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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

3DO

 

Developer

3DO

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

-A pitcher/batter interface that is unparalleled by any other baseball game...ever.
-The most realistic presentation of arcade baseball on the PS2
-The ballpark sounds
-You can play most games in a half hour

 

 

-The graphics and animations leave much to be desired
-A few gameplay quirks
-When a player is injured in Season Mode, the number of days the player is out is not given
-No Career Mode!

 

 

Review: High Heat Baseball 2003 (PC)

 

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High Heat Major League Baseball 2003

Score: 9 / 10

 

If High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 were a character in the teen comedy, American Pie 2, it would be the flute playing, redheaded Michelle. She is portrayed in the movie as a nerdy, unattractive, substance over style type of girl. The main character, Jim, originally has eyes for a drop-dead gorgeous European, Nadia, but after spending countless hours with Michelle chooses the less attractive girl who owns the substance.

 

high-heat-baseball-2003-1.jpg (79606 bytes)          high-heat-baseball-2003-2.jpg (72153 bytes)

 

High Heat, like Michelle, isn't the most glamorous choice, but once you get over the visual technicality what remains is a sports gaming masterpiece.

 

High Heat has always had the most realistic, if not most appealing, on-field experience of any of the competing arcade baseball games. The success of the gameplay is heavily dependant on the incredible pitcher-batter interface.

 

Hitting in HH is a much different experience than in the other baseball games. The main difference is the omission of a batting icon, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think when you are provided with a batting and pitching icon you are not hitting and pitching, but rather matching up one icon to the other.

 

As a result of the lack of icons, hitting in High Heat is more of a time-based task. The main gripe about the lack of a hitting icon is that gamers think they lose the ability to hit the ball where they want to (meaning the ability to pull the ball or go with a pitch). This is a much easier task with a hitting icon because you can simply aim the icon to the left or right of the pitching icon. What most people fail to realize is that you can also direct the ball wherever you want in High Heat. It just takes some practice.

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No other game on the PS2 accurately depicts the velocity and movement of the pitches as well as High Heat. Anyone who has played this game will share stories of being completely fooled by a changeup after a well-placed fastball. The breaking balls also have a realistic snap to them. Some of the pitches are a bit exaggerated in their movement (which causes the ball to have a woofle-ball look to it), but overall, hitting is a truly authentic experience.

 

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Pitching is an equally awarding experience. As with hitting, there is no icon to use. Pitching is a simple process. You simply select a pitch, whether you want to throw a ball or a strike, and then the portion of the strike zone you want the ball to go to. Where in some games it seems that every pitcher has Greg Maddux-esque control, High Heat does a masterful job of accurately portraying a pitcher's talents. You will immediately notice the control difference between an all-star pitcher and a green rookie. Where with a guy like Maddux you can pretty much pinpoint your pitches, a pitcher with less control will throw in areas that you had not intended.

 

The most gratifying experience in the game is striking out a batter that you knew you had set up. A few low-and-away fastballs followed by a sweeping curve up-and-in resulting in a K is something that only a true baseball fan could enjoy and is something that High Heat brings to the table.

 

Although up to this point I have been singing the game praises, High Heat is far from perfect. As I alluded to above, the game is not the prettiest to look at. Simply put, High Heat cannot hold a candle to the All Star Baseballs and Triple Plays of the world.

 

Only a select few of the players have their faces mapped, and even those players' faces have a jumbled up and distorted look. It also appears that High Heat only has a four or five standard body sizes. It wouldn't be as discouraging if it weren't for the fact that Triple Play makes a unique player model for almost every baseball player. The stadiums look decent, but leave much to be desired. There are a few petty inaccuracies, but they aren't worth mentioning. It seems that many of the stadiums were given 3-D upgrades, as there were less of the 2D sprites that plagued last year's game.

 

There are also some animations missing which result in a jerky movement during gameplay. When compared to All Star Baseball, the smoothness of fielding and throwing is like night and day. High Heat can't keep up with the Jones' in the graphical department.

 

While I enjoyed the hitting and pitching, there are also a few gameplay quirks that I found frustrating. For starters, it seemed that every time a man was on second and there was a hit, the man on second would always score. It didn't matter if Ichiro or Mo Vaughn was on second...they were scoring. I think the reason for this was the lack of fluidness in the fielding of the ball. The extra second it takes to field the ball makes all the difference. I also thought that there were too many outstanding diving plays. I don't mind the occasional fantastic defensive play where a player sprawls out to get the out, but when it happens five or six times a game I have to draw the line.

 

But the biggest gripe I have has nothing to do with the gameplay, but rather in the game's options. For some reason, High Heat has decided to leave out a multiple season or career mode. While some of you may wonder why I care if there is a multiple season mode when there are 162 games in a season, the lack of a career mode meant the omission of a number of things: a minor league system, a team salary, free agency, a Hall of Fame, career stat tracking, and an amateur draft. And just because there are 162 games in a season, it doesn't mean that you have to play them all. I know of many people who played High Heat on the PC (where it was rumored you could play more than 32,000 seasons in a dynasty, why then that on the PS2 we can't have more than one is astonishing to me) to just sim games and watch their teams and players develop over a number of years. I would hope that High Heat and 3DO would incorporate some kind of multiple-season mode for next year's game.

 

Despite the lack of a career mode, there are still plenty of game modes to choose from. There is seven games modes to choose from: exhibition, season, Two-on-Two Showdown, playoffs, batting practice, All-Star game, and a Home Run Derby. This was quite an upgrade from last year's game, which only had an exhibition and season mode.

 

The game mode that is the most resourceful is the batting practice mode. You can choose any hitter and pitcher in the game and choose a number of pitches to hit. If you have trouble hitting a left-handed slider, you could go to batting practice and work on that.

 

The in-game audio is spectacular. High Heat does an incredible job of re-creating the ballpark atmosphere. You will hear sound bytes from vendors, crowds, stadium announcer, and a two-man announcing booth. A cool thing about the crowds is that they appear to be scaled to real-life. When I played a game in Yankee Stadium, the place was nearly packed, but when I played a game in Montreal against the Expos (a team that is being threatened with contraction due to its lackluster ticket sales) there were empty seats everywhere.

 

The two-man announcing booth does a decent job of announcing the game, but lacks the chemistry that other sports games, most notably the NFL and NBA Sega Sports series, have. The two announcers almost never talk or analyze together. It's just two guys up there saying their own individual lines.

 

I also noticed that many of the corny phrases the announcers used have been re-hashed from the High Heat games from year's previous when Ted Robinson was the play-by-play guy. I have heard this certain phrase for the past three years and I still don't know what a "Major League Pop Fly" is. But overall the announcers do a good job of announcing the game.

 

In real life, baseball has been taking some knocks for being a sport that takes an un-Godly amount of time. Out of the three PS2 baseball games (All Star Baseball 2003, Triple Play Baseball 2002 being the other two), High Heat is the most convenient to play. You can adjust the game pace (the amount of time the computer takes between pitches) and if you have it on one of the faster speeds, it is not unusual to finish a nine-inning game in around 30-35 minutes. I have played ASB 2003 and a game takes well over an hour to complete and Triple Play isn't much better! Don't get me wrong, the game pace isn't so blindingly quick that you can't enjoy what is going on, but it moves along at the perfect pace.

 

In closing, I would like to say that I am a gamer that enjoys baseball games that play close to real life and that I reviewed the game in that subjective manner. If you are someone that enjoys a baseball game that has a lot of home runs and strikeouts, a game like Triple Play 2002 would be a much wiser choice. But if you consider yourself a true baseball fan you can't go wrong with High Heat. It's not the prettiest choice by any means, but in my book (and maybe Jason Bigg's), it's a keeper.

 

- Tim Martin

 

(April 3, 2002)

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