High Heat 2004 Review (PS2)
5 days into playing HH2004 and I am still just exploring the game play. No two games have been the same. 3DO made significant improvements to the graphics, Gameplay and menu presentation. Perhaps the biggest improvement was to the pitch types, especially the movement on the various types of fastballs.
Have to start with game play, after all that is what HH is all about. Play a game or two and you might not notice much change from a year ago, play a few more and you will realize that a lot of subtle changes have been made.
27 pitch types this year, you will notice them most significantly with the movement on moving fastballs, cutters and two seam fastballs. This makes for a more challenging and realistic hitting experience, turn the foul frequency meter up a notch or two and it is near perfection. Working the count and looking for a pitch are extremely important to hit well. Nothing more satisfying than getting down 0-2, working your way back to 3-2, fouling off a few pitches and finally ripping a pitch into the gap.
For those new to HH, they do not utilize a hit cursor, but timing and aiming the directional pad in the direction of the location of the pitch. I have a really annoying habit of swinging up at big breaking balls even though I know they will end up low. The change of pace pitches, like the change up and fosh, are hard to pick up but with the graphical improvements that have been made you have more of a chance than you did in the last few years. To this point, I am striking out more than I did in the past and this is on the All-Star level not MVP which I usually played on in the past.
Forcing the CPU pitchers to throw well over 100 pitches in a game. If this statement appeals to you, you will love this game.
Hitting is little more challenging because of the new pitches and movement of the new pitches. You will see power curves and the good old-fashioned 12-6 curve ball as well as sweeping sliders. With the graphic engine improvement you can see the pitches better and the satisfaction of picking up the pitch and knocking it out of the park is one of my favorite gaming experiences.
Pitching seems to be much harder this year. In the past I would play a few games on the All-Star level just to get my timing down and then move to MVP were I would consistently play around .500 ball with Cubs. This year I started out fine, pitching some fine games with Kerry Wood, Matt Clement and Barry Zito, but somehow I am getting progressively worse to the point where I reduced the CPU hitting slider a notch, but proceeded to give up 19 runs to the Reds. Not sure how the slider is supposed to work but I will need to experiment.
Mixing up pitches, pace and locations is extremely important, however unlike other games HH does not allow you to throw the ball exactly where you want it. This results in quite a few hanging breaking pitches or fastballs that catch too much of the plate. It can be frustrating for sure, but it is so realistic that the challenge of pitching is endless. You will never completely master this game, as it should be.
Pitcher fatigue and pitch counts seem to be pretty accurate; especially when you throw in they have sliders for both. The ratings of the pitchers and their types of pitches also seem pretty accurate. However, with the pounding I have taken lately I am not sure of anything in regards to pitching, but it just makes me want to work on it more.
Fielding is excellent, as it has been in the past, making plays that you should and some that you shouldn’t, in just the right proportion. Again the improved graphics engine helps make fielding even more fun. You will now see a lot more line drives and regular pops ups and fly balls, and not so many bloopers just out of the reach of the infield. The fielders are very responsive, throwing is as simple as hitting the button for the corresponding base.
Players fielding abilities are even rated for each position so theoretically you should get punished for playing someone out of position. Although, I haven’t really put this to the test.
GRAPHICS AND ANIMATION
Well, it won’t knock your socks off, but it is a significant improvement from previous years. The biggest improvements are in the animations; they are more varied and seamless. They are not perfect and there are still some that are a little jumpy but that is rare. One improvement I appreciate the most is the proper turning of the Double play, in previous years the pivot man would arch the ball slowly over to first base, not so this year you will see side arm throws and shortstops jumping over the runner to make the throw.
HH also made improvements to their game menus, at first the circular menu style is a little confusing but once you get the hang of it, it is actually quite functional and a whole lot nicer to look at.
Making substitutions and pitching changes is a snap for the first time in a game I can make a double switch without being worried that I just violated 3 or 4 rules of baseball. Also you have full access to player ratings and stats while playing the game. You also have access to the tuning menu, so the temptation to tune your way to victory is strong.
Batter walkups are OK, and I like the new stat overlays which show what the player has done for the day as well as their seasonal stats. Players are proportioned based on their real size but the facial likenesses are not that noticeable. Batting stances and player styles are in the game but not as pronounced as they could be. But there are numerous batting stances and pitching styles so everyone does not look the same but you will not go, “hey that looks just Like Craig Biggio.”
Pretty much the same as last year, the crowd noises are little clearer but the announcers have nothing new to say, but are usually on top of the action and get excited about big plays. I encountered some problems with the sound if I went into to the Audio menu during a game.
HH offers a full-blown Franchise mode with a salary structure, contracts and a budget and 3 levels of minor leagues and unlimited seasons. I have messed around a little bit with my minor leagues establishing my starters and rotations also creating myself as a tired old AAA veteran. One cool thing is it simulates stats for your minor leaguers, so you can evaluate them based on production and their ratings.
The trade logic seems pretty sound, I did turn down the injury frequency some, since it seemed I was having too many injuries, including Sosa going down with a concussion after getting hit in the foot.
I haven’t spent a lot of time simming and plan on writing about that later.
HH also offers a 2 on 2 showdown mode which rewards points based on hit types, strikes and just about anything that can happen between the pitcher and hitter. Batting practice is cool cause you can select a certain pitch to work on or just random pitches. I wish they had pitching practice cause that is where my game is lacking.
I am using a range right now because of the depth of this game. I am still learning how to pitch. I am still learning how to work the opposing pitcher. I haven’t even touched the franchise mode except on the surface, yet I have played this game consistently for 5 days. This to me is a very good sign for the replayability and quality of HH2004. I will be back with more later in Operation Sports Double Take.