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Playstation Baseball 1999 Baseball Wrap-up

With the real baseball season beginning to heat up, you may be ready for your own virtual season. The Playstation baseball games are all finally out and we've been able to spend some quality time with them to help you tell them apart if you're not sure which one to buy.

Here's a quick overview of what's available, and a couple of different opinions regarding each game's major pros and cons. We've also ranked the games in various categories at the end of this feature. As usual, it's probably a good idea to rent and compare these games for yourself before investing in one of them because everyone's personal tastes vary.

PITCHING: Aftertouch - bleh! It's an OK system, but having to use aftertouch (and you must if you want to be successful) makes the game too arcadey for my tastes.
BATTING: Either straight timing, or with a cursor. I really like the hard (with cursor) mode: it's a good challenge, and is a nice innovation beyond a more traditional, MLB-style cursor.
FIELDING: D-pad represents the bases, the arrows pointing to the on-field ball marker are too busy and distracting; otherwise, it's straightforward and I have no complaints.
AI: Highly customizable, which means that the CPU can pretty much be as challenging as you'd like, though this is definitely an arcade game.
EXTRAS: The usual player creation and season play options are available.
STRENGTHS: Sharp graphics, many difficulty level adjustments possible, and an overall wide range of appeal.
WEAKNESSES: Not really a sim, plus I dislike the trails and jet-noises they added to hard hit/thrown balls.
GENERAL COMMENTS: A huge improvement over previous years' versions of the franchise, and a good game that will appeal to the masses; however, those interested in a sim should look elsewhere.

Matt's second opinion: I agree with most of Andy's take on the game, but I give the game more credit for being an enjoyable, immersive gaming experience. I share his dislike of the cartoonish sound effects and rocket trails and wish EA had included the ability to turn them off. Despite the goofy effects, however, this may be the most complete game of the bunch.

PITCHING: A great system that probably allows too much precision. If the strike zone could be turned off and the ball cursor weren't visible the whole time, it would go a long way toward adding some element of human error. Probably the best overall control of pitch speed of all the games.
BATTING: Straight timing or batting cursor. I like the batting cursor as it provides a good challenge. Personally, I avoid the "Total Control Batting" like the plague because it takes away from the challenge and realism.
FIELDING: I prefer 989's system of using the four buttons on the controller's face to represent the bases, rather than the d-pad. Other than that, it's fine, though when the bases are loaded, balls hit to the infield (thus a number of players on screen at the same time) can cause the framerate to drop.
AI: Probably the worst of the four games being reviewed, but an improvement over last year's effort. Case in point: on botched hit & runs or straight steals, the runner can almost always return to their original base without being thrown out by the CPU.
EXTRAS: Spring Training mode is a great feature, otherwise the usual play options are available.
STRENGTHS: Great batter/pitcher interface, good graphics and smooth animation.
WEAKNESSES: Wonky AI, Total Control Batting can make the game far too easy.
GENERAL COMMENTS: A good game that is hampered by being too similar to last year's effort (making it an absolute "rent before you buy"). Also, as mentioned above, I only think the game is a valid contender if you choose to ignore Total Control Batting, which makes the game too easy.

Matt's second opinion: I liked this game more than Andy did. The pitching interface is the best out there, and Vin Scully, as in real life, does a good job announcing the game. The animation and gameplay are smooth and detailed. Hitting is a little too easy in MLB, and the AI may have some problems, but overall, the game has a good fun-factor to it. Baseball purists may hate this game, but an average sports gamer may pick it up any enjoy it more than the other titles.

PITCHING: Uses aftertouch, but it's not necessary to be successful. Overall, a strong system that allows you a lot of control over your pitches without being unrealistic.
BATTING: Tough. Go beyond the lowest difficulty level, and this game's a real challenge. No cursor, just point the d-pad, and choose a power or contact swing. CPU pitchers show no mercy.
FIELDING: Framerate stutters and control hiccups can cause occasional problems. Otherwise, pretty standard, plus there are a number of very cool context-specific animations that add to the overall feel of the game.
AI: Great AI makes this one of the better baseball sims. The CPU is smart, and really makes you work for every run you score.
EXTRAS: Player creation and the usual play options are available.
STRENGTHS: Great AI, cool animations, good baseball feel.
WEAKNESSES: Framerate drops on occasion, graphics are a bit rough, probably too difficult for most casual gamers. I agree with Matt that the games seem to drag in this one.
GENERAL COMMENTS: A great game with little flash but a lot of substance. Definitely one to check out if you're looking for a more sim-oriented game, or find TP or MLB too easy.

MATT'S SECOND OPINION: Baseball 2000 does have some nice context-specific animations, but unfortunately, they, like many aspects of this game, lead to a slow, drawn-out gaming experience. Games in Baseball 2000 seem to drag on longer than in other baseball titles. The graphics are good, but sluggish, and every player has the same exact face, which is kind of creepy. It's also damn hard to score, while the computer seems quite adept at knocking your pitches out of the park. The game has a lot going for it in terms of AI and realism, but it just feels slow and a little lifeless to me. Baseball purists may enjoy its leisurely pace and ruthless difficulty, but most gamers probably won't.

PITCHING: Gives you the least amount of control of all the games, but does a good job of adding a "human error" element. It's also tough to get used to the sweeping, exaggerated arcs that pitches take coming toward the plate. I'd also like some control over pitch speed.
BATTING: Point the d-pad and swing. Challenging due to the unusual arcs that pitches take (as mentioned above), but a good system overall, and it really makes you appreciate the hits when you get them. Also, has the best check swings of any game because to complete a swing, the button must be held for longer than usual.
FIELDING: The d-pad represents the bases, otherwise it's standard stuff. Jumping and diving should have been mapped to separate buttons.
AI: Probably the best AI of all the games, even on the lowest difficulty level it isn't easy. Generally the CPU is smart and aggressive, and does the things it should, providing a good, believable challenge.
EXTRAS: No player creation feature, otherwise the usual play options, the addition of classic as well as new stadiums is a nice touch.
STRENGTHS: Great AI, quick games (about 30 minutes), scores generally remain in the believable range, excellent baseball feel.
WEAKNESSES: Unimpressive graphics and overall no-frills presentation.
GENERAL COMMENTS: A bare-bones baseball game that will probably only appeal to baseball fanatics and that has been unfairly slammed by much of the gaming press. The odd, floaty flight of the ball takes some getting used to, but it also gives the game it's own personality. This one is absolutely all about the gameplay, and the gameplay, in my opinion, is great.

MATT'S SECOND OPINION: As I wrote in my review of this game: Somewhere deep down in High Heat 2000 is a great baseball game trying to get out, but it's trapped under heavy layers of bad graphics, mediocre audio, and a general lack of personality. If realism and AI are your top concerns, you might consider High Heat 2000, but otherwise, don't bother.


1. MLB 2000 or Triple Play 2000 (I'd rent them both first)
2. Baseball 2000
3. High Heat 2000

1. Triple Play 2000
2. MLB 2000
3. Baseball 2000
4. High Heat 2000


1. High Heat 2000
2. Baseball 2000
3. MLB 2000 (don't use TC batting!)
4. Triple Play 2000

1. Baseball 2000
2. High Heat 2000
3. MLB 2000
4. Triple Play 2000


ANDY & MATT (agreed):
1. Triple Play 2000
2. MLB 2000
3. Baseball 2000
4. High Heat 2000


1. High Heat 2000
2. Baseball 2000
3. MLB 2000
4. Triple Play 2000

1. Triple Play 2000
2. MLB 2000
3. Baseball 2000
4. High Heat 2000

-- Andy L. and Matt P. 8/13/99

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