What was I thinking last year? Why did I almost give up my copy of High Heat Baseball 2001 in exchange for that travesty called World Series 2K1? Fortunately when I saw WS in action, I immediately changed my mind, and stuck with perhaps the most in-depth baseball sim I ever played.
However, there are still idiots out there who will pass on a masterpiece like this solely because the graphics aren’t all that great. Unfortunately the same thing can be said about this season, with High Heat 2002. I’ve called various software stores in the area, and they told me about all these morons who returned this wonderful game in exchange for of all things, Triple Play and that bug- ridden monster, All Star Baseball.
Because they claim the other two titles LOOK better. Well, you morons, I hope you’re happy. You got your games that only LOOK better, but they sure don’t play better! How many baseball games available are capable of simulating a season more realistically than High Heat? How many baseball games out there can provide the feeling of a true pitcher’s duel, and offer low-hit games like High Heat does? Or is it you’d rather play the other games where you can see Rick Ankiel throw a complete game without ONE wild pitch, or even worse, see John Rocker actually hit a home run? (No this is not a joke, I’ve seen this happen in other, less realistic baseball games.)
If anyone out there tells me that I’m being a little bitter about this, they’re right. These people who only complain about High Heat’s graphics have the IQ of a high school kid who only thinks about dating the cheerleading captain, because they only look at what is on the outside. As they say, beauty is only skin deep; it’s what is inside that counts.
That’s where High Heat more than excels, the inner meat of the game. Sammy Sosa once said in those annoying ads last year, "It’s so reeeeeeeeeeal," and even though I hate the Cubs (100% Pirate fan here,) he is completely right. Last year’s game could easily be confused for a real MLB game, and it was only beat out by NFL 2K1 for our pick of Sports Game of the Year. If they pulled an EA Sports, which means recreating the same game from last year with only updated rosters and stadiums, I would still buy it.
Fortunately this is not EA we’re dealing with, so we get something new. For starters, the graphic engine has been changed from before. All the players are more rounded and move smoother than before, including a higher polygon count and a smoother frame rate. However, the players do look a little too tall now, and their heads are a little disjointed. Also, on the PC version I noticed some minor graphic glitches, which will hopefully be fixed in a patch file.
The PS2 version, however, runs very smooth, running between 30 and 60 FPS, with almost no graphic glitches at all, save for a few skipped transitions between movements.
As for the audio, it has been improved over last year’s single game announcer. Now with a two-man team, everything sounds more complete. I will admit though the color sounds a little like Bryant Gumbel after a dose of Crystal Meth, and the opening audio has some glitches (referring to both Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park when the Pirates only play in PNC now), but it is an improvement. I do however find the audio was slightly better in the PC version, which includes PA announcers and music that blares during batter walk-ups.
But once again I have to mention all the wonderful features that have been added to an already impressive gameplay engine. Finally, I see catchers actually dropping third strikes, which allow the batter to attempt a run to first base. Also if an infielder makes a diving catch, he will actually throw for the out while still on his knees.
Pitchers can get ejected for beaming batters like last year, but now there will actually be suspensions as a result. I can track all the pitches and whether or not they were in the strike zone, or if the umpire is truly blind (unlike the other titles with a dedicated strike zone.)
Players can now also be tracked for streaks, milestones, and other special events (hitting five or more hits in a game, hitting for the cycle, etc.) Control is also very intuitive as before, and anyone has played the series before knows how simple, yet effective, the pitcher/batter interface is. Just push in the area you want to swing and there is none of that cursor crap to deal with. The ball’s physics will come into play to see where the ball will end up.
Also, unlike other games, pitchers aren’t always perfect, and pitches meant to be strikes could go awkwardly out of the zone, like the real thing. Wild pitches and passed balls can be common in a game when Ankiel is pitching.
For the stats jockeys out there, this game continues the tradition of being the fantasy baseball fan’s dream come true. Every possible stat available can be accessed for reference, and on the PC version, these stats can carry on through multiple seasons. If only the PS2 version could do this as well, because I’d love to take my stats with me on the go.
Lastly, I know that the previous versions on the PSX have only been in the shadow of the PC releases. This year the shadow is getting shorter. All we need is to add a career mode, a home run derby (which is surprisingly nonexistent), and possible analog control for pitching and batting, and possibly some more features (balks, maybe?) and I can see the High Heat series completely sweeping Triple Play in the dust!
I guess I can consider this review as the last laugh to all those who traded in the High Heat series for something that LOOKS better. Granted, this game isn’t truly a looker, but what is inside is the most important. I wish I could be in front of those so-called experts when I shove the 5 Gem rating (4 1/2 for the PS2 because of the lack of career mode and home run derby) this game truly deserves in their face! Maybe next time they will realize that what makes a game great is not how good it looks. If that were true, they’d be playing nothing but crap!