Triple Play 2000

Remember that classic baseball song "Take me out to the ballgame"? EA Sports will soon have you singing "Take me IN to the ballgame" after you see and/or play their latest and greatest baseball game, Triple Play 2000. This latest release in the Triple Play series is about as real as they come without actually going out to the field itself.

Gameplay

With any game, great control is absolutely essential to great gameplay. There are many controls in this game, they respond well, but they sometimes can get confusing. The good news here is that not all of the controls are needed to get a game going. However, as you play and get better you will definitely want to learn the extra command set. As with all baseball games, general control depends on whether you're at bat or in the outfield. Batting, in my opinion, is the easiest part of the game to get a hold of and the most fun. You have the ability to swing normal, power swing, or bunt. In addition, you can also specify whether you want to hit a grounder, pop fly, or medium height. Before the pitch, you have the ability to move the batter and/or rotate him anywhere in the batter's box. Once you hit, have been hit, or get walked, the base running can be handled either manually or automatically. As with every good baseball game, sliding into base is there. You can even attempt to plow into the baseman if the need for it arises. When in the outfield or pitching, the controls are slightly more complicated, but not too difficult to get the hang of -- especially if you're used to video baseball games. As the pitcher, you have the choice of up to four different pitches: fast, curve, slider, and change-up. The pitcher will determine which combinations of these are available. You can also try to foil pick-off attempts. When a ball is hit high, a red target and arrows pointing to this target show up so you'll know where to move your fielders. You can hustle faster and jump if needed to catch a ball. In addition to the basic hitting, running, and fielding commands, you also have the ability to direct the position the infield or outfield players, warm up pitchers, substitute players, change the viewpoint of the camera, and the list goes on, and on, and on. In a sentence, this game more or less gives you total control over everything that's happening on the field. In fact, there is one case where you have a bit too much control -- it is actually possible for players to slide into first base, which simply is not legal in the real thing.

At the harder levels of play as the computer fields more efficiently and batting is harder. The different difficulty levels are Rookie, Pro, All-Star, and Custom. Custom is especially nice as you may want to enable or disable certain features. The menus in this game are pretty self-explanatory and simple to move through although I thought the fonts were a bit small in some places. There are a ton of options in this game to suit everyone from the T-ball player to the Major League manager. As with most sports games these days, you have the ability to completely manage your team from trading to selecting free agents. There is even a feature for building your own player from scratch. The level of detail you can add to your custom player impressed me. For example, when building the player, you can select skin color, fielding and batting glove colors, and even different types of facial hair. Of course, in order to save any management changes you've made, you will need a Controller Save Pak.

In addition to a standard single game, you can also play or simulate a full season or playoff games, and even play a home run challenge. The season and playoff games allow you to select the participating teams and then sets up the games. Each game can then be simulated or actually played. My favorite option in the game is the home run challenge that has any two players trying to hit as many home runs as possible and anything that isn't a home run is considered out. When setting up any type of game, you can set up single player, two-player head-to-head, or have the computer play itself. The graphics and sound are so good in this game that, believe it or not, it is actually fun to watch the computer play itself. Think of it as watching regular baseball without commercials! The teams and rosters are all current as of January 1, 1999. Every field is also present and in some cases (such as with Safeco Field in Seattle) the field isn't even open yet (although it will be later this year)!

Graphics

My, oh my! These graphics are absolutely incredible. Each person on the field has very nice detail from shading to stance to uniform to their shadow. Every baseball field is very accurately rendered and some fields even allow you to see skyscrapers or other city buildings in the background. The are numerous camera angles in the game which will allow you to see all different parts of the stadium, players, and the plays themselves. You will see a very nicely rendered sky regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. The graphics are definitely one of the high points of the game and really add to the fun.

Audio

The sounds and music in this game are as wonderful as the graphics. At any given time, you can hear the noise, cheers, and jeers of the fans. The organ or a message over the PA system will occasionally play in the background also. When the home team is at bat, a tidbit of some song will typically play as the batter steps up to the plate. There are other somewhat silly sounds such as a springy sound when a ball is hit foul or the sound of a cannon firing when the ball goes flying far. The speech in the game is quite good whether it is from the umpire or commentator. I was impressed by the commentator verbally calling each player's actual name as they walk up to the plate. The only gripe I have in this section is that the commentator always seems to call the shots before the umpire does. For instance, the commentator will typically call out before the umpire does. While this doesn't affect gameplay, I found it a little annoying.

System Features Supported

Both the Rumble Pak and Controller Save Pak are supported. I was a bit disappointed that the Rumble Pak doesn't vibrate when hitting or catching a ball. The Controller Save Pak is required to save user options, season, and playoff information.

Reviewer's Note

Although this review was based on the Nintendo64 version, I have also played the PlayStation version and although there are some minor differences between the two, the PlayStation version is just as nice as the Nintendo64 version.

Bottom Line

To the track, the wall, it's outta here! EA Sports has hit another home run with their latest baseball game, Triple Play 2000. This is by far the best baseball game I have ever seen out of any console, PC, or coin-op arcade game out there. This is the closest you can possibly come to playing in the major leagues without actually playing the real thing.

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