High Heat, Low Crawl
Remember games like Great Baseball for the Sega Master system where you only had the red team and the blue team, and the blurry, 8-bit pitcher would hurl a white octagon to the waiting batter whose swing would only require 3 frames of animation?
Well, just in case you’ve auctioned off your Master system to some geeky collector, 3DO lets you relive those days, at least graphically, through the new High Heat 2002.
In the same way Australia bogarts venomous snakes and Microsoft monopolizes just about everything else, 3DO seems to have the market cornered when it comes to subpar graphics. From the Army Men games to the Might and Magic series, their recent titles are practically a museum of what can go wrong with graphical design.
However, in spite of graphics that make Chelsea Clinton look good, this one actually plays better than that ‘other’ baseball game on the market right now, Triple Play Baseball.
Fundamentally, both games are extremely similar. But whereas TP only has the generic modes, High Heat throws in Family mode and Batting practice.
Family mode is good for the mentally disabled and younger members of the family, as it lets the computer take over everything in the game except batting. The Batting practice mode is useful too, since sorting out the misleading instructions in the instruction booklet takes a lot of trial and error.
Batting in High Heat is somewhere between TP and 989’s MLB. 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 = hit ball of the TP series.
The problem with batting is that, according to the instruction manual, you need to aim your swing at the location of the ball in order to get a decent hit. I think a person has a better chance of learning to stick his foot down his 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.
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 pitching formulas can be learned to dispatch nearly every batter.
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.
This is largely due to the smooth animation and fluid transition between the batting and fielding screens. The animation in HH is truly superb, which adds a sort of subtle wisdom and dignity to the ugly graphics, and at the same time shames the TP series which sacrifices gameplay for looks on nearly every front.
The sounds in are pretty nondescript, except for the announcers. Fortunately, the commentary is pretty sparse, but when the announcers do speak, they invariably say something dumb or mechanical.
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. Still, the depth in this game is unrivaled.
While visually the worst in town, the sim gameplay and depth raise High Heat 2002 above the pack. It’s not without its flaws, but considering the limited shelf life of the PSX, this one currently holds the pennant.