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High Heat Baseball 1999 (PC) Review

Publisher: 3DO

Background Info

Ahh, summer--when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of pounding the hell out of the ball, controlling Mark McGwire as he chases Roger Maris' suddenly vulnerable home run record of 61. What's the best way to fulfill these managerial fantasies? If your gaming desires include the ability to take gamepad in hand, then join us as we look at Team .366's High Heat Baseball 1999 (HHBB).

Graphics : 75
Unfortunately, this is High Heat's greatest weakness. The stadiums, and the playing fields, look gorgeous, but all of the players and umpires are 2D sprites placed on top of this beautiful surface. Quick quiz, hot shot: what's the most frequently seen animation in any arcade-oriented baseball game? Righto--the pitcher-batter interface. Follow-up question, for 10 bonus points--what's the worst bit of graphics in HHBB? Right again--the pitcher-batter interface. Oh, my Lord, is it bad. My favorite description of what it looks like is: it looks like someone swinging a tennis racquet, or a cricket bat. It's terrible. My favorite comeback to this criticism: "I watch the ball." When I first played this game, I thought the "I watch the ball" was a bit facetious, and I was very distracted by the animation. Trust me: this game will suck you in, until you are so focused on getting that runner in from second, that as you sit there on the edge of your seat, two outs, bottom of the ninth, game on the line, your last pinch hitter at the plate, that you will never notice the animation any more. You must watch the ball and you must hit intelligently in this game if you want to succeed.

Audio : 88
The audio is pretty well done. The crowd noise is appropriate for the current game conditions, swelling in excitement when the home team is rallying, booing lustily when the visitors score (sometimes, they'll even throw back a home run ball hit by the visiting team--a neat idea, but strangely implemented, as I've heard of reports of balls being thrown back from behind the Green Monster in Fenway!). My favorite audio bit, having grown up as a bleacher bum at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, is the lone voice, loudly and drunkenly screaming "Great! Great!" after a visitor hits a home run. I don't know if this is timed as I think it is, but the guy only seems to yell in the later innings (no doubt after too many virtual beers!). The announcing, by Ted Robinson of the San Francisco Giants, is nothing too exciting. It is, however, extremely accurate and informative. Ted tells you whenever there's a substitution, he comments on double switches, he gets excited if the runner on first breaks for second. I've become so used to listening to Ted that I've given up a couple of very easy stolen bases because on rare occasions, he doesn't say anything if the runner goes. Of course, I should be watching for that... Oh, well. One note of personal pride--I threw a perfect game, pitching as Todd Stottlemyre for the Cardinals, and Ted noted my accomplishment as "the rarest of achievements in profession baseball" (or something like that). I was pleasantly surprised to see they had programmed the game to recognize a perfect game.

Interface/Options : 80
The interface is simple, quick, and...goofy. There's no mouse support. None. "Excuse me, Team .366, but your console roots are showing." Hmm, console roots--wasn't that a "Glamour Don't" last month? Mouse support aside, I found the interface very easy to navigate. HHBB has one of the better pitch selection interfaces, with all possible pitches available in the game assigned a D-pad and button combination. Your current pitcher, of course, won't have all pitches available, but this arrangement is greatly preferable to what I've seen in other games. A curveball is always selected with D-pad right and the C button; a slider is D-pad left, and so on. If the current pitcher can't throw the pitch you selected, he'll shake you off--very cool. Once you've learned this, you'll find it's much faster than what other games use.

Gameplay : 95
Without a doubt, HHBB is head and shoulders above the competition in pure baseball gameplay. This is the single most realistic and exciting baseball game on the market. This game plays like real baseball. Players back each other up, pitchers work the plate against you (heaven help you Kirby Puckett wannabe's--if you go up there hacking, you will quickly hear the announcer proclaiming "Randy Johnson's thrown twenty strikeouts"), the computer-controlled coach manages very intelligently. This includes strategic bunting, hit and runs, and double switches. I found the game very compelling, and consider it responsible for more late night gaming sessions than even Quake II.

Overall : 87
If you are looking for a baseball game which gives you the best of both worlds (simulation and arcade), then look no further. There are flaws in the game (especially the graphics), but there is nothing closer to making you feel like you are really playing baseball, with all its quirks and excitement, than High Heat Baseball 1999.

By: Rick Worrell 6/29/98

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