Review by Trask

"Still the Old Ballgame..."

EA Sports has to be holding back. Because while this is STILL the best baseball game for the PlayStation platform, it almost feels like we're settling. Here comes TRIPLE PLAY BASEBALL 2002...or as EA would now like to refer to it: TRIPLE PLAY BASEBALL without so much as a year, month, or day stuck to it.

The first thing you're going to find different is...well...nothing. It's all pretty much the same. In fact, the first layer(the options menu) is graphically different but very much the same. You still get your Single Game, your Playoffs, and your Season play. You get your Team Management which includes signing free agents, trading players, or creating, editing, and/or deleting your own. You have a lot of options here...

That's my first gripe. They're the same as last year. There's been no engine-tweak. The lame ''Extreme Challenge'' still resides in this game that becomes pure boredom after the first 25 homeruns you hit. Worse yet, the legends(Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, etc.) are GONE. You can't find them and you most likely WON'T. The Homerun Challenge is nice but is a watered-down version of Extreme Challenge.

Your game types make up for this. Good, solid baseball is played in every Major League Baseball Stadium whenever you want. Better yet, you can turn the wind on and off, choose to play a short or long ballgame, and you can choose to face an anemic opponent or an opponent that is pumped up on steroids...that's the good part.

The bad side is that EA has optioned to take away some of the more detailed aspects of the game. Electronic Arts used to be the leader in simulation sports. I am beginning to wonder if that's because nobody has a better game than they do or that the other companies just aren't trying.

To explain: Last year, TP 2001 gave you the option to play in certain weather types and different times of day. That option now stands MISSING. The A.I. now PICKS FOR YOU what time you're going to play a game...this sucks. Especially in Season Play where it's a bit unbelieveable that most Opening Day games are played in the AFTERNOON and not at 8:00 at NIGHT. On top of this, the lack of product-placement in the stadiums makes it hard to detail the ballparks with the needed finishing touches. For example, if you look in left-field at Pacific Bell Park, you're supposed to see the giant Coca-Cola bottle and a giant baseball mitt behind the bleachers. They ain't there, folks. I can probably understand no Coke bottle(although I don't know WHY you couldn't just NOT label the Coke bottle and leave it blank; that would be better than nothing), but you can't do the giant mitt??? Then, at Dodger's Stadium...no problem. They just blank out the ''76'' logo on their scoreboard. There's a problem here. You would THINK that EA SPORTS would have added these touches after they went missing in 2001, but they didn't. And it sucks.

According to the label, all the rosters have been updated to 2001 format...that's cool...except they're already two months out of date(rosters are complete as of 01/01/01), which means if you want complete and accurate rosters, you have to go in and do it yourself...that's REALLY frustrating because baseball season is going to start soon and you're stuck still determining what team Ron Coomer is playing for...speaking of players, you have to edit in a few here and there. This is also frustrating because Triple Play's engineers still haven't taken a hint from NHL's roster-engine. You can't just drop players...no...you need to TRADE for someone.

To explain THIS ONE: Say you want to drop Derek Jeter into the Free Agents list...you can't do it unless you take someone FROM the Free Agents list and place them on the Yankees. What if you have nobody on the Free Agents list that is a Yankee? Therein lies the problem. You have three ways around this problem. The first is beaten if you have no Yankees on the Free Agents list. The second is to MAKE a rookie player and trade him for Jeter. The third is simply to TRADE Jeter in the Player Trades option. Now, if you simply want to move him to the Free Agents list because you're playing a fantasy league and he's on the Disabled List, why the heck would you want to TRADE HIM?!? EA Sports seriously needs to fix this problem because it's REALLY annoying to keep having to create and swap players just to put Jeter on another list. It's frustrating for die-hard ball-fanatics. NHL took care of this problem by allowing you to drop who you wanted when you wanted for no catch. Why can't TP do that???

Another really frustrating feature that hasn't been fixed in 2002 is the Create Players function. The Genesis version of the game allowed for 50 of your own players. So why is it that you can only create 25 players in the N64 and PSX versions of TP??? It doesn't change here. And it sucks that you have to create minor-leaguers just to swap for other players...God, that's hard to explain. It also sucks that you have to create players lke Benni Agbayani and Damien Miller because they were involved in the big player-lockout a few years back. Let bygones be bygones, MLB. The strike is over. The good side is that you can create just about every detail and stat for your player from jersey number, batting and fielding to facial hair and skin color. That's pretty cool.

Back to playing the game...it's a fun game. I mean, thank God there's no cursor-formatting like the PS2 version. The game uses the exact-same hitting and pitching engine as last year. The sounds are nice and crisp from the crack of the bat to the thud of a ball in a glove. You hear Letterman-esque sounds when a foul-ball is hit into the stands and a P.A. announcer talks every now and then. Players also get into it. They argue with the umpire when a close call happens, they collide if they're close to one another trying to catch the same baseball, they taunt if they strike out a player. Very nice.

The bad side is, AGAIN, the lack of detail. The crowd is apathetic and weak except when an out is recorded or a homerun is hit. You wish that when the bases are loaded and Griffey is up to bat, the crowd would be stomping their feet or SOMETHING. Nope. They all go silent as if they've all just been handed today's copy of the Wall Street Journal. The commentators are STILL awful. They didn't even go so far as to record new dialogue! It's all the same! Thankfully, you can turn this option off.
The graphics are pretty. The stadiums need work here and there, but they're all here. I like the look of PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Miller Park in Milwaukee. The players have their own unique stances but sometimes look like cardboard-blocky robots with uniforms. The jerseys are fairly accurate to the real thing and the character-animations are nice.
Back to the lack of detail...as I said before, you can't control the weather, you can't control the time of day, and you can't make the players wear different uniforms! NHL had that option and it was SO cool. Forget it. Not here. Sometimes, you find yourself cursing EA Sports for not putting these little tweaks into the game for the final send-off of TP on the PSX. Sometimes, you almost wish a fan would reach for a homerun ball or you can see a ball that Barry Bonds hit travel over the right-field wall and into McCovey Cove. Doesn't happen. According to previews, HIGH HEAT BASEBALL has this option. If EA isn't careful, HIGH HEAT could usurp them as the best b-ball game on the PSX.

In any case, this is a fun game, despite its shortcomings. EA Sports has some work to do because while this game is a division-winner, it goes down in 5 games.

--Trask


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/02/01, Updated 04/02/01


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