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Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 (PSX) Review

Publisher: 3DO
Release Date: April 2000

Background Info

3DO states on the front insert of the huge jewel case supplied for Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 (due to an included strategy guide) that this is "the best baseball game," and they "guarantee" it. In fact, Trip Hawkins (Chairman and CEO of 3DO) and 3DO are prepared to replace the game with another 3DO title if the gamer is not completely satisfied. Well, make sure to read the "guarantee" offer in back of the manual carefully, because all but the most die-hard baseball fan will want to take Trip Hawkins up on his offer after purchasing this game.

Graphics : 55
Yuck! This is the only word I can use to describe the graphics in High Heat 2001. While improved over the previous version, one has to wonder if Sammy Sosa would have endorsed the PlayStation version after taking a closer look at the atrocious graphics. Seriously though, if Triple Play 2001, MLB 2001, and the computer version of this very game didn't look as good as they did, the ugly, bland graphics would have been a little bit more acceptable (barely). Whereas this year's versions of Triple Play and MLB feature crisp, detailed graphics highlighted by superb player animation, the players in High Heat 2001 look as though they were modeled and animated by a child. Furthermore, none of the players have "real" faces, but instead have what looks like crayon marks in place of eyes and mouths (sometimes players have no faces at all -- truly spooky). Also, the boring presentation and stock camera angles do little to make the player feel excited after hitting a home run or winning a game -- and it's rather difficult to feel any disappointment after losing to a team of "crayon-faced" players.

Fortunately, High Heat Baseball 2001 has a decent frame-rate and acceptable stadiums, but I couldn't imagine why it wouldn't, since there is not much polygon crunching taking place here. I don't claim to be a "graphic tart," but after seeing such great graphics in other baseball games on PlayStation, it's hard to settle for anything less. If your buying decision is based solely on a game's visual presentation (shame on you), there is no reason to finish reading this review.

Audio : 50
Although audio is not the most important aspect of a game, sports games are greatly affected by the type of audio presentation they contain; great color commentary and equally great sound effects definitely help enhance the experience and give the player a sense of being there. Again, when compared to the baseball games available on the PlayStation, High Heat 2001 comes up short -- way short. There is no two-man color commentary here, only some very dull play-by-play from Ted Robinson. To make things worse, sound effects, crowd noise, and umpire calls are severely lacking in quality, which when combined with the lousy graphics, makes for a very unexciting game for the two major senses.

In some ways, I am more disappointed over the sub-par audio featured in this game than I am about the horrible graphics (better audio could have given this game a much needed shot in the arm). As it stands, High Heat 2001 fails to impress on both audio and visual levels.

Interface/Options : 75
High Heat 2001 doesn't contain as many modes or options as other baseball games, but at least everything is laid out nicely. The menus, while plain, get the job done and are easy to read and a breeze to maneuver through. All of the basic game options are included and can be adjusted (errors, wind, DH, innings, time of day, etc.). You can also adjust the simulation level (determines how much statistics will affect the game), choose rosters (end of 1999 or start of 2000), and turn "fast play" on (speeds up gameplay).

The following modes are included in High Heat 2001: Exhibition, Quick Play, Home Run Derby, Family Mode, Season, and Playoffs. Most of these modes are self-explanatory, especially if you're a seasoned baseball gamer, but I'm sure most are wondering what the "Family Mode" is all about. Basically, this mode is geared toward young children or those who have never played a baseball game, as the computer controls everything but batting (sounds fun, eh?). Simply put, this mode seems like a slap in the face to the same hardcore baseball fan 3DO is trying to target with their game; I'm sure most gamers would have preferred a more innovative mode in place of this one. Still, there is a nice amount of player editing and team management options included to help make up for the lack of modes and gameplay options.

If there is one thing 3DO's baseball game has over its competitors, it's the in-depth manual and free strategy guide that are included with the game. The manual does an excellent job of explaining and detailing every mode, option, and gameplay element found in the game, while the free strategy guide makes a good accompaniment and offers some great tips. However, the included strategy guide seems to concern itself more with the real game of baseball than it does with its virtual counterpart, since it reads more like a baseball guidebook than a video game strategy guide. Nevertheless, there is plenty of useful information to be found, most of which can easily be applied to almost any baseball game released over the past several years.

Gameplay : 77
If you have made it this far in the review, you're in luck: High Heat 2001 features some pretty good gameplay and makes 3DO's claim of "best baseball game" seem a little less outrageous.

Though it is not without flaws, the batting interface in High Heat 2001 is very realistic and challenging. Instead of displaying a cursor showing where the ball will be pitched (MLB), or allowing control over the type of hit (Triple Play), High Heat 2001 forces you to maintain a keen eye and constantly work the count. There are eight possible locations where you can swing the bat (not counting the "basic" swing), and it is up to you to keep your eye on the ball and swing in the same general location by pressing the D-pad in that direction (simply timing your swing to meet the ball will not work here -- although timing is equally as important). To help you figure out how accurate your sense of timing and/or swing location was after a hit, one of three different types of trails will follow the ball: a white trail follows a weak, inaccurate hit, usually resulting in pop flies or grounders to the infield; a red trail follows a good hit, meaning high hit accuracy; and a flaming ball trail comes as the result of perfect contact, which greatly increases your chances for a home run. You can also try to guess the pitch type before the pitcher's windup, allowing for even greater accuracy -- and therefore a greater hit -- if correctly guessed.

As much as I liked the batting interface, I did have some issues with it. First off, you cannot position your batter or move him around at the plate, which felt very limiting. Also, I found it particularly hard to swing at certain areas, namely any area that requires a diagonal button press on the D-pad (e.g., high/left, low/right, etc.).

While not nearly as fresh or solid as the batting interface, the pitching in High Heat 2001 certainly gets the job done. There are a total of nine different pitches in the game and each pitcher has between two and six pitches in his repertoire. A pitch menu displays the available pitches and can be called up by pressing either the L2 or R2 buttons. Once you decide which pitch you want to throw, simply press the D-pad in the direction corresponding to that pitch. Once you have made your pitch selection you can do any one of the following things: pick off a base runner, pitch a strike or a ball, and even throw a bean ball (of course, this may get you ejected from the game). And since this is a realistic simulation, pitchers do eventually tire and become fatigued, so you will need to manage your bullpen accordingly. You can also align your infielders and outfielders while on the mound using the R1 & L1 buttons (respectively) with the D-pad (pressing the L1 & R2 buttons can move both simultaneously).

Base running in High Heat 2001 is very familiar in terms of control and feel, with options to steal/retreat individual runners or all runners. You can also increase and decrease the lead of individual runners, or adjust them simultaneously. It should be noted that it's much easier to steal bases in this game than in the other two PlayStation baseball games, mostly due to some weak AI.

Much like the base running, the fielding in this game is anything but innovative, and is perhaps the weakest part of the gameplay. While you can make players jump and dive, they move around the field and throw the ball very slowly. Some may argue that this makes the game more realistic, but it won't take very long before most players turn on the automatic fielding.

Depending on the difficulty level and gameplay options you choose, the game can play out simplistically or offer some fairly realistic play. The artificial intelligence does, however, fall prey to some basic gameplay "tricks" (i.e., certain pitches and double steal attempts will give you an edge over the CPU), which may single-handedly nullify 3DO's "best baseball game" claim for many.

Replay Value : 70
The only mode in High Heat 2001 that offers any decent replay value is the standard Season mode. In fact, most of the modes are complete throwaways (Family Mode) or so terribly dull (Home Run Derby) that playing them again doesn't enter the equation. On the other hand, the player edit and management options will provide some replay value for gamers who enjoy those sorts of things, but will probably not appeal to the casual baseball fan.

Overall : 65
It's really hard to recommend the PlayStation version of Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 to anyone other than the hardcore baseball fanatic, or those who have a Sammy Sosa shrine erected beside their bed. Both MLB 2001 and Triple Play 2001 offer the complete package on PlayStation (graphics, sound, gameplay and overall fun), whereas High Heat 2001 comes up short in just about all those areas. However, High Heat 2001 does contain a unique batting interface and decent amounts of statistics and player management options, so it's not a complete dud. In the future, the High Heat series may become a worthy competitor in the baseball war that continues to heat up on the console systems each year. For now, though, Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 is best experienced on a high-end computer.

By: Cliff O'Neill 5/2/00

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