EA Sports' Triple Play still king of diamonds

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Vancouver Computes, July 1999

EA Sports Triple Play 2000
about $60
Requires: Pentium 166, Windows 95/98 (NT not supported), 16 MB RAM, 20-420 MB drive space. 3D accelerator card recommended but not required (Also available for Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64).

Microsoft Baseball 2000
about $30
Requires: Pentium 133, Windows 95/98, 32 MB RAM, 100 MB drive space. 3D accelerator card recommended but not required

Summer?s here, and that means that the virtual boys of summer are back?this season?s newly updated computer baseball games.

Like the All-Star Game, we put two top-class representatives up against one another, asking 15 year old game tester Joey to put EA Sports? Triple Play 2000 and Microsoft Baseball 2000 to the test. Joey tested the game on a Pentium-II-400, with an older 3DFx-1 accelerator card.

Both games have a lot of similarities?from the required hardware, to the recommended, but not required 3D graphics accelerator cards, to the full-fleshed 3D look of the players. Both try hard to get up to the minute team rosters, uniforms, and fields. And both build on previous versions?Triple Play 98 and Microsoft Baseball 3D respectively.

Electronic Arts Sports? Triple Play 2000 is the latest in a long line of Triple Play games. This year, the biggest improvements are to the program?s 3D?of course, as with all these games, you?ll need a 3D accelerator card to view it?while the program will play using ?Software 3D?, it?s noticeably less realistic that way.

But at its best, Triple Play can be amazingly realistic. Players chew gum, and show recognizable facial expressions, reacting to the gameplay. Individual players show individual actions?watch Sammy Sosa kiss the sky after trotting to home. Joey liked watching the ball?s path when a home run flew out of the stadium.

Much of the gameplay is a replay of last year, which, however, is not a bad thing. Hitting has become more sophisticated, offering much more control than last season. The game is designed for mouse control?unlike most sports games, which work best with a handheld controller.

There?s an exceptional amount of control?the game can be set for shades of difficulty, or for seasons of a range of lengths. The computer may offer to trade players mid-season. The Home Run Derby feature has been revamped?now it offers a head-to-head between two players over the course of nine innings. Game-tester Joey, however, preferred last year?s version, where each player got ten outs.

Like other recent EA Sports offerings, this one includes a new Rookie Mode, an easy way for new players to get up to speed.

Joey?s faves: the announcing. He liked sardonic comments like ?Oh, that was a miss?, and random lifelike requests for the owner of the blue Ferrari to turn off the lights. He rated this one a solid 8 out of 10.

Last year, Microsoft named their product Baseball 3D. This year?s version, if anything, improves on the 3D look, with very good graphics and animations. A nice feature is being able to choose a ?Game of the Day?, from the games actually scheduled for today?s date.

Gameplay features are improved over last year?offering , for instance, a medium difficulty level in addition to last year?s too easy and too hard levels. Batters get a realistic range of hits, misses, and foul balls. Pitching is well thought out, though its hard to control your fielders in this program.

You can choose individual season play, exhibition games, or home run derby modes, but unlike Triple Play, cannot set seasons shorter than a full 162 games (whew!). A powerful player editor is included, but it?s a separate program, not integrated into the main game.
Joey?s favorite feature: the crowd?s response to the players? hits. He found the game exceptionally easy to set up and get going. The low price is also a plus. Overall, however, he felt it ?really wasn?t as good as he?d expected it to be?, rating it 6 out of a possible 10 points.

Microsoft?s team is much improved over last season, but overall, up against EA Sports Triple Play, it still fell short. In fact, after several years of pitting EA Sports games against competition from Accolade, Microsoft, and others, Joey noted that ?not once have I done one where EA lost?.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan