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Triple Play 2000 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Spring 1999

Background Info






We've all been there before. The giddiness of a new relationship. Finding out all of the wonderful new things about your latest interest. At first, there are a few quirks, but they're charming, right? Then, those quirks mutate, expand, overwhelm. Next thing you know, it's an irritant. An annoyance. An unforgivable flaw. Sometimes, the bloom can come off the rose pretty quickly. Then what? You're left feeling abandoned and alone. Seduced by beauty and ultimately betrayed. Is there anything worse than that?

Letting it happen to you twice, I would say. And, EA Sports has done it again. They fooled me last year with the beautiful, but profoundly flawed, Triple Play 99. They've gotten better, though. It took me much longer to see the problems with this year's edition, Triple Play 2000 (TP2K).

Graphics : 95
The graphics in this game are, to be blunt, gorgeous. This is one of the most amazing games I have ever seen. If you read my preview, you know that I had major graphics problems with the advance copy EA gave me. The released version of the game, however, is incredible. I kept having to refocus my attention on the game and stop looking at the graphics. Not only are the players incredibly lifelike, with recognizable faces and builds (that don't have that creepy Frankenstein's-monster-stitched-on look to them), they also do fun things like chew gum, pound their gloves, act like real big leaguers. My favorite bit of eye candy? Little puffs of dust when the players slide. Such a subtle touch, but it always pleased me when I saw it.

Are the graphics perfect? Of course not, or I would have given them 100. Stay with the tour, sparky. The crowds are just as blah and stretched-2D as ever. Also, with all the graphical power available to them, you would think EA could fix two really annoying problems. First, they could make the players' names fit on their jerseys without distortion. Second, they could remember what their coaches told them growing up and only hit with the label facing up. The only time the label (or brand) on the bat is facing correctly is when a player squares to bunt. When they are in the box, ready to hit, the brand is plainly visible in the behind-the-plate view. I've actually looked into this, and hitting with the label up is not an old coaches' tale-it really makes a difference. The label is placed so that if you hit with it up, you will be avoiding the weak part of the bat. Hit with it down, and you're guaranteed to break many a bat.

So, how does EA pull this off? Having the label visible while you're in the box, yet also visible in the proper location when you square to bunt, that is. Easy-they cheat. Try it out. Get your hitter in the box. Note the location of the label on his bat. Square him around to bunt...and watch the label! You should be able to see it "jump" from one side of the bat to the other.

OK, so this is total nitpicking. Doesn't affect the gameplay, nor does it detract from the fact that this is the most graphically impressive baseball game I have ever seen.

Audio : 60
In a parallel universe, perhaps the audio would have received a higher score. After all, the sound is very convincing, the crowd noises are good, the announcers have pleasant voices and varied things to say, and there are no pops or crackles in the sound. Of course, in a parallel universe, the audio might actually have something to do with the game being played! This has got to be one of the worst matches of commentary to actual gameplay that I have ever seen. I know it's a cliché these days, but it honestly sounded like the announcers were calling a game other than the one I was playing. I actually wish I could take back the "another game" comment from any other gaming review I've seen. This game is the king of the misplaced, mismatched commentary.

The opposition throws a breaking ball, low and away, and I swing and miss. "Slider, right down the middle," the announcers proudly proclaim.

Ground ball which the second baseman dives for and misses. "That was a frozen rope into right-center." On a ball that hit the ground before the pitcher's mound and never stopped rolling.

Mark McGwire knocks one out of the park for the only run of the inning, and the next batter makes the third out. "They really earned that run there, with a good old-fashioned hit and run to bring the run in," says the announcer. Perhaps they should have mentioned on the box that Ross Perot's running mate, Admiral Jim Stockton, was doing the play-by-play on this year's game...

Interface/Options : 60
The interface is very typical EA. Wonderful, mesmerizing opening video. Simple, easy to follow menuing system. However, saving and restoring games was kind of a pain. Restoring a season (which I personally think would be the most common action a user would take) requires changing the "Load" category-it defaults to restoring a single game. You know what? If you don't have time to play a simple 9-inning baseball sim in one sitting, you definitely need to simplify your life a bit!

My major concerns about the interface involved trying to control one team through an entire season. First of all, there's no way (that I could figure out, at least), to sim all games on a day except for those involving your selected player team(s). It's really annoying to have to go into each scheduled game and choose sim, when you know it could just be a simple option. Secondly, the control keeps switching. Even if you have been controlling the same team throughout a season, when you come into the interface to play that day's game for your team, TP2K strangely defaults to having the home team be the one that is controlled-and by the mouse, to boot. So, what do you as a right-thinking American do? You drag the gamepad controller icon over to your team (the visitors). This, unfortunately, doesn't fix the problem, as the game still thinks the home team is being controlled by the mouse. This is unforgivable. I controlled the same team, in the same manner, throughout a season, yet I had to keep selecting the team I was going to control and how I was going to control them.

One other thing: TP2K includes an awesome feature which allows you to create your own players..."awesome," that is, if you can ever make it work. Every single time I tried it, I ended up having to reboot. Not a shutdown-reboot, but an actual hit the reset button to stop the awful, looping sound reboot. After four or five of these, I gave up.

Gameplay : 80
EA took a lot of heat last year for creating a baseball simulation that featured no doubles and no triples. They definitely took care of that, although I am actually seeing an unusually low amount of singles this year. The doubles and triples are definitely available and attainable. The home runs are accompanied a loud swooshing noise (I almost expected the announcer from Tiger Woods golf to pop in and scream "Tiger Shot!") and a lot of MTV-style cutting before following the ball out of the park from one of several points of view (my favorite? The POV of the ball-very cool). This, however, grew old quicker than you might think. Yes, quicker than that. Yes, quicker still. OK, maybe two or three times it was cool.

The runners on the basepaths are total morons. I cannot tell you the number of times these Einsteins broke for the next bag on a fly ball directly to an outfielder. Not only have they never heard of tagging up, they've never heard of going half-way without committing to the next bag. I got a little better at calling them back the more I played, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't a skill I actually wanted to have. The runners should know better-I shouldn't have to stop them each time.

On the flip side, the runners weren't aggressive enough sometimes in situations that absolutely required it. I had runners on first and third, for example, and the runner on third sat and watched as the infield turned a double play! Didn't even try for home. That's absurd. When the relay goes to second, the runner should at least stunt towards home, if not break outright.

It was also way too easy to pick runners off, especially at second. It was way too hard to pitch efficiently, however. At first I attributed this to the inherent weakness of the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching staff, but after switching to the Yankees and seeing the same problems, I realized it was something in need of correction and not an accurate simulation. For one thing, I could not successfully throw an inside-and-low curve. I got jacked for more home runs than I care to mention trying that. It didn't matter how well I had set up the hitter (not too well, in most cases, given their eerie ability not to be fooled by any junk), that inside-low curve probably resulted in a home run 60% of the time, and a base hit about 20% of the time. I find it hard to believe that a big-league curve, breaking down and in on you, is going to result in more home runs than general, "getting-jammed" grounders to the infield.

Difficulty : 75
Normally, I would have to spend a fair amount of time complaining about how a flaw in the gameplay made the game much harder than it should have been. However, with TP2K, EA has graciously made the gameplay flaws so egregious there is no point in repeating them here.

So, I will just leave you with the observation that I wish there were a level between Rookie and Pro, as I killed every team I played in Rookie, yet had difficulty even getting three outs in Pro. This is more due to difficulties with the pitching portion of the game than with the fielding and throwing portion.

Overall : 79
TP2K is greatly improved over last year's version. It is a very enjoyable arcade-type game, in most cases, with some ultimately damning flaws that really detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. When I played using a controller, I found numerous errors that were very frustrating. When I played in simulation mode, I found relatively accurate (although a bit low, I think) stats generated by their engine. When I tried to create my own players, I crashed. Repeatedly.

Oh, well, I guess one out of three ain't ba...wait, it is kind of bad. Hence the score of 79.

I will point out that EA deserves some credit for marketing this as a fun, arcade baseball game. I don't think too many Baseball Mogul fans will pick this one up by mistake. Perhaps marketing is moving in the right direction, after their horribly misleading campaign for Nascar Revolution, which they sold hard as a simulation trying to attract the Nascar 2 fans of the world although the game was by no stretch of the imagination of simulation of anything. I would like to say that the marketing of TP2K is a positive sgin that we will be seeing greater honesty from EA's ads in the future...were it not for the presence of a Nascar Revolution demo CD in the TP2K box. Things that make you go hmmm.

Reviewer's Equipment
Pentium II 400, 128 Megs of RAM, 2 12 Meg Voodoo 2 cards, SLI, Sound Blaster Live!, Microsoft Sidewinder Gamepad

By: Rick Worrell 5/4/99

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