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Reviewing Baseball Video Games: Triple Play 2002

One fine day I got a notion that reviewing baseball video games – in an effort to find the best ones of all time – might be a cool idea. After showing one to Mr. Cistulli, he agreed. Thus today I bring you the first in a series of baseball video game reviews, with notes to help dictate the future form.

Game: Triple Play 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: EA Sports
Modes: Single Game, Season, Playoffs, and Home Run Derby
Cool Feature: DVD Extras (Luis Gonzalez motion capture)

Columnist Note:
For games that have video footage online, a video would go here.

Realism: 3/10.
Graphics: 7/10.
Difficulty: 7/10.
Details: 6/10.
Playability: 5/10.
Intangibles: 35/50.          
Total Score: 63/100 (D)

For this first review, let me break down each of the categories a little bit. For realism, I like to think in terms of “could this be a way a game would reasonably play out?” For graphics, it’s definitely relative to the time the game was put out. Difficulty is pretty self-explanatory; is the game extraordinarily easy or hard, or somewhere in between? For playability, I like to think of it as the ‘play again’ factor; would you play it over and over again? For me, for intangibles it was really to get it on a scale of 100, and to help to try quantify some ‘feel’ to the game (and also to help get a Jeterian element into the mix).

To set a few ground rules:
Game will be played with teams of Mr. Warne’s choosing.
Game will be played on a medium skill level.
Game is played in exhibition or single game mode.
No player movement allowed (if applicable).
No part of the game will be simulated.
Game can not be restarted, except in instance of system freeze.
If my wife asks, I am working.

With all these rules considered, if any reader suggests one that should be added, it shall be considered.

Fans heckle the umpires.
Rendering of player faces is very accurate
CPU-controlled defensive players move smoothly.
Runners round the bases rather than station-to-station.
Double plays turn smoothly with good graphical transitions.
Ball actually clangs off seats in centerfield at Metrodome on a home run.

Runners rounding bases get back too easily, drawing too many unnecessary throws.
On default setting, pitch location is given away to each human player.
Home plate collisions have no graphical cohesion whatsoever.
Sometimes throws go to random bags, with no real reason.
Home runs are hit completely arbitrarily. Not dependent on squaring up good pitches.
Harold Reynolds on commentary.
Any ground ball not hit directly at an infielder means human controls the outfielder to field it.
Fielders randomly don’t cover their bases, like second baseman on double play and first baseman on back end of 3-6-3.
Batting interface is not intuitive. Have to swing very early to even make contact.
Similarly, one hitter pulled a ball with authority that was two feet outside.
Baserunning is a complete mess. Sometimes runner responds to buttons.
The ball drifts too much on fly balls. At least for an indoor venue like the Metrodome.
Ground balls are too difficult for outfielders to track down, resulting in tons of XBH.
Every left-handed hitter gets the Thome shift as a default.
Computer-controlled batters don’t chase anything, and slaughter everything in strike zone.

Obviously realism suffered quite a bit with this game, as the Devil Rays scored more runs in this game than the club did most weeks during the 2002 season. The primary issue centered around the D-Rays not chasing anything outside of the zone, but absolutely destroying any pitch inside that square. When combined with the cavalcade of other issues – such as grounders only fielded by infielders if hit right to them – and it’s pretty obvious why my guys allowed an astonishing 26 runs. Another big negative was that fielders would just arbitrarily not cover their respective bases, leaving a couple routine plays not finished and innings extended for both clubs. On a final realism note: Jason Tyner hit a home run. Come on!

But it isn’t all negative with Triple Play 2002. The rendering of the faces was pretty amazing; the polygonal, emotionless Doug Mientkiewicz was particularly on point. Additionally, hitters were able to hit the ball to all fields with authority (Jones HR was oppo), which is something I had experienced difficulty with in other games from around that time frame. I also enjoyed the heckling of the umps, which I also experienced in a previous game that I’d reviewed. This time, it was sprinkled in with enough scarcity to make it interesting. All told however, it’s difficult to give the game a positive review, and the pros-to-cons disparity serves notice.

Starting Lineups

Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
1. Jason Tyner CF
2. Brent Abernathy 2B
3. Greg Vaughn DH
4. Ben Grieve LF
5. Toby Hall C
6. Steve Cox 1B
7. Aubrey Huff 3B
8. Chris Gomez SS
9. Randy Winn RF

SP Paul Wilson RHP

Subs used: Doug Creek and Ariel Prieto in relief.

Minnesota Twins:
1. Jacque Jones LF
2. Doug Mientkiewicz 1B
3. Corey Koskie 3B
4. David Ortiz DH
5. Torii Hunter CF
6. A.J. Pierzynski C
7. Luis Rivas 2B
8. Cristian Guzman SS
9. Brian Buchanan RF

SP Radke RHP

Subs used: Johan Santana and Eddie Guardado in relief.

H.H.H. Metrodome – Minneapolis, Minn.

Final Score:
Devil Rays 26-37-1
Twins 6-14-0

WP – Wilson
LP – Radke
SV – None

Game Notes

Devil Rays:
Tyner 5-7 HR, 2 RBI (Player of the Game)
Vaughn 4-7 4 RBI
Grieve 5-7 3 RBI
Huff 3-6 4 RBI
Wilson 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R/ER, 2 K, 0 BB
Creek 0.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R/ER, 0 K, 0 BB
Prieto 3.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R/ER, 0 K, 0 BB

Jones 3-5, HR, RBI
Rivas 1-4, HR, 3 RBI
Koskie 3-5 RBI
Radke 4 IP, 13 H, 9 R/ER, 0 K, 0 BB
Santana 3 IP, 15 H, 9 R/ER, 0 K, 0 BB
Guardado 2 IP, 9 H, 8 R/ER, 0 K, 0 BB

The game is available on Amazon for for a penny (plus shipping and handling). Seriously. Despite a largely negative review, the game is easily worth a buck to add to a baseball game collection.