High Heat Major League Baseball 2003
I've always said that if 3DO spiffied up this franchise's graphics, they would have a winner on their hands. Well, they've finally done it. Better late than never, right? Now I'm not saying that this game looks so good that it re-creates Randy Johnson's mullet like never before. Rather, I'm just happy that for once, High Heat's graphics won't scare you away before you get to enjoy the game underneath. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but the amazing gameplay is what makes this worth the price of admission. This is the only next-generation title that realistically re-creates every facet of the game. There was nary a play that made me roll my eyes in disbelief (most baseball games have my peepers spinning like a slot machine by the seventh-inning stretch) and the post-game scoresheet was so detailed that it looked like it was ripped right out of Baseball Weekly, both literally and figuratively. I'd even go out on a limb and bet that this brainy game crunches more numbers than Rosie O'Donnell's dietician. Suffice it to say, this is one great simulation. If other games have spoiled you by letting you smack 20 home runs and 30 base hits a game, then you're in for a rude awakening. You'll have to string together bloopers, sacrifice flies and steals to manufacture valuable runs. But don't let that scare you away. Baseball is much more fun when you don't have to aim for the fences at every at-bat.
High Heat has always been strong on realism and authenticity. Its presentation, however, left a lot to be desired. That's not the case anymore. I'm not sure what technology 3DO used, but the players' faces look like they were peeled off the real guys. Overall, the graphics, animation and sound are much improved. More importantly, the game is intelligent and relatively glitch-free. (Nothing ruins the fun faster than a fielding bug). I only wish the pitches were less arched, but with the option to speed up the delivery, it's not much of a gripe. HH 2003 is currently the most balanced and challenging baseball game you'll find for the PS2.
True baseball junkies will get their fix from High Heat. Arcade enthusiasts need not apply here, as HH does a fabulous job of modeling real pitcher/batter duels. Working the count for balls and strikes, looking for the right pitch, or throwing your "out" pitch are not just cliches in High Heat. That satisfying level of strategy and depth is carried throughout the game. Realistic stats and outcomes are the norm here, and your managerial skills will be tested. If you long for the visual gloss of All-Star Baseball or Triple Play, then High Heat might look a little rough around the edges. If you're a fan of this series, or crave simulation baseball, HH 2003 is a must.