Playing high heat really reminds me of what baseball used to be like in 1998 and trust me, this isn’t a bad thing. Let’s take things back to a time where every other batter wasn’t cranking out 50 homeruns. When double-digit scores were rarely seen and when a 9-inning game didn’t take 4 and a half hours to complete. Ah yes the good old days. I haven’t felt this great since, well the last time I played High Heat 2004
While I haven’t exactly enjoyed everything that the 3DO Company has tossed my way I have always heavily anticipated each and every release of its perennial baseball franchise, High Heat
. When it comes to a realistic and deep baseball experience High Heat is unparalleled. I was introduced to the series back when Sammy Sosa’s name was attached to it and fell in love with it when he hopped into the commercial and said, “It’s sooo weeeel!” Oh yes folks, for me this has been a rather long and illustrious love affair.
Last year’s game was another impressive entry into the franchise. It added better graphics, better ball physics and a heavily addicting 2-on-2 mode. The 2004 iteration of the game doesn’t do too much to drastically change the landscape of the game but if you’ve ever played High Heat
you’ll know that this is actually a good thing. What has changed is that the game looks a little better than last year’s title, featuring some better player models that, albeit look a little weak in comparison to the competition, really get the job done.
When you start up the game you’ll have the usual choice of modes, exhibition, season and franchise modes are all available for your enjoyment. Franchise mode is probably where you will spend the majority of your time. You can develop players in the minors from AAA all the way to A, create your own players and of course, trade for other players. I liked the AI of the other GMs as they seemed to reject one-sided trades and opt for the fairer ones.
The player models are a bit weak, but cinematic camera angles do a great job of covering up the deficiencies.
I wanted to see how realistic of a game this was so I decided to sim an entire season with the game. Here are some of the things that stood out to me. The best pitcher in the AL was David Wells with a 20-1 record while the NL’s best pitcher was Tom Glavine with a 24-2 record. The Dodger’s Shawn Green led the majors with 76 dingers while Barry Bonds had a reasonable 65. The AL Champs was the Oakland A’s while the Rockies too it all to the way to the big game. Most of the preceding stats seemed to make a whole lot of sense, until you get to the Rockies part that is. I’m not sure what it is with the game but I tried to sim another season just to be sure, sadly the Rockies took the NL West yet again.
Random oddities aside the game is pretty realistic and you’ll see this the moment you step out into the field. While the pitcher/batter interface still uses the push the direction and swing system as opposed to a cursor-based one, I feel that it’s the most realistic and effective one of this year’s bunch. It feels the most realistic and is also the most satisfying. The best part is that it’s not overtly complicated and even newbies can get a firm grasp of it.
When batting this is one of those games where you’ll want to lay off and see some pitches. This has a dual purpose, not only to make the pitcher throw more strikes but it allows you to get a feel for the pitches and their motions. The pitching physics is the best in the business and it really allows you to get a gauge on the pitcher as opposed to the generic randomness that passes for other game’s pitcher/better interface.
Take Randy Johnson for instance. In other games he’s just another generic pitcher with an extra burst on his fastball. In High Heat he’s a dominating pitching machine, complete with sweeping curves, tailing fastballs and a devastating heater. You never know what he’s going to throw at you and in most cases you’ll end up looking like a fool when going up against him. He’ll keep you on your toes during every single at-bat and chances are you’ll returned to the dugout frustrated, just like in real life.
What I don’t like is how the camera changes whenever you try to perform a leap or a dive in the field. Upon performing one of these moves the camera will cut in close and give you a dramatic shot of the action and then cut back to the ball. Of course you’d probably expect this to be a bit disorienting and for the most part it is. It also makes base-running a little difficult on the other end of the ball as it causes more confusion and clutter on the field than there should be.
While the player models are still a bit too stiff for my tastes, the variety and quality of the animations are excellent. You’ll see pitchers point up at fly balls in the infield, cut-off men who pump fake the ball to deter runners, base-runners call for time after sliding into a base and third base coaches even wave their arms as their runners come around the bag. I love the detail in the animations and while the look of them is a bit sub-par, there’s nothing sub-par about their variety and quality. It’s the little touches that make the graphics so appeasing, even if the models are a little weak.
The game has a few major collision detection problems, the runner in this shot was called out.
Score a run and you’ll get nothing but apathy from the crowd. In fact all of the audience sounds appear to be one audio track played on a repeated loop. There’s very little change in pitch and dynamic, none of the other little details that make the other game’s audio tracks so special. On occasion you’ll hear a vendor shilling peanuts or a random heckler but that’s a rare occurrence.
The announcing is pretty awful as well, it’s at the bare minimum and on most occasions is entirely incorrect. Sometimes I’ll miss a bunt on an inside pitch and the announcer will say “He barely got the corner on that one.” I especially love it when my guy who just homered on his last at-bat comes to the plate to “he whiffed his last time up.” In addition to the inaccuracies there is an awful lot of dead air both in between and during at-bats. The two-man booth is in place but the expected banter between the play-by-play and color man is noticeably absent.
While I’m simply in love with 3DO’s latest offering there’s always room for improvement. Sure the graphics have been beefed up but they’re not even on the radar when compared to the competition. Sometimes the AI is guilty of making some truly bonehead decisions as well. Pitchers have a tendency to try pick-off plays to third when there are two outs; I’ve been some pretty shoddy AI base-running and a pretty questionable strike zone during some at-bats. There’s not much wrong with the game and it doesn’t really detract from the experience.
Why is this the
definitive baseball simulation? It’s simple, the designers and programmers aren’t distracted by such things as flashy visuals and audio and instead choose to focus on what matters most, the gameplay. This game not only looks and plays like real baseball, it also feels
like baseball. Suffice to say if you want the most realistic baseball game in town look no further than 3DO’s High Heat 2004.