Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: May 16, 2001
Those of us familiar with EA Sports’ typical nomenclature might be wondering as to the lack of a year in the above title, but since this is the developer’s first foray onto the PS2 with their baseball franchise there’s little danger of confusion. As with many other sports, the Triple Play series has been setting the standards for quality on every system on which it has appeared. As a new platform, however, the PlayStation 2 offered a chance for others to get in on the action, and as we’ve already seen with 3DO’s High Heat Major League Baseball 2002, the competition looks to be pretty stiff. Then again, competition is “in the game,” so we can be sure that EA Sports wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of the most significant changes in Triple Play Baseball arrives on the wings of the Dual Shock 2′s analog buttons. Whenever the ball is thrown, the pressure on the button determines whether the ball will be rifled or floated across the field. While fielding, for example, a light press on the button will ensure an accurate, but slow, toss; leaning on the controller translates into a much faster fling, but it also runs the risk of an erroneous wild throw. The same control determines how much heat the pitcher puts into each trip across the plate, meaning you can lightly caress the button to throw a give-away floater or mash it down for a fiery fastball.
Pitching has been revamped for this version of Triple Play Baseball, with the strike zone presented on screen for reference. Aiming a pitch is a more scientific process than in many other titles, since you can place the throw precisely within or outside of the strike zone using an iconic ball. This point is only the desired position, however, and its accuracy is determined by several factors. Each pitcher has his own skills, and depending on the throwing style chosen he may be more or less likely to miss his target. Similarly, faster throws are more likely to slide outside of the strike zone. Fatigue also plays a major role in a player’s performance on the mound, and tired arms tend to lose their finer coordination. While each pitcher has their own selection, the usual selection of pitches, such as a change up, slider, fork, split, curve and the ubiquitous fastball are all available.
Batting has received a similar facelift, as it interacts with the now-visible pitching target. Even against the AI, the target moves within the strike zone and the batter must try to match that point with a corresponding reticule of his own. The targeting cursor for the batter has two zones: the central red area represents the sweet spot for his swing, while a larger blue area indicates a possible hit. Depending on the batter’s skills his reticule will change size, and sluggers like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire have huge targets while the average pitcher (whose talents lie elsewhere) will have a much less forgiving target. Once this target has been acquired, some fine tuning before the pitch may be in order, and the batter can crowd the plate if he’s not afraid of catching one on the cheek.