High Heat Major League Baseball 2002, while still far from perfect, is definitely an improvement over last year's High Heat. The game has better visuals and gameplay and offers more features than before. However, in comparison to other PlayStation baseball games, such as this year's Triple Play Baseball, High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 still falls below today's standards.
High Heat Baseball 2002 has all of the features you'd expect from any officially licensed Major League Baseball game. The game includes all of the teams, players, and stats from the 2000 season. In addition, the game has several modes of play such as season, exhibition, and even a full-fledged practice mode that helps you work on your skills. The game's season mode is completely customizable and lets you adjust just about any variable, such as the number of games played and team rosters. In fact, the developers have even included options that let you set the throwing speed of the fielders or the running speed of the players. While nice options to have, the game's default settings seem fairly accurate.
The controls of High Heat Baseball 2002 are easy to learn and are very responsive. The controller scheme is intuitive enough so even if you've never played a baseball video game in your life you can pick up the controller and just jump in. The virtual players on the field react to controller commands without any noticeable delay or problems. And the computer teams are surprisingly intelligent: The computer knows where the force plays are and seems completely aware when you're trying anything out of the ordinary, like stealing bases. Unfortunately, cranking up the game's difficulty seems to only affect the computer's ability to know when to swing, which means that on the game's harder difficulty setting it's next to impossible to strike the computer out. When you're at the plate, the computer on the harder difficulty setting almost never throws a strike unless it's already facing a full count, making the game not so much fun to play. You can always see where the pitches end up with the game's replay, which shows you the path of the ball from the mound to the strike zone just so you know it's legit.
Visually, High Heat Baseball 2002 is quite a step up from last year's game. The character models have been completely redone from scratch, and the player animations have been reworked, so the game has a much more natural look this time around. The textures used for the player's faces and uniforms have also received some attention, and as a result they are now fairly recognizable. The stadiums in the game still look rather bland and generic, as do the textures used for signs in the outfield. These areas aside, the game looks decent, the frame rate keeps moving at a steady 30 frames per second, and the collision detection is fairly solid.
In the audio department, High Heat Baseball 2002's sound effects, commentary, and stadium noise really add to the game's overall atmosphere. Being able to hear the difference between a solid hit and a grounder to second really makes a difference when you're playing the game. You feel so much more a part of the action when the crowd cheers as you hit a deep shot out of the park.
In the end, High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 is a better baseball game for the PlayStation this year than ever before, but it's still behind the curve. It has a lot of customizable features and little extras, like wild pitches and balks, but its gameplay and presentation are disappointing and not up to the standards set by every other PlayStation baseball game released so far this year. While the game isn't bad by any means, it just doesn't stand up to the other games on the market.