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Triple Play 2001 (PC) Review

Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: April 2000

Background Info

PC Screens(8)
EA Sports—king of graphics. A well-deserved title for the company that has made the greatest strides in graphical representations of every sport they take on. Shiny race cars, basketball player close-ups so real you could use a screen shot for a driver's license, clouds of dirt kicking up when baseball players slide. When EA puts their vision of a game on the screen, you know it's the best representation visually possible.

Things are no different for Triple Play 2001 (TP). The game, as always, looks amazing. No one does dirt better than EA—I have no idea how they create such amazing basepaths and batter's boxes. The stadiums look almost photo-realistic. Players move believably, colors are bright, and games are easy to follow.

Which is great, for a great first impression. Rope in the casual gamer—no problem. Convince someone looking at screen shots on the box to give the game a try—why not? Assuming they've never purchased a copy of Triple Play before.

If they've been down the TP road before, they might be a little hesitant to give the game another try. TP has for years been an all-show, almost no-go offering. How did EA do with the 2001 model year?

Graphics : 97
As usual, the graphics are splendid in TP 2001. EA really does a great job of capturing the sights of baseball. The stadiums are recognizably detailed (hey, there's Homer's Landing in Busch Stadium). The fields look good enough to play on for real—bright, freshly mowed grass; soft, variegated brown dirt that gets kicked up in little puffs by the players' cleats. The outfield walls are festooned with banners from imaginary advertisers. The crowds are, well, there.

However, I had to dock the game a point for the unbelievably cheesy words that come flying out onto the screen following a strike out, a double play, a home run. The letters that come out are big, block, all-caps letters in primary blue and red. They look absolutely terrible. I don't want to date myself too much here, but when I saw them all I could think of was the first-generation arcade games—i.e. those you would find in an actual arcade circa 1984. You know, right next to Centipede and Battlezone.

Audio : 52
Usually, I don't care much about audio in a baseball game. What is there to it?—the sound of ball striking bat, the umpire making his calls, the announcer telling you what's going on in the game. In TP, however, the audio is so poorly done it was making it almost impossible for me to enjoy the game. The announcers are constantly yammering on, yet seem to have absolutely no idea what is happening in the game at hand. There calls were so frequently wrong, I gave up keeping notes. The worst part of the audio had to be the calling of the balls and strikes. The announcer would excitedly announce, “Fastball, down the middle!” on a pitch that was so far outside even Bob Uecker wouldn't say it was “just a little bit outside.” The announcers often told me how a ball had rolled into the outfield (“that's a single to left field”), even as I watched my infielder throw the ball to first for the put-out.

I was playing against the Cubs, and with Henry Rodriguez at the plate, the announcer cautioned “With his speed, he's gotta be thinking about a bunt.” Henry Rodriguez' speed is rated 42 out of 100. I don't think he's a big threat for a drag bunt single…

A home run that cleared the fence by inches (342 feet against a 340 foot wall) was greeted with, “I don't think that ball will ever come down.” Of course, the ball was down even as he was blurting this idiotic remark.

Interface/Options : 67
This was a hard score to come up with. The interface isn't so poorly done that you can't get done what you need to get done. It is, though, extremely confusing. The screens are poorly laid out, some items have help available when you hover over them but others have none. The worst parts were making substitutions and choosing teams for a game. When you want to bring in a relief pitcher, for example, you bring up a Roster screen which lists the names of all of the players on your bench—both position players and pitchers. I'm sure they're trying to make it easier to perform a double switch, but it's inane to see Shawon Dunston's name first in the list when I'm trying to bring in a reliever.

Secondly, choosing a team for a game was so confusing that I actually spent some time trying to figure out how exactly the teams are listed. When you are presented with a team choice and you click the “Next” button to see the next option available to you, wouldn't you expect there to be at least some logic to the order of the teams? Here's an example:

Start with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Click on next, and you get Toronto Blue Jays. Next, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Next, New York Yankees. Next, Boston Red Sox.

Any ideas? They're not alphabetical by city. They're not alphabetical by team name. They're not even in the same league. OK, so then I started really reaching. Are they geographically working from West to East? Nope, Kansas City or Minneapolis or St. Louis would have to show up there. Maybe it's based on cities which have orchestras which are directed by foreign nationals. OK, I have no idea. This is one of the most frustrating screens I have ever had to work with. I ended up playing games with random teams so I didn't have to try to find the team I actually wanted to play with. Absurd.

You also can't tell how tired your pitcher is from within the game. No, they decided to make it convenient for you by making you pause the game, choose the Roster option, find your pitcher in the lineup, click on his name, and read a percentage to see how tired he is. That's so much easier than allowing you to see a meter on the screen with the pitch selection.

Gameplay : 28
You've got to hand it to the gameplay in TP 2001—it takes some doing to be so bad that the Audio for this game gets a higher rating. As I look at the manual cover and the jewel case, I notice that nowhere does the word “baseball” actually appear. Perhaps the FTC has decided to apply its truth in labeling laws to videogames, as no actual baseball is contained within this package. Phenylketonurics and those with an allergy to peanuts should definitely steer clear of this game. As a matter of fact, if you are alert enough to read and understand this review, you should steer clear of this game.

Of course, my comments about the gameplay are predicated on the theory that EA is trying to present a reasonable simulation of baseball. Before all you "arcade game fans" write in to complain, let me just make it clear: in no way does this game simulate anything that your average citizen would consider baseball; if you enjoy playing fast-paced arcade games that involve bats, balls, pitching, hitting, and almost no strategy or logic, you may well enjoy this game.

Let me give you a few examples of what this non-baseball game is like:

  • You cannot judge balls and strikes as a hitter from any of the camera angles. I soon found myself flailing at nearly every pitch
  • You don't swing the bat by positioning the D-pad so your bat will be where the ball will cross the plate—instead, you press the D-pad where you want the ball to go (upper left for fly to left, lower right for grounder to right, etc.) and hope that your bat strikes the ball.
  • On a ground ball hit between the first and second basemen, the first baseman moved to his right, fielded the ball, and then…had no one to throw to as both the second baseman and the pitcher were standing in the field watching him—no one covered first base.
  • You can't work the count against the CPU team as they almost never swing at balls. Hmm, I can throw balls which they are never fooled by, or I can throw strikes, which they will crush out of the park (accompanied by the oh-so-realistic cannon sounds of bat meeting ball).
  • With a runner on second, nobody out, and the pitcher at the plate, the pitcher (miracle of miracles) bunts, and it's a nicely done slow roller down the first base side. I hustled out from behind the plate, fielded the ball, threw to first to barely nip the runner…and the runner on second was sliding into third in a huge cloud of dust. No, wait—that would be baseball. In TP, the runner on second was still standing on second. That's quite the sacrifice by the pitcher.
  • Two outs, bottom of the ninth, the Cubs are beating the Cards 11-2. The CPU brings in the closer. I'm no Don Baylor fan (as a manager, he makes a hell of a hitting coach), but I doubt even he would get Aguilera warmed up, then bring him in with a nine-run lead, no men on base, and two outs in the ninth.
  • Final example—this all happened in one inning. The first batter reaches on a single. While he's standing on first, I throw over for a pick-off and he inexplicably takes off running for second (it appeared he was already back to first safely). Anyway, I throw the ball to second so we can get him in a run-down. The second baseman catches the ball when the runner's halfway between first and second, and then waits patiently as the runner just keeps on running right into the tag. So, I turn my attention back to the hitter and serve him up a fastball, which he hits on the ground to third (the announcer claims the ball is in left field). My third baseman scoops up the ball cleanly and whips a throw to…home plate (I had numerous problems with the D-pad in this game, especially when the camera would change views and what was once straight is now left, etc.). Batter, of course, reaches base safely. I throw to the next hitter who hits a nice soft fly ball right to the center fielder. He camps under the ball and catches it. The runner on first, of course, is barreling full speed into second, because everyone knows from Little League that it's best to try to advance on easy fly balls hit right at the fielder standing behind the base in front of you, especially when there's only one out. “Tagging up”? That would be done in baseball, not in Triple Play.

Replay Value : 5
I considered giving this a negative score, as the game was so distasteful that not only did I not wish to play it more, I didn't want to play it ever again. Even more, I wanted back the parts of my life I had wasted trying to play this awful excuse for a game. Anyone who can play this game for more than two games is either having to play it so they can write a review, or is the sort of person who cruises the highways during rush hour trying to find a horrible accident they can slow down and look at, then loop back and look at it again.

Overall : 10
I hated this game. Hated, despised, dreaded, resented, hated it. It looks pretty, the simulated seasons and statistics were realistic, and it has a cool version of Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride during the intro movie and the option screens. I think that's about all of the game I enjoyed. Please, save yourself and your loved ones from this platter of dung.

By: Rick Worrell 7/28/00

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