Turn up the heat!
Despite the fact that EA Sports has locked down pretty much every major sporting line, the folks at 3DO keep batting away with the High Heat series. And oddly, they're not down by much.
Indeed, a brighter day has come for our 3DO friends and that day is called High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 for the PS2. This game plays much like it does on the PSX, but it looks far better. So at last, HHMLB2002 (we need an acronym for this acronym) finally has graphics that do its superior gameplay justice.
The animations themselves look great and are a marvel of motion-capturing genius. Evey stadium is represented accurately. Players look very good and the overall feel is solid.
Unfortunately, the snazzier graphics seem to have cost a pretty penny in the editing room. The little player animations don't run together seamlessly, often leading to abrupt blinks and a lack of in-between animations. Though the stark contrast between cool animation and crappy editing is pretty irritating and mars the game's appearance, it's still a genral step up from the PSX version.
Batting in HH is somewhere between the TP and MLB series (According to the FBI & CIA. - Ed). It lacks the precision and intelligence that makes batting in the MLB games so much fun, but at the same time it's way more complicated than the no-brainer swing of the TP series.
The problem with batting is that you need to aim your swing at the location of the ball in order to be able to get a decent hit. I think a person has a better chance of learning to stick his foot down his own throat than learning to aim at a pitch correctly. Furthermore, if you actually did learn to accurately aim at the pitches, you would be an unstoppable juggernaut of homerun mayhem and would probably post basketball scores.
Now, you'd think the computer would be able to take advantage of such a feature and knock the ball out of the park every single at bat, but, just as in TP, a couple easy formulas can be learned to dispatch nearly every batter.
It's interesting to note that fatigue plays a much larger part in the PS2 incarnation than in its PSX predecessor. As it stands with the PS2 version, it's nearly impossible to consistently send pitches over the plate with an exhausted pitcher. This leads to greater dependency on the bullpen, which in turn leads to greater involvement in the game. It's also really entertaining to try and lick batters with a tired pitcher, as his pitching style completely changes, making him function like a new pitcher altogether. Very nice.
Traditionally, fielding has sucked in baseball games. Well, take heed, other companies: High Heat has it down pat, relatively speaking. The fielding in High Heat beats every other game hands down, due largely to the seamless transitions between batting and fielding screens.
The sounds in High Heat are pretty nondescript, except for the announcers. Dave O'Brien and Ray Fosse are the poor fools who drew the short sticks in the bunch. The same choppiness that affects the visual flow of the game also seems to affect the sound, making the announcers sound like they've both got an extreme case of hiccups.
High Heat is customization incarnate. There are a thousand things you can change, including more managing and trading options than you could shake a stick at. Pretty much every sim element can be tweaked. But High Heat takes customization even further; if you find the pitching too salty, you can tone down the pitches or up your batters' offensive attributes through the edit player option. Unfortunately there's no create-a-player option, so you're pretty much stuck with the guys the game gives you. But comparitively, the depth in this game is unrivaled.
While HHMLB 2002 does everything its PSX counterpart can with twice the graphical oomph, it really doesn't do anything more. Still, it's a solid start to PS2 baseball.