Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
High Heat Major League Baseball 2003
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: 3DO
Developer: 3DO
Media: 1/0
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:
The smell of seemingly freshly cut grass permeates my living room as my leadoff hitter makes his way from the on deck circle to home plate. If this sounds like some real game descriptions...well...it's mostly due to the fact that it's darn close. High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 is not only known for it's unbelievably short title, but also for its beautiful display that it splashes on your TV screen. What other game brings you perfectly true to life stadiums from Boston's looming Green Monster to the twinkling ivy of Wrigley Field. Yankee Stadium looks so posh, just like in real life, that I keep waiting for the crowd to burst out to Zombie Nation in unison. The players look just as good as the fields do, but do lack a lot of originality in facial features. For instance, Jason Giambi looks like Greg Vaughn...only lighter. Even when customizing a player, you don't have a lot of options to choose from (height, weight, skin color, goatee) but what you do have is something that looks great nonetheless. The animations are top notch, with fielders making life-like dives, home run kings doing ominous points towards the bleachers and pitchers making a curveball snap wickedly toward the corner of the plate. The batters in the batting box look very much like they're 'cut and pasted' there, but the stances, swings, misses, hits, and even the way they get ready before the pitch are true to form. The crowds do leave something to be desired visually, but the absolute beauty of the freshly cropped field draws and keeps your attention on the rapturous green grass. Heck, even the umpires look good! High Heat 2003 is as fine looking as any baseball game out there, if not better, but let us remember that some of the minute, smaller things could definitely be improved upon in the future.

While visually, you are given a treat, the sound can definitely be a main course on its own. Everything is seemingly perfect. The crowd is raucous when things are bumpy for the home team, while they can emit ear splitting, decibel-laden roars when the home team goes up on the scoreboard. Goodness forbids if the home team hits a grand slam, because then you can even hear lone hecklers railing the visiting team's batters. You'll also hear children playing, vendors selling and the occasional 'come on ump, are you blind?!' When you take the great crowd sound and add in phenomenal in game sounds like bats smacking, fastballs whizzing, umpires yelling 'strike,' base-stealing slides and the crack of a hard hit liner smacking a leather glove, you get an astonishing formula that brings baseball to the forefront of your living room. Play-by-play is brought to you by the dynamic tandem of Dave O'Brien and Chuck Valenches. And while baseball seems like it won't have too much to say in the commentary department, the commentary never gets old or boring. The play-by-play is a perfect supplement to the already muscular sound.

I kind of expected the Curt Schilling clad High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 to be your run of the mill baseball game. It isn't, and that's a GREAT thing. Tons of modes are here. Things like Exhibition Mode can get you a quick 3 - 9 innings if your time is restricted (or if you have a friend that you can beat up on). Season Mode let's you seemingly define any option that can encompass a whole season. Things like the amount of games played, innings played, mid-season All Star Game, replays, etc. are a few of the options. Season Mode lets you trade players and ultimately try to win the World Series. The all new Two on Two Mode lets you choose a pitcher and hitter to compete against another pitcher and hitter. Points are awarded for every successful pitched strike or prospective ground ball you force the other team to hit. Any ball or successfully hit pitch results in points for the other team, and vice versa. It boils down to one inning, and the first one to 10 wins. If you can't wait for a whole season, but need that October fix, then jump into Playoff Mode that has you duking it out to wrap up the 'season' with a championship. Batting Practice Mode is pretty much what it advertises...no strings attached. All Star Game Mode let's you take a quick 9 inning jaunt to the All Star game. Finally, if you've got to have home runs, (you know power and lots of it?), then try the Home Run Derby Mode. This Mode was easily one of my favorites. You pick the slugger, the ball park, and then you hit a bunch of humdingers. The neat thing is that the controls are very good, and they can be tweaked in the options. I believe 3DO covered every possible angle that you can tweak that they could think of. Game speed is customizable. Pitch speed is changeable. You can tweak AI, and make it harder or easier on yourself by controlling human controlled elements.

You may find yourself wanting to see yourself on the game. Well heck, saddle up and create yourself a player! Every attribute is definable, and you can even choose what kind of home run trot you do. The only beefs that I had with the otherwise stellar game was that you couldn't do enough physically to make the player totally yours (wristbands, kneepads, even cleats would have been nice.) Also, when you are trading players with any other roster, the computer automatically accepts any trade. This could be due to the fact that you can edit ANY player to perform to your liking. Have you decided that Roger Clemens needs to be a home run hitter this year? Go ahead and tweak him with power! Tired of Mark McGwire not finishing first in steals every year? Make him the fastest on the planet. Customizable is the name of this game, and that's why it's the best baseball game on any console right now. (Except for Baseball Stars for the original NES).

This section is often subjective based on today's games. I mean, everything is so customizable, that you can actually find a perfectly challenging setting that will yield success after practicing a lot. These kind of options only put video games in the right direction, and High Heat 2003 is no different. Aside from the controls being absolutely silky, everything else is left up to how you tweak it. The interface takes some getting used to, to navigate through, but I'll leave that up to Game Mechanics.

Game Mechanics:
The interface of High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 takes some getting used to, but it's nothing you couldn't teach one of those chimpanzees in a circus. The camera angles definitely deserve mentioning as I finally have found a game that has multiple, USEFUL camera angles. This especially holds true if you have trouble hitting pitches with the default 'behind the batter' view. The manual is absolutely exquisite with everything being explained, and nothing being left to the imagination. The controls are very responsive, and load times are left bearable. Some things ultimately benefit the AI like who makes the most errors (the player), who can hit a 103 mph inside fastball (NOT the player), and who gets tossed out for arguing with the ump (the player). Alas, these are mute points compared to the perfectly crafted design of High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 .

Riot Rundown : Is this the best baseball game on the PS2? Yessiree, and the Xbox , and the GameCube , and the Commodore 20 . There are a few things that can be tweaked to turn this exceptional game to a stellar one. Hey, beggars can't be choosers though, but if they could, then they'd do well to choose High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 . If not for any other reason, than that proceeds go to help ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) research to which Curt Schilling is a huge contributor. Rare is the game that you can have fun with and donate to a good cause.

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.