Triple Play Baseball
Pitching is also handled in a very straightforward manner in Triple Play Baseball. They use the same style as the other two games but with an added wrinkle. This game actually uses the analog buttons on the new Dual Shock 2 controllers. The harder you push on the X button, the faster the pitch will be thrown. You have a speed meter that you will see fill up as you press the button harder indicating more speed on the pitch. You will find that this is very effective in helping you always feel in control of your pitches. You can choose to throw a dog-slow change up or a full-power heater. This added control is a very welcome addition. The only problem is that the difference between a 69 mph changeup and a 91 mph fastball is very minimal and breaking pitches don’t break nearly as much as in the other two games, causing pitchers to be at a decided disadvantage. Other than that, the game does a good job of recreating the actual pitches thrown by the pitcher. I was disappointed with the lack of bullpen option, which seems to be such an easy thing to add in but never seems to make it in games. Managing a bullpen may very well be the most important and involved aspect of managing pitching and I just don’t understand why it is always overlooked.
Triple Play uses an icon hitting system somewhat similar to Acclaim Sports' All-Star Baseball , but without the option to swing for power or average. The hitting icon changes in size depending on the hitter and his skill level but even the worst of hitters has a decent sized icon. This is the only option available so if you dislike this type of hitting format, you may as well pass this game over. Hitting is one of my biggest complaint areas with this game. For some reason unbeknownst to me, you can always see the location the pitcher is throwing the ball. All you have to do is wait for the pitcher to aim, move your cursor over the final location of the ball (which is displayed long enough to allow you to do so) and swing when the ball arrives. I can only wonder about the point of having icon hitting if you are going to see the location of the pitch. It was a rare occasion that I would actually swing and miss. I may not have hit the ball squarely every time but I almost always made contact. Hitting homeruns was a frequent occurrence and when I did hit one, the game played a thunderous "boom" and went into autopilot and I had to just watch the ball fly out of the park. I did not like it in All-Star Baseball and I have not changed my mind in Triple Play.
Base running is a snap in Triple Play Baseball. The computer AI is great, making few base running errors. Fast players are fast and slow players are slow. I legged out a few infield singles and grounded into my share of double plays with a slow catcher at the plate. I don’t have much more to say other than great job, Triple Play Baseball. I did have one quirky thing happen that I was never able to duplicate. I was pitching and the computer had a man on first and second. He tried a sacrifice bunt and my pitcher pounced on the ball and threw the runner out at third. The third baseman then fired to first and got the guy at first. Sounds normal enough but I did not see how close the play was at first so I decided to watch the instant replay to see. On the replay, I see the batter lay the bunt down, my pitcher field it and throw to third but when I throw the ball to first, the batter is nowhere to be seen. He just disappeared. Very strange.
Fielding is also a snap in Triple Play Baseball. It was very easy to take control of the fielder and get him in position to make the plays. Fielding is one area where Triple Play bucked the tried and true format and went for something new. Both of the other games use the four buttons on the controller to represent the diamond where you press the button corresponding with the base. In this game, all of your throws are made using the X button and the d-pad or analog stick. For example, if you want to throw to first base, you press X and the analog stick to the right. Once you get used to this, it is easy enough but I still don’t understand why they choose to go away from the standard fielding of almost every baseball game on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. They also used the analog buttons like pitching to determine the speed of the throws of the fielders. If you are simply trying to lob the ball back into the infield, just tap the button. If you need to gun the ball in, hold down the button and fill the power meter. The downside to doing a hard throw is that the accuracy decreases so the chance for errors is more likely. This system worked well but there were times where I was still holding the button loading up for an aggressive throw and the fielder would lob the throw. I am not sure if I let up unintentionally or if it was a problem with the game but it bears mentioning. There were a few other quirky things that happened such as the pitcher never leaving the mound to cover first or back up throws to the plate or the first baseman would sometimes not run to the base so when I threw the ball to him, he would catch it in his fielding position and I had to run him to the bag.
If you are looking for a realistic game of baseball, you might as well move along because there is nothing to see here. This game turns into a homerfest early and often. Playing a season on Pro mode will net you at least three to four long balls per game. Scores normally range in the double digits, as pitching duels are a rarity. The easy batting interface does not give you much of an idea what it would feel like to hit major league pitching because if you are not knocking the ball out of the park, you are smashing a double in the gap. Aside from this, the fielding and running is very realistic and you will not ever feel robbed by cheap AI or anything along those lines.
It is a close call between this game and All-Star Baseball for the best looking graphics. The stadiums are breathtaking and the little details are amazing. You can see the wrinkles on the pants of a batter and the stitching on the catcher’s glove. I was a bit let down with the player models, as they seemed a bit short and stubby. They did a good job of capturing the players' faces but the bodies just seemed way out of proportion. One neat touch that really added to the game was that the dust cloud when a player would slide looked very realistic. Both the hitting and fielding animations were smooth and fluid looking. The crowd even seemed to react by standing up and sitting down depending on the situation, although they were always clapping regardless.
If you are looking for a solid baseball simulation, Triple Play Baseball is not the right choice for you. If you are looking for an arcade type baseball game where you can pick up a controller and start knocking the ball around the park in your first game, you will enjoy this game. I happen to have a buddy who does not play videogames much but when he does play, he likes to play baseball games. This game is perfect for him because he does not have to learn all of the ins and outs before he can be competitive. The graphics are solid and hopefully next year they will make the player models a bit more realistic. Overall, while this game may not be the most accurate representation of the sport, it is the most fun.