Triple Play '99
Here I was, sitting at my desk on a crisp March afternoon just minding my own business. I was not bothering anyone, nor was I expecting much excitement for the remainder of the afternoon. Maybe go over some press releases or check the Internet for some new info on upcoming titles. Mr. US Postal Worker was running behind schedule (not that I am complaining... nice postal worker) so the mail had not yet arrived. Just as I was thinking that the mail was not going to come, there it was. And what was this? A package from EA Sports? I was not expecting anything from them for at least a month. What could it be? To my delight, I found inside that package Triple Play 99! It looked as if my afternoon might be perking up after all.
If you are a devoted GameAbandonware reader, you should know by now my love for baseball games. You should also be aware of my disappointment that the PSX has given me when it comes to quality baseball titles. There were plenty available last year and each and every one of them failed to live up to my expectations. I have been waiting for the day to come when the 2nd and 3rd generation baseball games start rolling in. The day has finally arrived.
You may have noticed that I scored this game exactly as last years offering, Triple Play 98. Does that mean that this game is exactly the same as last year? Definitely not. Actually, the game has really taken some amazing strides forward. Then why the same score? Because while it has taken a step forward in some areas, the game has taken two steps back in others. Read on and I'll explain.
In TP 98, I had a bitch of a time maneuvering through the menu system. Invariably, I would push the wrong button and have to start trying to set the game up again. It usually took at least two times before I hit the right combination of buttons, selected my team, and started playing. TP 99 has a completely revamped menu system making game setup a snap. Everything is easy to access, and starting a game is as simple as a single button push. Once you get the feel for it, the advanced options and stats are also easy to access, as well as manipulate.
Another thing that the Triple Play franchise continues to improve between versions is the stadium design, sounds, and atmosphere. This year is no exception. It is amazing how true to life the ballparks look. Being from Seattle, I went straight to the Kingdome. Everything from the dimensions, to the layout, to the colors, to the aisle-ways looked perfect. You could tell that a tremendous amount of time was spent on creating the stadiums and trying to model them as closely to real life as possible. Along with the stadiums, the general atmosphere has been upgraded. The home fans will boo when the ump calls a ball on a close pitch. When your star player comes up to bat, the crowd cheers. When your pitcher is getting rocked, a fan yells "come on, Mariners" or whatever team you are playing as. All in all, you will feel like you have a real crowd watching the game. I do have one question though: If EA Sports put so much time in making the stadiums realistic, why did they not include the fireworks after homeruns? I have been to a bunch of different stadiums and watched a lot of baseball on TV and it seems like at least half of the teams have some sort of fireworks display after a homerun. I can't help but think this would have been an easy addition that would have made the atmosphere complete. Oh well, maybe next year.
Great, so the game is easy to start and the atmosphere is good, but how does it play? The answer is a resounding... good and bad. The overall feel of the game and about 95 percent of the gameplay is great. The game is presented in a TV style format. This means that the camera angles are always switching to give you the best possible view. This game is definitely the best I have seen in a baseball game at changing the angles to prudent locations. A problem that has plagued other games in the past is that the camera would occasionally get confused and not pick the best angle for viewing the play. I never had that problem here. Along the same lines of the angles, you can custom pick your view point as a batter. The game is boasting a first person perspective, which is very cool except that I could never get the hang of it. It feels like nothing you have ever tried before in a baseball game. Like I said, I never did quite get the feeling for it, but it is cool nonetheless.
As far as the basics go, hitting, pitching, and fielding are all relatively simple. You have your standard controls for all of these which are very easy to use. Where the game really shines is in the little extras. You can easily climb the wall to steal away a homerun, which you don't realize how cool it is until you actually do it. Also, a lot of time was put into the detail and realism of the fielding. A double play ball may have the shortstop throwing off his back foot to the second basement who then jumps to avoid the sliding runner and the first baseman stretches to scoop the low throw. That is all pretty standard stuff in real baseball, but it's never before been captured—until now.
One last thing on the positive 95 percent. A major complaint that I had with the original was that it was too easy to hit a homerun. Boy, did they fix that problem. Depending on the skill level you chose, homeruns are not an every at bat occurrence. On the lower skill levels, you may hit more but on the higher skill levels, it is tough. I mean real tough.
But as long as we are talking about skill levels, let me get into the 5 percent of the game that had its negatives. My first complaint was in the skill level department. The game had four different skill levels ranging from beginner to all star. The problem I had was that on beginner and Rookie, the computer does the fielding for you and the pitching is not as good. As soon as you crank it up one level to pro, you are on your own to do everything. You had no fielding help and the pitching was downright tough. To give you an example, I was playing the game on Rookie, just to get a feel for things. I proceeded to kick the crap out of the team I was playing. No problem, I will move up a level to pro. Now, not only could I not get any hits (2 in nine innings), I was getting the crap kicked out of me because I had to learn how to manually field the ball. My point is that it would have been much better to be able to select difficulty for each category so everything was not thrown in your face at once. It would have been cool to be able to keep the pitching at a rookie level but change the fielding to manual. That way I would be able to concentrate on my fielding and not worry if I misjudged a fly ball because I knew I would have a chance to get the run back. On the pro setting, I never felt like I had a chance to get back into the game.
I know that the skill level thing was fairly trivial, but not my next complaint. Not only is this not trivial, it is almost inexcusable. This problem alone is why the score got knocked down at least 15 points. If a batter hits a hard single to an outfielder (left, center and occasionally right) the outfielder can throw the runner out at first. Yeah, you read that right. On a sharp grounder to an outfielder, there is a good chance you can throw the runner out at first. Give me a break! This was a problem on Atari Baseball on my Atari 400 computer. It was also a problem on a first generation NES game I used to play. Come on, this is a third generation PSX title, for crying out loud. How in the hell does this make it into a game today? I mean, this game does such an excellent job of making you believe you're at the ballpark. The players look good, the stadiums look good and the game screams realistic simulation. Then they go and do this. To me, this is the equivalent of a money play in Madden football. You know the ones--the play that you can always rip off a huge gainer. Most people who have any videogame credibility or integrity will usually go on good faith not to run these plays. This is the same thing in TP 99. You had to make a conscious effort not to throw the ball to first base. It is almost like cheating. I thought this was lame on the Atari. I thought this was lame on the NES. I REALLY think this bites the big one in a PSX game.
Another minor thing that bothered me about the game was an obvious bug that made it into the production copy of the game. Let's say you are pitching to a switch hitter. Your pitcher is right handed so the batter is batting left handed, which means he is on the left side of the plate. Before throwing a single pitch, you decide to bring in a relief pitcher that is left handed. You would expect the batter to change over to the right side of the plate, correct? Well, the batter does in fact move to the other side of the plate. The problem is that the batter is now in the right handed batters box but he is still facing left! That means he is facing off the screen with his back directly to the plate. Huh? He will still swing at a ball over the plate and make contact even though his bat is swinging on the opposite side of the screen but come on. This is a third generation title from a company that strives and thrives on quality sports games. How does this make it past the testers?
Graphically, TP 99 is excellent. The players are all made of polygons and they look pretty realistic. Little guys are now little and big guys are now big. Players with facial hair have facial hair and so on. The TV style presentation works great, and you will feel like you are watching a ball game on the tube. The stadiums were also incredible with an enormous amount of detail spent on each and every park.
If you can get past the glitches and oversights, this is a fun game to play. I really enjoy the realistic look and feel of the game. I wish that EA had waited a few more weeks to put this game out and fixed the little things that managed to sneak through the cracks. If you are starving for a new baseball game before the real season gets underway, this will be your only choice. All in all, you should be satisfied to a certain degree.
Download Triple Play '99
OK, first--the good stuff: Triple Play's overall presentation and feel are top-notch. If I were reviewing the game based on presentation alone, it'd get a 10, easily. From the intro to the game interface to the menu graphics and sound effects--everything is done perfectly. The play-by-play is astoundingly good (even better than NHL 98's), and the crowd interaction is without a doubt the best I've ever heard. Also, the stat tracking is second to none. You can play an entire career and track the stats of every player, and the game will even bring up interesting stats from time to time based on your overall playing experience. Impressive. Now, the bad stuff. The otherwise excellent gameplay of TP99 is marred by one severe problem--the frame-rate. It's so choppy that it not only makes the game look bad, but it affects fielding, often resulting in botched plays. There are some minor problems too, like baserunners going too fast (making double plays unrealistically infrequent), but nothing truly drastic. Overall it's too bad though, because if the game played smoother, it'd be nearly flawless. I'm still very pleased, but this one glaring problem really does affect play and absolutely needs to be fixed next time around. As it stands. Triple Play 99 is a very good game that could've-and should've-been great.
I don't think I've ever seen a sports game loaded with so many cool options, but with such flawed gameplay. This is like playing baseball in mud. The erratic frame-rate and choppy player animations make it difficult to field and judge pitching speeds (among other things). The intro, deep stats, features and sound (particularly the two-man commentary) are great, but it doesn't change the fact that this game isn't very fun to play.
We've all played games like this before: games that look sharp standing still...but once you see them in action...forget about it! Triple Play 99 suffers from some God-awful frame-rates (which adversely affects how the game plays and to a lesser extent, how it con trolls). The stadiums look nice, the play-byplays are awesome and the game is extremely easy to get into. The poor animation, however, keeps the game from stardom.
Triple Play could bring around the warm feeling of summertime ball play with its decent graphics, interesting and funny commentary and slick interface, but the game's choppy animation and graphics remind me all too much of the rigid, cold winter. If you can manage to overlook the animation, you're left with a fun baseball game with a load of options, and a good number of modes of play. I like Two-player Mode the best.
In an effort to get a running start on the competition and the new baseball season, EA is preparing to launch the newest edition of their Triple Play series earlier than ever before. Hopefully, this emphasis on timeliness won't hinder the development on the game. Judging from the early playable version that we have, it doesn't appear to be a problem.
Fans of the Triple Play series will immediately feel at home with the 99 edition. Some of the biggest changes include a faster interface and more intuitive controls. It seems EA is trying to make the game easy to control, while not sacrificing any of the realism or options the game has become known for. While some of this tweaking is accomplished through the streamlining of options, other parts of it are done through incredibly customizable skill levels.
Many aesthetic enhancements have been made, mainly achieved by the addition of new player animations (throw from the knees, running throws and a jumping throw) and smoother transitions between them. EA is also quick to point to their oddly named "Living Stadium Sound," which basically amounts to a lot of crowd chatter, two-man play-by-play commentary and random ballpark announcements.
Barring any huge gaffes, this array of subtle improvements to last year's solid (but not without flaws) baseball game should propel Triple Play 99 to the upper echelon of PlayStation baseball games.
- MANUFACTURER - EA Canada
- THEME - Sport
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-8
The competition's heating up in the PlayStation ballpark, but Triple Play '99 appears to be headed for a playoff spot with a nicely retooled look and promising gameplay.
Long Fly Ball...
For the past two seasons, Triple Play secured the PlayStation World Series without facing any serious chap leugers. This time around, competing games will likely give il a serious run for its money, but Triple '99's well prepared for the heat--this preview version already displayed the early signs of a strong baseball game. While enough of the game was still under construction in the unfinished version we played, that same taut pitcher/batter battle kept the action intense.
Best of all, though, vastly improved base-running controls round the bags with a simple, responsive setup that's way better than last year's clunky contraption. And EA has promised that the load times, game speed, pacing, and memory-card saves will be tuned far better than they have been in the past.
It's Way Back..
Visually, Triples looking much slicker than last season. Intriguing--and playable--perspectives bring the action much closer, automatically zooming in when you're trying to tag a runner or make a pickoff throw. The players sport a much higher level of detail and move around the field with plenty of eye-catching new animations, like running throws and wild slides.
Triples new first-person batting perspective was too incomplete to judge fairly, but no sports game to date has done this right yet, so hopefully EA will pull it off by giving the gamer a frame of reference that makes the view playable. Topping it all off, the ground-breaking two-man commentary that appeared in last year's game is back and better than before with more detailed and more varied calls.
Believe or not, baseball season is upon us, and EA Sports is striving to keep its firm grip on the PlayStation title with some sharp refinements to its Triple Play series.
On the Mound
Triple Play '99 will open the season with a hot roster of new features. EA's tuning up a first-person batting view--yup, you see through the batter's eyes--that it hopes will revolutionize baseball gaming like the World Series Baseball perspective did on the Genesis. Other killer additions include a Career mode for multiseason action, two-man commentary that adjusts to your season-long performance, and new moves like a barehanded grab and throw, a running throw, and a user-controlled slide that lets you try to evade the tag with the D-pad.
On the gameplay side, EA's focusing on appealing to all categories of baseball fans, so action fiends will find a mode where they can tear the cover off the ball, and sim nuts can get knee-deep in realism. The development team's also taking pains to improve on TP98's atrocious load times and glitchy memory-card saves.
Graphically, EA redid all the stadiums from the diamond up, creating realistic, eye-catching ballparks replete with all the retired numbers, ads, and so forth that line the walls. The players also got a serious makeover and now turn their head to follow the ball when it's hit or to glare at the umpire after a called strike. More signature moves and almost three times as many frames of animation should keep the eye-candy factor high.
Triple Play '99 comes so close to crossing the plate as the ultimate PlayStation baseball game. Unfortunately, EA Sports overlooked key elements like a fluid frame rate and intuitive controls, leaving behind a glitzy, enjoyable game that's riddled with frustrating flaws.
Long Fly Ball..
Triple starts off strong with a deep roster of features. The standard modes, pro players, pro teams, and real-life stadiums are complemented by nice touches like multi-season action, on-the-fly strategy, player creation, and trades. Sharp new views catch the eye (though the first-person view's an unplayable bust), and the menu screens and load times are a lot less hairy than last season.
But problems start cropping up with the controls. While Triple sports an excellent interface for pitching and batting, fielding is an exercise in frustration. You're frequently left out of the play, and by the time you switch to the right player, it's often too late. Good news when base running, though--while not perfect, it's more comfortable than it was in Triple '98.
Despite these problems, the game delivers exciting action flavored with just enough strategy. It's no arcade-style homerfest, and you have to play smart to win. But some odd quirks in the A.I., like CPU runners that can't decide whether to round first base, disrupt the authenticity. Baseall's diehard might get disgusted, but casual ballgamers will have a fine time.
It's Way Back.
Visually, Triple rocks the diamond with the best-looking playand stadiums in PlayStation baseball--when the game's standing still. But the stut-tery frame rate, especially when fielding, often reduces the action to a jerky slide show. Great animations, recognizable players, and slick stadiums minimize the pain, but most gamers will wish they could trade in some glitz for smoother gameplay.
On a brighter note, Triple's amazing two-man commentary is enough to make many players stick with the game. The announcers call the action with uncanny accuracy and variety, and they're backed up by tight sound effects.
Ground Rule Double
If you're the forgiving sort, the chunky frame rate and clunky controls become more comfortable with time, and it's easy to get seduced by Triple's flashy sights and sounds. If not, wait for word on MLB '99 before you buy a baseball game.
- Using aftertouch is crucial to good pitching; always keep the ball moving if you want strikes. Try making a curve break away from its natural path or dropping the bottom out of a sinker.
- Before batting, decide where you want to drive the ball and use the directional pad to aim. If you just swing away, you'll get lots of pop-ups and weak line drives.
- Listen to the announcers when they warn you about steals, sacrifice bunts, and the like--they're usually right!
- If you have no outs, a man on first, and you need to score, it's worth trading an out to get a runner in scoring position. Set up the steal, then lay dow n a sacrifice bunt.
- Don't swing for the fences every time. You'll generate more runs by getting men on base and into scoring position.
Obviously the follow-up to Triple Play '98 (are these being released earlier and earlier each year?), Triple Play '99 maintains the same idea as '98 while adding some extras, not the least of which is 3D acceleration. While a batter point-of-view is interesting and the GM career mode and manager mode can prolong the life of the game for true fans, mainly Triple Play '99 is a safe transition from last year’s model to next year’s.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Gameplay is solid, with each difficulty level giving you more control (thus making it more difficult). You really feel like you are learning as you advance. It makes you want to stand up and cheer to see your fielder dive or even climb the wall to make a spectacular catch. The interface for choosing your game is easy to navigate and the menus are eye-catching as well. I never had a chance to try the multiplayer features, but the usual accoutrements are here, like modem-to-modem, LAN, and Internet play, although I've heard of a desync bug causing problems with Internet play. There have also been bugs reported in the audio (see Audio section below) and while playing in Manage Only mode; your batters don't get doubles and triples.
The computer, especially at the higher difficulty levels, gives you a good run for your money (no pun intended). Although many of the changes in difficulty have to do with how you control your characters (i.e. how much fielding you need to do), the computer plays more aggressively on PRO and ALL-STAR modes. High-scoring games, as with most sports games, are too frequent; but if it’s still too easy for you, well, there’s always Internet play. Apparently the pre-patched version had a problem with the base-running AI, so here is another reason to pick it up.
Just to be fair, I tried the game with both 3D acceleration and without. The latter was by no means ugly. In fact, it is easily the best-looking baseball game I have ever played. The players are well-defined (even having their characteristic holds on the bat) and the stadiums look just like their real-life counterparts. 3D acceleration, though, eliminated many annoying pauses, adjusted jagged textures, and just made everything smoother. Unfortunately, in 3D mode you get a 3D arrow (used to highlight your current character) which is big and obtrusive. I’m sure there is a way to turn it off, but then you can no longer quickly tell which player you are controlling. Oh well, maybe next year they’ll find a happy medium. Having a true 3D environment is great and gives you more options. Although there was only one I used regularly, having the ability to choose from several at-bat camera angles was nice. Something must also be said for the great opening cinema scenes on EA Sports games. They draw you into the game, raising your excitement. Every new one I saw became my favorite, and Triple Play '99 is no exception.
This is one area where Triple Play '99 really excels. Not only are the typical sound effects (the crack of the bat, the ball hitting the glove) well done, but there are numerous environmental sounds that truly put you in the game. The crowds yell your player’s name as a vendor tries to get fans to buy hotdogs. The two announcers, although they can get repetitive at times, are convincing and their fictitious advertisements are hilarious. These audio highlights do what they are supposed to do, add realism to the game, putting you in the middle of the action. This is quite literally the first game that made me feel that the audio portion was integral to the player’s immersion in the game. If you have a Voodoo 2 or Voodoo Rush card, you’ll want to patch the game; this will fix the audio dropout problem.
Pentium 90 MHz or faster (P133 minimum for multiplayer), 20 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, and DirectX-compatible audio and video card.
Reviewed on: Pentium 233 MHz MMX, 100 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM drive, 3Dfx card.
Since my review copy was an early, though complete, version, there may be more documentation than I received. The manual included does an excellent job of covering the controls and the different types of games. As with most manuals, multiplayer information is very light, but adequate.
A whole lot of fun -- and isn’t that what the game of baseball is all about?