The Triple Play series has quickly made its way to the PS2 and has evolved both in terms of gameplay and graphics. The latest addition to the series now features full analog control, which offers a much deeper, more involving style of play than fans of the series have had before. Plus the game's batting and pitching interfaces have totally changed. All in all, it's a new ball game, even when compared with its PlayStation counterpart.
Triple Play Baseball, which is being released without a year attached to the title so EA can let the calendar catch up to its naming convention, has all the features you'd expect. Several modes are included, such as season, exhibition, playoffs, create a player, and a home run derby with targets. The game also has all the players, teams, and stadiums from the 2001 season.
In the gameplay department, Triple Play Baseball is an extremely hands-on baseball game that really puts your reflexes and timing skills to the test. The game's batting interface is a fairly standard targeting system that gives you control of a targeting cursor. To get a hit you have to line up the target with the destination of the pitch and also time your swing just right to make contact with the ball. The size of the target for each batter is determined by the ability and stats of the virtual batter's real-life counterpart, which makes your chances of hitting the ball realistic for each batter. For instance, when a batter the likes of Jason Giambi steps up to the plate, you'll see that his targeting cursor is very large, which makes it fairly easy for him to make contact with the ball. But when a player such as a pitcher, who doesn't have great batting skills, steps up to the plate, you'll see that he has an extremely small target, which makes it difficult to get a hit. Fielding and hitting are also very involving tasks because Triple Play Baseball takes full advantage of the PlayStation 2's analog buttons. The amount of strength a pitcher or fielder puts into throwing the ball is tied directly to the amount of pressure you apply to the button. Also, tapping the X button makes your fielder run faster so you can get to the ball more quickly. Both of these features add to the game's fun since you really have to work to make a play. The computer AI is fairly intelligent on the game's lower settings, but bump it up to its highest all-star level and it's almost impossible to beat.
Visually, Triple Play Baseball is fantastic. The players look and move extremely realistically thanks to super-high-res textures and some very nice motion-captured animation. The players' faces, uniforms, and even helmets are wonderfully detailed. You can even see the stitching on the players' shirts and great reflections on the players' helmets, but even with all of this detail the real credit has to go to the game's player animations. The animations of the players executing their moves are very fluid and have no noticeable transitions, meaning that you really can't tell when the players go from one animation to the next, which of course makes the players look and move like living and breathing people as opposed to simple game characters who are just running through preset routines. Aside from admiring the players themselves, you'll also marvel at the stadiums, which have been completely re-created with amazing detail. Each one has everything you'd expect to see in real life. Pacific Bell Park has the big Coke bottle past the wall, Safeco Field has the crazy retractable roof, and all of the stadiums have working JumboTrons. Even the crowd looks impressive.
In the audio department, Triple Play Baseball does an outstanding job of re-creating the sounds you'd hear at a real game, including the subtle roar of the crowd, stadium announcements, and even the occasional rowdy fan who yells at one of the teams. The commentary and analysis provided by Buck Martinez and Sean McDonough are extremely entertaining, since when they're not calling the action on the field they always have something fun to say. The only problem is that they do say a lot of those fun phrases fairly regularly, so you end up hearing some of the anecdotes and comments repeatedly. The sound effects are fairly decent, although the extreme sound effect for a home run will undoubtedly annoy some players. The game's only real music appropriately plays during the menu selection. The music includes an unusual collection of songs by Vitamin C, Utah Saints, Fastball, and Public Enemy's Chuck D. All of the audio in the game sounds incredibly clear and is even presented in Dolby Surround sound, so if you have a good audio setup you'll really hear the difference.
In the end, Triple Play Baseball is a solid baseball game that is suited for players who enjoy lots of deep drives, home runs, and fast-paced action. Triple Play's sound effects are good, and the inflated hitting physics that let you send the ball over the wall more often are fun--if that's what you're looking for. Baseball purists looking for a simulation will feel more at home with All-Star Baseball 2002.