Almost every avid baseball gamer will agree that the pinnacle of the Triple Play series was TP '97. On the cover of that game was the great San Diego Padre, Tony Gwynn. In that '97 season Gwynn had his last extremely productive season leading the majors with 220 hits and a .372 batting average. Unfortunately ever since that '97 season, Gwynn's production gradually decreased and last season he retired.
Although TP is far from warranting a retirement it, like its '97 cover boy, is a far cry from its previous glory. Last season EA Sports released its first Triple Play on the PS2 and although the quality of graphics was praised, everything else was mediocre at best. Will EA take the next step with its baseball game down the path of the NCAA and Madden series or will it turn into another NBA Live?
Presentation/Graphics : 80
The graphics are a mixed bag and I'll start with the positives first. The one aspect that TP does the best is the stadium modeling. Compared to High Heat and ASB, TP's stadiums are immaculate. The level of detail is immense. It seems like every nook and cranny is covered. TP was the first baseball game that I got the feeling that I was in a ballpark and not some 2D creation. Don't get me wrong, the other games' stadiums looked fine, but compared to TP they are inadequate.
The environments of the stadiums are for a lack of words-amazing. Miller Park in Milwaukee, with its wall of glass windows, is a visual phenomenon. I sat there in my couch with my jaw dropped to the ground. The skylines are as equally alluring. At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the arch was present and the ivy walls at Wrigley actually had some texture to them. Even the domed stadiums in Toronto and Minnesota had more of a ballpark and less of a cavernous feeling.
Now the bad. EA Sports, a company notorious for its exceptional player modeling, dropped the ball (no pun intended) for its player models. Although I believe TP has the best 3-D scanned faces the sports genre has seen to date, the bodies are bad.
There are a few intricacies that I think TP does well, meaning it's nice for the game to have, but it's not imperative. TP was the only PS2 baseball game to boast a 3-D dugout full with players, water coolers, and managers. Also when players slid, dirt poofed up in the air. Very cool.
The player models are discombobulated. It's difficult to explain, but they look awkward. When I first started to play the game I thought to myself, "Man are these guys' heads BIG!" I thought that the eyesore would go away the more I played the game, but they never really did.
The goofy looking player bodies really detract from the graphical experience. It's actually a bit frustrating because everything else looks so nice. If you're having troubles envisioning where I'm coming from think of this: Imagine the nicest living room you have ever been in on the nicest spring day. Wouldn't your experience be ruined if all the furniture in the room came from a garage sale? That's how I felt playing TP.
Presentation/Audio : 60
With the exception of the NCAA Football series trio of Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Brad Nessler, EA Sports has made a bad reputation of signing big name announcers and making them terrible in their video games (cough, John Madden, cough). I'm afraid that Bob Costas and Harold Reynolds fall into the latter category.
Costas is known for his eloquent style of broadcasting and I don't think it is portrayed well in the game. He adds a few thoughts here and there, but most are corny one-liners that don't show off the man's vocabulary brilliance.
I LOVE the real-life Harold Reynolds. He is insightful, analytical, and gives that extra spin that only a "former player" could have. But in TP? His role is reduced to a hootin' and hollerin' baseball-announcing version of Nike's infamous, "Lil' Penny." I was expecting much more from this duo.
The baseball stadium sounds are decent. The in-game music boasts a healthy soundtrack. Some players have a pre-bat music clip. When you hit a home run you get a wonderful jet sound.
One of the most chilling moments of the game was late in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners when I was the Chicago White Sox. The Mariner's closer, Kazushiro Sasaki was on the mound and before every at-bat there was an NBA Street Gamebreaker-esque cut scene and the crowd was markedly louder than during the rest of the game. Nevertheless I went down 1-2-3, but it was an awesome experience.
Interface/Options : 50
Whoops! That's all I can say about this area. There are four measly game modes: Exhibition, Season, Playoffs, and Home Run Derby. Most PSOne baseball games had more game modes than this. The lack of "Keeping up with the Jones'" is furthered since ASB 2k3 had TEN game modes. In this area TP is put to shame.
This is something I don't get about EA Sports. Some of their games like Madden and NCAA Football are loaded in the game modes area, but others like March Madness and TP are extremely bare. I don't get it.
The score would have been lower had the DVD extras not been added. In the game are video clips of the production of the game and a small section dedicated to Costas and Reynolds. I enjoyed watching the DVD portion and would like to see it in other games.
Gameplay : 85
It would be unfair to review Triple Play as a simulation-type baseball game. If you are looking for an authentic baseball experience you should either get High Heat or ASB.
While I think TP wants to retain some simulation qualities and isn't quite in the pure arcade category of NFL Blitz or NBA Street, I'll view it as more as an arcade experience.
Pitching and batting aren't that bad. Pitching is executed quite easily. You select the position you want to throw at and throw the pitch. You have the ability to use Aftertouch, but you'll find sometimes it doesn't even matter when facing the CPU. Sim or arcade, I found it frustrating to get numerous 0-2 pitches that were thrown well outside the strike zone crushed for homeruns.
But I had to pinch myself and realize that it's not real baseball. TP is geared towards the "give me action NOW" type of gamer and I think it follows through. Batting for instance is so simplified it's not even funny. You are given a batting cursor, but you are given the option to see the location of the pitch before it is even thrown. So in effect, all you have to do is match up your cursor and time up the pitch. That is how you get those epic 20-18 games. I liken the TP experience to playing on a Coors Field on steroids.
With that said, the pitching/batting interface is perfect for the style of game. It's easy to learn and the results more often than not result in a home run. There aren't quite as many four-baggers as in last year's game, but it is still an unrealistic number.
Fielding the ball is another story. I found that there was a lag between fielding the ball and throwing it. After you field the ball there is a little meter that flashes above the player's head that determines the strength of the throw. When the play requires a quick throw, you pretty much are screwed.
Another problem with fielding and base running is that there is a sprint button. This could be the worst baseball game feature on any console. A sprint button is great in a football game and maybe even a hockey game, but a baseball game? And it's not a press and hold X to sprint. Sprinting requires a rapid tap that gives TP a quirky WWF Wrestling feel. Sprinting and fielding (such as running down a fly ball) is just something that doesn't feel right.
One thing I noticed and liked was the abundance of foul balls. In High Heat there is a severe lack of them and in ASB the number just didn't feel right, but in TP I felt it hit the spot. I have said that TP holds many arcade elements, but I can remember fighting off four or five pitches in one at-bat and eventually crushing a fastball for a homerun.
Overall, the gameplay is very quick. Games are dragged out to around 40-50 minutes, but that is due to the high number of hits in the game.
Replay Value : 80
TP has no multiple-season game mode. Those gamers who like to draft rookies and sign free agents are out of luck. I couldn't see how someone could play a full 162 game season. TP has "weekend rental" written all over it. This would be a great game to play with your friends, but as far as a single-player gaming experience goes, I would not suggest it to a gamer looking for a real game of baseball.
The Big League Challenge (home run derby) is very fun. You can take your favorite player and advance him through a star-studded bracket. The lack of more game modes really hurts TP however. I guess you can say that Triple Play has "March Madness" disease (BTW, that's not good, not good at all) in the game modes department.
Overall : 73
I give this game a solid overall score because it's a very entertaining baseball arcade experience. I have played all three PS2 baseball games and TP is by far the most entertaining in terms of scoring a lot of runs, racking up a lot of strikeouts, and looking at eye candy. To hold TP to a simulation-standard would be putting it in the wrong genre.
I think that there are some gameplay problems that need to be worked out (GET RID OF THE SPRINT BUTTON!), but I think EA made a nice game. Obviously this TP is not as good as the ones from its previous dominating lore, but I think critics are beginning to understand its niche in the baseball gaming world. Does it make a mockery of baseball? Yes. But for the casual sports gamer who doesn't want to experience a steep learning curve and does want to have a pretty game to look at, Triple Play 2002 could be your game.
TP is not ready to join EA's elite games, but it didn't lay an egg. I think EA should scrap trying to make a simulation-style game and go for an NBA Street-style baseball game.