Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: May 20, 2002
When we last approached the Triple Play franchise, the series had just made its first successful foray onto the PS2. Now, following this trend and with the years comfortably realigned thanks to an active change to do so for 2001, we’re pleased to present our take on Triple Play 2002, the first of the series to appear on the Xbox.
Similar to its PS2 predecessor, this version of Triple Play 2002 makes extensive use of analog controls. Whenever the ball is thrown, the pressure on the button determines whether the ball will be rifled or floated across the field. Alternately, you can eschew the buttons all together and use the right analog stick to determine which base your fielder will toss to and how much heat he’ll put behind that fling. 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 tap the button to throw a give-away floater or mash it down for a fiery fastball.
As with previous versions, Triple Play 2002 presents the strike zone on the screen for reference. Aiming a pitch is a more scientific process than in many other titles, such as High Heat‘s directional system, since you can place the throw precisely within or outside of the strike zone using an iconic ball. As a caveat, though, is should be noted that this point is only the desired position, and the overall accuracy is determined by several factors. The key factor ties into your pitcher’s 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 — exhausted muscles tend to lose their finer coordination.
While each pitcher has a unique selection of four specialties, when you add up the combined options you’ll see that the variety includes the change up, slider, fork, split, curve and the ubiquitous fastball. In order to give the players a bit more personality and make pitching more involved, EA Sports has incorporated after-touch into their game this year. While the mechanic has been used elsewhere, after-touch essentially lets you personalize a pitch by arcing it slightly outside of the expected flight path by tweaking the controller. Done properly, this throwing style can throw off opponents and send their team back to the outfield that much faster.
Batting continues much the same as last year, by interacting with the pitching interpace. Even against the AI, the target moves within the strike zone and the batter must try to match that point with a corresponding reticule. 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 if the timing is perfect. Depending on the batter’s skills his reticule will change size, and sluggers like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire have huge targets. Once this point has been determined, 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 or step back if he is. Also enhanced are new analog controls for the bunt which allow you to direct the ball along a base line, back to the pitcher and so forth.