[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/highheat/cover.jpg[/floatleft]It seems that baseball games have started to get worse and worse as times goes on. Back in the glory days of the NES it seemed like every game broke new ground. Personally I invested many hours of my youth into games like Baseball Stars, Baseball and Basewars. Then came the Genesis. Great baseball games were plentiful. Games like RBI Baseball ’94 and the first induction in the Triple Play Baseball series were my obsession during this time. To a lesser extent I enjoyed the Triple Play Baseball games on the PSOne. So then we enter the present. Both Triple Play games on the PS2 have been total crap. Instead of building on the foundation that EA had built with the PSOne series they half-assed their way through two games. The games were so bad that it eventually led to EA scrapping the series and starting over with MVP Baseball. The All Star Baseball series on PS2 had a lot of potential, but the downside outweighed the upside way too much. For the past few years I’ve been left without a baseball game that I considered adequate and it’s been a big frustration in my life. Sadly I’ll admit that this is the first time I have given any of the games in the High Heat series a chance. In the past I’ve never really been impressed with anything that 3DO has done. Finally Pickle got me to cave one day and give this game a chance.
The first thing I noticed about the graphics on High Heat was that they actually weren’t bad. That’s right a PS2 game with graphics that aren’t half bad! The player movements were pretty smooth and realistic; the batting stances looked pretty nice, players weren’t running through each other, all in all not too shabby. The areas I felt that lacked the most were the menus which were extremely hard to navigate and the end game victory celebration were it looked like the players played leap frog on the field from a blimp view; very bizarre. The lack of a more extravagant home run celebration was a little disappointing, but I can do without that. 3DO did such a good job with the graphics in this game that even the bean balls looked realistic. Afterwards the batter would get up and shake his fist at the pitcher; which immediately got me worked up into a frenzy hoping that he would charge the mound. Wouldn’t that be cool if they made a game where if you beaned a guy twice he would charge the mound? Damn that would be sweet.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/highheat/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Sometimes in a video game the phrase “Less is more” can be applied. The developers at 3DO really took this seriously when they programmed the sound for High Heat. The announcer’s commentary is actually pretty good, and they don’t go off on tangents like they used to in the Triple Play games. They keep it short and to the point, no complaints from me. Other than the announcers and some crowd chatter the game is pretty quiet. The music in this game is so off that I almost want to say it’s a glitch. Maybe one out of every ten batters that walk to the plate will get music played before their at bat, and it usually lasts about four seconds. On top of that, the menu music will mysteriously vanish for 20-30 minutes at a time. It’s not that the music is bad; it’s just never there. It leaves you scratching your head as to why they even put it in at all if it was going to be like that.
The control in High Heat Baseball is a bit simplistic. Instead of trying to line up a cursor with a pitch location indicator, like most baseball games have been doing lately, you just have to hit the button to swing and time it right. This works pretty well when you’re a video game baseball rookie and you just want to knock the crap out of the ball, but it gets frustrating in late inning clutch situations when you want to hit a sac fly or something like that, because you really have no idea where the ball is going. It’s also a bit difficult to pitch because you have no cursor either. You just have to hold down the directional pad and hope to god that the ball is going to go where you want it to, and not hang over the plate giving up a ninth inning, three run homer to Jim Edmonds sending the game into extra innings. That’s the other thing, the damn Cardinals in this game are the bane of my existence. For the life of me I can’t freaking beat them. The one time I actually had a lead on them they teed off on me in the ninth like I was throwing beach balls down the middle of the plate. But back to the topic at hand, even though the batting/pitching controls are a bit basic, they are still good enough to where you can get some enjoyment playing this game. The controls in the field are a bit more difficult to get the hang of. The buttons on the PS2 controller are arranged in a diamond pattern, and each button corresponds to the base you want to throw the ball to. If you want to hit the cut-off man you hit the R1 button. It gets a bit confusing sometimes and you’ll end up throwing the ball to the wrong base a lot in the beginning. On top of this, every runner in the base is as fast as a bullet, making it nearly impossible to turn a double play on the computer. Once again I reiterate that although the controls take a bit to master, it is well worth and you’ll be enjoying playing High Heat before you know it.
I made reference in the last paragraph to my on-going feud with the Cardinals. It’s that kind of challenge that makes this game fun. 3DO did an excellent job of adding realism into the game play. One time you’ll play and your pitcher will be off and you’ll have a 12-10 game. The next time you play you’ll win a 2-1 pitching duel. On the rookie mode the game turns into a home run derby, but so far the next level up has been perfect for me as far as challenge goes. Even if I get better I still have two more levels of difficultly on top of that. I really can’t say enough good things about the challenge on this game. I’ve had problems in the past where I get too good at a baseball game and it gets to be no fun anymore, but I don’t really see that happening with High Heat 2004.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/highheat/ss06_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]High Heat 2004 is fun, really fun. The graphics are good, the controls are decent and the challenge level is perfect. Those three together are a good formula for a fun game of almost any genre. Those of you who follow the forums here know how Pickle and I have been begging and pleading for a quality franchise mode in a baseball game. I personally feel that building a franchise is one of the most fun parts of any sports game. I wasn’t quite expecting the depth that High Heat included in their franchise system. You have to manage your major league, AAA, AA and A rosters. On top of that you have to work within a budget that corresponds to what market your team is, manage injuries, draft rookies, negotiate with free agents. It really is a lot of work. Great job 3DO, but it really takes a die hard to have to patience to manage this one.
If you’re a fan of video game baseball I highly recommended making High Heat Baseball 2004 your next purchase. It is by far the best baseball game that I have played in a long while. Like I said earlier, the challenge and the franchise system are good enough to keep you coming back for more. This game defiantly has the replay value to make it a permanent part of you collection. Much props to 3DO for a job well done.