Inasmuch as baseball is regarded as America's past time, the Triple Play series is lauded as the series to beat when it comes to PlayStation baseball games. The initial releases, though plagued with frame-rate problems, were the first to offer a decent ballpark experience. With last year's release, EA fixed the frame-rate issues and delivered what was considered by many to be the best PlayStation baseball game ever. This year, EA Sports is seeking similar kudos with its release of Triple Play 2001, a game that once again seeks to evolve rather than innovate.
Similar to prior releases, Triple Play 2001's gameplay sticks to familiar roots. You can control batting angle, height, and even the power of your swing. Further, controlling stance position, a dodgy experience in prior releases, is now a valuable game strategy. Should you swing for right field or pull the ball to left? Push L1 or R1, and your player will shimmy his high-paid bottom into whatever position you desire. Past the crack of the bat, base running is identical to that in previous Triple Play titles. Press a direction button to run to a base, or press triangle and a direction button to return. Depending on the button pressed, you can also charge, slide, or induce a collision at the plate. Once in a while, base-running commands aren't accepted as fast as one would like, but such occurrences are uncommon.
As with the offensive side of things, Triple Play 2001's pitching and fielding are both just as simple to learn and difficult to master. You have the choice of four stock pitches, usually a curve ball, fastball, slider, or change-up. After selecting the pitch, you can then alter both the throwing angle and pitch speed. Pay attention to your stamina meter though, or you'll end up throwing potatoes by the fourth inning. Backing you up, the fielders under your control run like banshees and, depending on your timing, you can make the fielders either jump or dive after a ball and send it flying toward a teammate. Combine all of the above with variable difficulty levels, and Triple Play 2001's gameplay is nothing but solid.
It's not the gameplay that's going to bring controversy to Triple Play 2001 though but rather the additional features that come packaged with it. The game has all the exhibition, versus, home-run derby, and player draft/creation modes that hardball lovers have come to expect. In addition, the ability to unlock such legendary players as Babe Ruth or Ted Williams is a nice treat. However, while these features imbue the game with a decent level of respect, it's the addition of cheat code and enhancement rewards that's going to have Triple Play fans up in arms. Every few innings or so, you will unlock rewards such as big heads, tall players, big baseballs, or big bats. For those who dig an arcade-like experience or want NBA Jam-style baseball, these rewards may not be problematic. However, those used to purer baseball experiences may find these rewards distracting. Thankfully, EA made the use of these rewards entirely up to the user, but their presence itself does take some getting used to.While the game's play mechanics and features benefit from minor tweaking, Triple Play 2001's visuals remain on par with last year's release. Player graphics deliver near-perfect caricatures of their real-world counterparts, while all 30 stadiums are rendered in splendid detail, replete with field signage and various other trademark accoutrements. Some texture warping is present, and minor clipping issues abound, but these issues aren't as prevalent as they were last year. In fact, if there's any real complaint to be made, it's that TP2001 just delivers more of the same visually.
EA deserves credit for not ruining the audio quality of the Triple Play series. Hitting, fielding, sliding, and player-interaction effects are both dramatic and entertaining, sounding peppy and energetic without being unrealistic. Furthermore, Buck Martinez and Jim Huson's play-by-play is quirky, varied, and full of the lingo baseball fans have come to expect from quality color commentary. Admittedly, the play-by-play is repetitive at times, but it's nowhere near as painful as what High Heat 2001 delivers. Rounding out Triple Play 2001's aural assault, spectator, stadium, and vendor sound bites further add to the game's level of quality and realism.
In total, Triple Play 2001 is a game that represents the cream of PlayStation baseball titles. It's not perfect, but it succeeds at what it does and delivers the best rendition of a baseball experience of any PS baseball title. It's fun, amply realistic, and the variable simulation levels open the game up to wider audiences. Though hard-core fans may scoff at the addition of rewards and cheats, the option to play without them makes Triple Play 2001 an update that both simulation fans and arcade lovers can embrace.