Replay Value: 8.5
The Triple Play series has undergone some major working the past few years. Each year since its debut in 1997, EA has tried too much to fix on glaring problem that was evident in the previous version, and ended up not focusing enough on the game. This year, though, I think that they have it all down pat.
As we all know, last year's problem was the horrible frame rate. If any of you actually used the replay option and went frame by frame, you noticed that the players sometime take two or three steps in between frames, depending on how many people are moving around. They made this problem because they focused too hard on trying to improve the graphics of the 98' version and ended up slowing the frame rate terribly. This year, EA addressed the frame rate problem, but didn't spend an extreme amount of time on it as they knew it would turn into one of their previous failures. Before I bought the game, I already knew from magazines that EA had spent much time acquiring the licenses of Samy Sosa. But as I played through the game, I realized that they didn't even use him. I thought that since they spent so much money signing him, they would have put in some special video clips or a special mode with him in it. This was a bad decision on EA's part and disappointing to many of Samy's fans. Another disappointment is the Home Run Challenge. I love the idea behind it, but it is too easy. This year, EA has cut the home run challenge into a number of innings. In each inning, you have three outs and you get outs by not hitting home runs. The thing that really gets me mad is how easy it is. If you use Mark McGwire or Samy Sosa, you can get into a streak of 25 or 30 home runs in a row. And after each home run or even a foul, they show a long replay,sometimes lasting over 10 or 15 seconds. So when you get into those hitting streaks, it can take up and extreme amount of time. This same principle also goes for an actual game. If you have a high home run hitting team like the Cubs or Braves, you can sometimes have 12 or 13 home runs in one game.
The graphics in TP2000, I think, are the best on any console system. If Acclaim puts a hi-res mode on All Star Baseball 2000, then that will be its only competition. In TP2000, EA has continued what they started in NBA Live 99'. You can now see the actual facial animations of all the players. If your pitcher has just let 3 home runs in a row fly over him, put your controller down and let the game sit for a few seconds. You will see the frustration and embarrassment on his face. The stadiums are all perfectly modeled right down to the waterfall at the Royals' stadium and the buildings behind Wrigley field. This year, the players are also motion captured. The star players all have their own batting stances and home run dances. Samy even does that little hop after he airlifts one over the wall. The pitchers even pitch exactly like they do in the majors.
The sound and music in this game is another strong quality that is improved over last year. The announcers show emotion and have many more sound clips than last years version and way more than the N64 version. One thing that I found weird, but not necessarily bad, is that some players have weird intro sound clips when they are coming up to bat. I guess EA wanted to take after pro wrestling. Another weird thing is that during that game you hear many weird announcements like an add for a telephone for cocker spaniels. The crowd chants and noisy vendors are another nice touch. Other than that, the music in the game is the usual that you find in any baseball game.
The control in TP2000 is also great. As a pitcher, you can decide which pitch you want to throw and then decide where you want to throw it to. In the higher difficulty levels, you can even put an after-touch on the ball to really fool the batter. The fielding is the normal of most baseball games. You can dive, make one-handed catches, and rob home runs from batters. You can't perform a Triple Play though. The batting is also pretty normal. In rookie difficulty, you can pretty much only choose to swing regular or power and time your swing. As you get into the higher difficulty levels though, you'll have to try to decide where the pitchers going to through it so you can get a decent hit.
I think that the replay value in this game is about average. As a manager, you can control every aspect of your team that you could possibly think of. You even control your minor league team and watch for upcoming players. As a player, you can play any as team in any stadium and even participate in a full fantasy draft. The Home Run Challenge does get boring after only a few minutes, but the rest of the game makes up for it by being so complete.
I think that EA must have concentrated on the fun factor in this game. For any of you that watch Fox hockey, they now put the light trailer on the baseball, which makes it a little more fun to watch. There are many simulation elements in the game like the pitching and fielding, but the overall feel of the game is fast-paced action, which makes the fun factor higher.
In conclusion, I think that EA has the right mix put together this year. This only goes for the PS version because its N64 counterpart is a watered down, bland piece of silicon in a cartridge with no fun or effort evident anywhere. All they need to do for next year is up the graphics (which is expected of any sequel) and fix the realism factor with the home runs.