheffield steps up to the plate, he nervously wiggles his bat a little. When Mo Vaughn steps up to the plate, he actually looks like Mo Vaughn with his trademark batting stance. Ken Griffey Jr looks like Ken Griffey when he tosses his bat aside after nailing a dinger. These added touches give a little more individuality to each player and help disguise the fact that the player’s faces still don’t look right, despite the addition of individual facial expressions. That’s right, ballplayers chew gum, grimace in disgust over a called third strike, and smile after they’ve hit a home run. But when Randy Johnson and Ken Caminiti look like they were separated at birth, you know there’s still a lot of work to be done. Another nice touch is the addition of body sizes. Big Daddy Cecil Fielder no longer looks as slender as Tony Fernandez, but rather looks like he could lose a few pounds. Mark McGwire’s cannons actually differ from the size of Cal Ripken’s, and so forth. While the unique batting stances was a nice touch, I would have liked to seen unique pitching styles as well. When Kevin Brown winds up for his patented sinker, I want to know it’s him. You can’t tell David Wells’ windup from Roger Clemens’. None the less, the little touches they did include add a nice touch of reality in an otherwise unrealistic baseball game (as we’ll see later).

The stadium graphics are extremely well done. Fenway Park looks like Fenway Park, and the dimensions are right on the money. Banners and pennants actually sway back and forth on windy days. The sky textures could be a little better though. Gray skies abound on rainy days, and it’s not a pleasant thing to look at when your slugger hits a round tripper, leaving you to watch the ball fly through the bland sky. The lighting effects are pretty well done too. Depending on the time of day and the stadium in question, shadows are cast on the field according to the dimensions of the stadium. Triple Play 2000 has adapted a new camera system too. Numerous camera angles are available, giving the game a much more polished feel to it. Some might even say that the game has taken on a broadcast feel to it with it’s multiple camera system.

One area that EA Sports seems to excel at, is the sound department. This year’s edition is no different. The play-by-play commentary is nicely done. It’s well-timed, and although it did repeat itself on a few occasions, it was mostly appropriate throughout the game. Crowd noises are abundant, but if I hear the stadium announcer tell me one more time to keep an eye on the action because "foul balls can injure fans", I’m going to give him a beating. On field sound effects are right on target and they even added a few dramatic effects. For example, when you really tear the covering off a fastball, you hear a whooshing sound that emphasizes the power of the swing. From the crowd ambiance, to the menu music, EA Sports has nailed the sound on the head as usual.

Triple Play 2000 offers exhibition play, regular season play, and the home run derby. The focus this year seems to have shifted from the extreme simulation mode, which was present in last year’s edition, to a more action oriented mode. Hitting the ball is now extremely easy, no matter where the pitch is thrown. It seems as though no pitch is unhittable, the sweet spot engulfs the entire plate. What results? A league wide race to eclipse Mark McGwire’s new home run record. In the first 8 games of the season, I managed to hit three home runs in a game, on three occasions, with two different players. Power hitters are extremely valuable at the plate, no matter what the difficulty setting. Given, the highest difficulty level is indeed incredibly tough, but it only took me a few innings to get the hang of the pitching patterns. Besides hitting home runs, singles abound in the game as well. Home runs and singles seem to be the order of the day in Triple Play 2000. Doubles are extremely difficult to get for some reason, and I can’t even fathom the possibility of actually hitting a triple in this game. It’s just not possible, the outfielders’ speed and arm strength don’t allow it unless they completely misplay the ball.

On the other hand, pitching and fielding the ball are both handled nicely. Neither are very difficult to do, although you won’t find you’ll be able to strike many batters out with the implementation of the new sweet spot. You can control just about every aspect of your defense too. If you want to play the batter to pull, you can shift your defense to play the line, etc. There are several options you can toggle in relation to fielding. If you find it difficult to field ground balls, like myself when I first started playing, you can turn on the computer aid and it becomes much easier. One gripe I do want to mention is the incredibly annoying tendency for the opposing pitcher to hold your runners. When one of your batters reaches first base, I found that the pitcher checked him at first at least a half dozen times per batter. I can understand if Kenny Loften or Tony Womack were on first, but in this case it was my pitcher, Darryl Kile, who had reached base. He’s absolutely no threat to steal a bag and it was extremely annoying to watch this over and over.

As mentioned before, the simulation aspect of Triple Play was dimmed in this version. You can still start a regular season with some interesting features, but they are few and far between. It does allow you to draft a season, or start with the regular rosters which is nice. You can also enable ‘smart trades’, which basically means that the AI will decide whether the trade you are offering is respectable or not. It will decline or accept your offers. What this does though, is limit trading to an extent. You can only trade a catcher for a catcher. You can’t trade a catcher for a pitcher, the AI deems that an illegal trade. This ‘smart AI’ has a number of loop holes as you can imagine. Players have ratings (1-100), and it seems as though the criteria for a trade to happen is that the total you give away equals the total you receive. So you can trade two 60 rated players, for a 90 rated and a 30 rated player. For example, I managed to trade Shannon Stewart and Tony Fernandez from the Blue Jays to the Mariners, for Ken Griffey Jr and their worst roster player. Sound fair to you? One of the surprising factors with this ‘smart AI’, is that teams will trade amongst each other if needed. After playing a dozen games, I noticed that the computer controlled teams made a couple of deals. It’s good to know that computer controlled teams try to improve themselves, just as you do.

The controls in Triple Play 2000 are excellent. Besides keyboard and gamepad control, they added in a new mouse control. Pitches are selected using a menu and choosing a location from a pop-up grid. Fielders are guided by a yellow arrow indicating the closest route to get the ball and fielding is managed using the left and right mouse buttons. Similarly, hitting is more of a point-and-click affair and much easier than using the keyboard or even the gamepad. I still prefer using the gamepad myself, but fans of mouse control are going to love this new addition. As mentioned before, there are three difficulty levels, including the addition of a new rookie level for those players who want to get the handle of hitting and fielding.

Triple Play 2000 offers a number of multiplayer options. They include support for IPX, Serial, Modem, TCP/IP and the addition of the EA Sports Net server. I was able to test both the TCP/IP and Modem connection games, and in both instances I experienced little to no lag using a 56k connection. EA Sports hasn’t been known over the years to support great multiplayer games, but Triple Play 2000 does a decent job here.

As expected, Triple Play 2000 steps up the plate with great anticipation from the crowd. They weren’t able to hit a home run this year, but they didn’t exactly strike out either. Since doubles are such a rarity in Triple Play 2000, I suppose I can best describe it as a long single… it should have been more, but it’s a decent hit none the less. It will undoubtedly score and there’s no question it’ll step up to the plate next year for another shot. I suppose we can only hope they have a productive off season, because the more and more I play Triple Play 2000, I realize how similar it is to the previous version. While the NHL and FIFA series’ manage to turn out great editions year in and year out, the Triple Play series doesn’t seem to make those same leaps and bounds. For baseball fans, that’s a shame.


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