Triple Play 2001
Windows - 2000
Description of Triple Play 2001 Windows
Triple Play 2001 is what I categorize as a fantasy baseball game. These are games that resemble baseball only loosely and place great emphasis on things that have nothing to do with the real life sport. Developers of such titles believe the premise that baseball as presented on the PC is an inherently boring game. So they devote a lot of time to adding "fun" by introducing fantasy elements. These include power-ups and other such arcade trappings to generate new twists on what (the developers believe) can be very long baseball games and seasons. The primary concern isn't baseball accuracy. Games must be played very quickly. The general idea behind everything is providing a game that a player can sit down and play without worrying about all of the precision and accuracy of baseball simulations.
These fantasy baseball games are created as arcade games in the purest sense and have that "putting a quarter in a videogame" feel about them. Not much substance, but there should be plenty of fluff in this type of game. It is through this lens that I judge Triple Play 2001. Although every baseball bone in my body screams every time I play fantasy sports titles, I must put aside my own dislike for these types of games in order to judge whether or not the arcade fan would find them enjoyable. The ultimate Triple Play 2001 judge is the fun factor.
Triple Play 2001 is a baseball game that gives you the option of playing a single game, season, or the playoffs. Also included is something called the Big League Challenge. This is a home run derby that can be played as either a tournament or a one-on-one competition. Extreme Big League Challenge adds a twist to the derby by putting up targets that can be hit for extra points. Another home run derby called Home Run Legends lets you watch or participate in a home run contest with the Baseball Hall of Fame's members of the 500 home run club. Take your cuts with Mel Ott, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, and of course, The Babe, amongst others. Season mode is limited to 15, 30, 60, or 162 games, and there is no multi-season career format.
Seasons can be set up using the rosters in the game or you can conduct a draft. You set the number of games, the playoff format, difficulty, and game innings. Games can be simulated or played during the season, but you have to click on each individual game to sim or play it (no simming days, weeks, months, or season option). Triple Play 2001 includes a points cap which is used to simulate a monetary system, but with a twist. Points are allocated to draft choices during the draft and for making trades during the season. They can also be used in something called the Season Store, where you can purchase such things as new stadiums, old time players to add to your lineup, or increases in your team's physical attributes. Computer to computer and computer to human trades can be turned on or off and there will be free agents available that you can sign to your team. The points system means that you lose points if the players you receive are worth more than those you trade away.
To emphasize the fantasy nature of the proceedings, you also receive rewards for doing certain things during a game. Strike out a certain number of players and win a reward. Score a certain number of runs in a game and earn a reward. The rewards themselves include graphical enhancements to members of your team and ability increases to your players. For example, you can make your team a bunch of balloon heads or you can make them pencil heads. You can also insert your own essence into this fantasy world through EA Sports' familiar face mapping utility. You can create up to 25 new players to insert into the game as free agents that can be signed by teams. A player editor is included, allowing you to edit the players on your roster. Just don't try and change their names, positions, or numbers.
Triple Play 2001 's interface is a mixed bag. I play with a Microsoft Sidewinder gamepad, so it was really nice to see the button commands mapped to my scheme. Many times in other titles I have to translate my buttons to the Gravis buttons, so I was happy with this feature. The roster interface screams its console roots and is not very well laid out. Players have only three or four stats on the screen at a time (you can scroll for other statistics) and there is a very strange click and select menu system that you use to warm up pitchers and replace players. Roster management in no way takes advantage of the Windows system and is one of the most awkward I've seen in a PC baseball game. The screen loads very quickly, but actually moving around and looking at your players is a bit frustrating. Basic baseball statistics are kept during the season and I didn't notice any results from games that were too out of the ordinary. Of course, nothing is out of the ordinary in the Majors these days.
Fielding, pitching, and hitting in Triple Play 2001 have both good and bad points. Hitting is all about timing. There's none of the fancy aiming found in High Heat Baseball 2001 or Microsoft Baseball 2001. This makes hitting the ball pretty easy at even the most difficult settings. Fielding is pretty straightforward, although some of the camera angles make it difficult to handle balls properly. You do not have the option of having fielders automatically throw the ball for you to the correct base. The pitching interface just isn't very good. You can't really aim your pitches as you can in other baseball games. You do have the option of taking something off of pitches or adding speed to it (which is nice), but it is hard to control where you are throwing the ball. I tried to hit left-handed batters with fast balls and failed most times because the batter would jump out of the way. I was much more successful with righties. To intentionally throw the ball out of the strike zone, you hit one button and to throw the ball in the strike zone you hit another. You use your direction keys to move the ball around. This sometimes worked and other times the ball seemed to have a mind of its own. I'm not sure how much this is due to the quality of the pitcher or the random nature of the interface.
The graphics in Triple Play 2001 are what set it apart from other baseball titles. Batting visuals are the best in the business. You can see very distinct and very smooth swing types that look like the real thing. The stadiums are beautifully rendered and very detailed. Umpires make realistic gestures and occasionally a player and the umpire will argue over calls, particularly at first base. The only real complaint I have about the graphics is the way that running animations are depicted. Outfielders chasing down a ball do not look very much like players I've seen do this in real life. It looks as if the Madden 2000 running graphics were used as the model for how baseball players run, because they appear like lumbering football players chasing fly balls. The ball tail exists in full force in Triple Play 2001, but somehow it seems appropriate in this game. Throws will have the tail and hits will even sport different color tails depending on the power of the contact. The arcade nature of the graphics shows up in full force whenever a run is scored or a home run is hit, thanks to big, pop-up letters.
Jim Hughson and Buck Martinez are back to deliver a very smooth description of gameplay. The field sounds have arcade-level intensity. I nearly jumped out of my chair as two players ran into each other. The crash I heard was louder than explosions in some real-time strategy games I play. Hit the ball with any power and another explosion will be heard. Otherwise, hits sound like hits in real life. One thing EA Sports really knows how to do well is to use catchy music in their games. They even make bass fishing seem exciting in the opening video of Championship Bass. Triple Play 2001 is no exception and the intro video is excellent.
If you own a Microsoft Sidewinder gamepad and are at-bat in Triple Play 2001, you only need to know the letter "A." Forget about trying just to make contact or bunting the ball, because you really don't need to pay attention to any baseball strategy. Just keep pressing "A" and watch balls fly around the stadium. I use the word "ball" very loosely because the Pong tennis ball square has come out of retirement and taken residence in Triple Play 2001. And just like that wacky Pong ball would do crazy things in years past, so will your "baseball" after it makes contact with the bat in this game. I had the following sequence occur during one game. Ball is smashed down the first base line and curves in the wrong direction. Accurate physics are optional in our fantasy baseball land. Hughson then informs me that the outfielder should have had that one and an error was charged to the right fielder. Huh? One option I forgot to mention was the option of turning off the errors in the game. I would advise that you do this, because like Microsoft Baseball 2001, Triple Play 2001 has way too many errors in the game. Not only are there too many errors, but there are phantom errors like the one that the right fielder received.
I've read complaints from people about Triple Play 2001 where they can't understand why EA Sports isn't fixing some statistical bugs in the game, or why the game can't perform a double switch. I just have to scratch my head and wonder if the complainers understand that this game really isn't about baseball. People complain about the lack of a real editor in Triple Play 2001. Fortunately a fan utility allows you to do what EA Sports seems unwilling to provide. People complain that buying things in the Season Store make their players unrealistic! Pitchers are recorded as making appearances in the game when they do not make appearances and folks seem surprised by this. Triple Play 2001 isn't about baseball.
One fan captured the essence of Triple Play 2001 when he wrote that this game should be called MLB Jam. He understands that being concerned about your pitchers getting tired too quickly just isn't part of the Triple Play 2001 experience. You shouldn't care about the position of your infielders (and their ability not to get to routine infield hits) nor should you care about the wide spaces covered by all of your fleet-footed outfielders. Okay, people should be upset that some systems have difficulty with some of the stadiums in the game and their frame rate will dip down. This is not very Triple Play 2001 -like and is what people should realistically be complaining about.
Triple Play 2001 is about quick, mindless entertainment. For those familiar with American television, Triple Play 2001 is a Baywatch whereas High Heat Baseball 2001 is a 60 Minutes. If you're expecting hard hitting, meaningful television, you do not sit down in front of David Hasselhof and then complain about his show's lack of social commentary. If you want to shut off your mind for a few minutes, Baywatch is your program. It's all about the visuals, and in a way Triple Play 2001 delivers on this promise. It doesn't bog you down with baseball details and a game can be completed in no time.
Make no mistake about one thing. Fans of Triple Play 2001 cannot possibly be fans of the game of baseball. The developers that created this game are not fans of baseball. No real baseball fan could last more than twenty minutes with Triple Play 2001 before hurling their CD frisbee-style out of an open window. It took a great deal of effort to force myself to complete this review because the game is just so painful for me to play. I don't know what the drug tolerance policies are at EA Sports, but the idea that baseball fans would be interested in seeing their players with huge heads and tiny bodies can only be chalked up to some sort of chemical influence.
On the other hand, I think that if you really don't care too much about baseball, but want to play a baseball-type of game, Triple Play 2001 is probably the best of the arcade field. If you want to challenge a friend there are plenty of multiplayer options available and all seem to work. If you believe that there are other things more important in a baseball game than gameplay, then this is your game. Triple Play 2001 meets the Baywatch prerequisites of giving us nice things to watch and not requiring too much thought. Just don't set your expectations too high, sit back, and pound that "A" button. Occasionally you'll have to throw balls (who knows where) over the plate when you pitch, but then its back to pounding that "A" button. Watch the pretty colors, hear the nice explosions and sounds, and know that after the game you're 20 or 30 minutes closer to death.
Review By GamesDomain
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