Triple Play Baseball 2002 Review
Another addition to this year's list of PS2 baseball simulations, EA's Triple Play 2002 falls short of that description, and hopes to convey the sport better in a more arcade-styled manner. Depending on your preference of baseball titles, TP2002 will fall short of most expectations and provide a very inaccurate, offense-inflated depiction. The series used to represent the epitome of baseball titles back on the original Playstation. All other baseball games were compared to EA's gem and deemed less superior in almost every aspect. Those days, however, are over. All-Star Baseball 2003 and High Heat 2003 are currently competing for the best showing on the PS2, with TP2002 falling into a distant third.
Graphically, Triple Play 2002 falls in-between the efforts of its rivals, showcasing a very polished interface, however, delivering very poor facial detail and overall elements that are present in other titles. Batting stances are quite ordinary with almost every player displaying similar characteristics. The body models are horrendously inadequate, as players seem stumpy and disproportioned. It's somewhat unnerving when the camera gets a close-up of a player due to the awful facial detail. I'm not kidding when I say almost every pitcher looks exactly the same when zoomed-in on a strikeout. Their animations are also very generic with little alteration. Each player will give identical reactions to either a successful or unfortunate play. I honestly got tired of watching these displays and hoped it would soon return to the actual gameplay, which sadly wasn't that much of an improvement.
What EA did succeed with in visuals was excellent stadium detail and environmental characteristics. The playing surface is very clear and presents no sign of blocky or faded graphics. The amount of features alongside the stadiums is very impressive, as advertisements and dimensions perfectly coincide with their actual counterparts. Every time I hit a homerun, I was very impressed with each element as the ball traveled into the seats. This is one category EA did an above-average job with, and I congratulate them in that regard.
My praise for EA would sadly end there, however. The gameplay in TP2002 is easily the worst among the three baseball games out right now, and simply repeats the problems of last year. You have the choice of either using a batting icon to set-up with the pitches being thrown, or having the ball's placement be removed, leaving you with a split-second guess at where the ball will be located. As I've stated before, I hate pitching cursors. EA does present a simpler structure than say ASB2003; although, you are not allowed to completely take the cursor off, as you are in Acclaim's title. The mode most people choose in TP2002 is that of being able to see where the pitch will be thrown. If this doesn't already sound unrealistic, I don't know what does. This set-up leads to incredibly high baseball scores, usually in the 20's, and a very poor account of how baseball should be played. On the other hand, if you opt to guess where the pitch will thrown, the majority of your hits will either be pop-ups or foul balls. In the batting category, I must say HH2003 features the best system of all, and I hope companies take a look at this aspect for next year.
In the area of fielding, TP2002 also operates very poorly. Players will chase balls at a very slow pace compared to what is expected, and balls seem to always find the most secluded places. EA has chosen to go with pressure sensitive throwing again this year, which proves to be somewhat effective, but overall nonessential. The frame rate suffers constantly, especially after fielding a ball or striking out a player. It seems the game is trying to catch up with what just happens, and this really takes away from the overall flow. Groundballs seem to offer the most trouble, as players are not given enough time or the correct angle to assess their locations. There were many times when the ball is hit and I quickly direct my player to the right, only to find that the ball is hit sharply in the opposite direction. I blame this feature on poor camera operation and also unrealistic time mechanics.
The amount of modes present in TP2002 is rather average, including Quick Start, Single Game, Season, Playoffs, and Home Run Derby. You can choose to go with a full season, allowing for a customized number of games, such as 15, 30, 60, or the full 162-game setup. The weak gameplay of TP2002 will most likely cause you to ignore any season schedule, making the hopes of a long lasting title obsolete. If you're the kind of person that simply enjoys going straight to the playoffs, TP2002 offers a nice display. The Home Run Derby is one of the better features available in the game, as you can either go against the computer or one-on-one with a friend. I would recommend choosing a different setting than Rookie, though, as I actually had to start purposely not hitting homeruns.
Moving on to sound, I was somewhat disappointed in the scheme that was presented by EA. With Bob Costas and Harold Reynolds as announcers, I was really expecting to be impressed with the play-by-play, however, TP2002 utilizes a very stale and repetitive system of commentary. Anytime the ball is hit into play, Reynolds seems to make some enthusiastic comment that isn't necessary, and Costas simply approves of this by saying "I agree with you on that" or "I'm down with that". I usually enjoy listening to Bob Costas and think he is an excellent sports commentator. The problem here is that he is very limited in speech and becomes quite repetitive, even more so than other sports games. As for the actual in-game sound effects, you'll basically hear the standard crack of the bat with the sounds of avid fans in the background. I'll admit, I enjoyed hearing the pitcher get heckled by the crowd and the constant boos that rang out when I hit probably my 10th homerun.
TP2002 controls rather steadily, but seems to have the same problem ASB2003 did with fielding controls. I really don't understand why there is such a delay from when the player fields a ball to when he throws it to the desired base. Routine double plays turned into one out and slow rollers gave even a slow base runner an easy infield hit. Also, controlling players as they ran became a chore. Balls that would ordinarily be cut off in the outfield turned into doubles and it seemed every ball that came even relatively close to a hole in the infield successfully made it through. I play enough baseball and watch enough games on television to understand the physics in which this correlates. As for the actual button scheme of the game, you'll receive the standard system of old, where you must press X while holding the D-pad or joystick in the proper direction of the base. Leading off and stealing, however, is assigned to the D-pad, as you must use the joystick to control batting. Overall, the button placement is rather well done, but the way the game actually controls is rather frustrating.
In the end, if you are really driven by outrageous game scores and a baseball representation that is more arcade-like than simulated, then maybe Triple Play 2002 is for you. I found there to be little replay value, as I simply grew tired of the way the game played. The Home Run Derby was able to keep the game at a reasonable level, as it can provide some level of excitement with friends. For most people, All-Star Baseball 2003 and High Heat 2003 will provide a much more enjoyable experience and is a far better purchase. Those interested in Triple Play 2002 can rent it by all means, but I would certainly not recommend buying this game before trying it.
5/6/2002 Matthew Stensrud