High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 delivers a solid game of baseball that would certainly appeal to anyone who is looking for a realistic game that has a lot of configurable options and statistical tracking. However, if you're looking for a presentation that matches solid gameplay, you'll probably be disappointed by the game's lackluster graphics and average sound.
High Heat Baseball 2002's most attractive aspect is that it's a simple, straightforward representation of the sport of baseball, one that has a good deal of depth in terms of both stats and features. In addition, the game has a very realistic physics system that delivers true-to-life hitting and fielding results. You can choose to play a variety of basic gameplay modes such as exhibition, season, and all-star game. Almost every variable in the game, like the number of games you play in a season, playoff, or series, can be changed to suit your needs. Even the pace of the game can be set so that you can decide how fast or slow the action should be. With all these variables available, you can really configure the game to fit most play styles. Aside from some of these more run-of-the-mill options, High Heat MLB 2002 has a lot of unusual options and features in it, like being able to take a virtual stadium tour with free-roaming camera control. You can also choose to visit your pitcher on the mound during the game and have a talk with him. While some of these features are interesting, most are just plain weird. What's unfortunate is that while the game has a lot of these unique options and features, there are a lot of basic functions that High Heat MLB 2002 mysteriously fails to offer, like create-a-player or home-run-derby mode. While neither of these examples is an integral function to the game of baseball, not being able to keep up with roster updates by creating your own players throughout the season is just disappointing.
Aside from the multitude of statistics and features, High Heat MLB 2002 gets high marks in the gameplay department. The batting and pitching mechanics is a traditional setup of timing and execution. When your batter steps up to the plate, you basically have to accomplish two simple tasks to make contact with the ball. All you have to do is watch the pitch come in and determine by sight if the ball is going to be a strike. If you decide to swing at the pitch, you need to figure out if the ball is coming in high, low, or in the middle and press the D-pad accordingly. The second task, of course, is to time your swing just right to hit the pitch. This style of batting, while not terribly involving, is reasonably challenging and realistic. The physics between the ball and bat is actually quite impressive, since you'll see a variety of hits produced quite naturally. For those of you who don't want to bother with guessing where the pitch is going to land, the game does offer the option to turn on an indicator, showing you where the pitch has been placed so that all you need to focus on is timing your swing. Pitching is extremely easy, since all you have to do is simply select a pitch type from your pitcher's arsenal, which is based on his real-world counterpart's ability, and then decide if it's going to be a strike or ball. You don't have the ability to change the flight of ball once your pitcher releases it, but you can select a direction prior to the ball's release to position it where you want. The pitcher's ability to accurately place the ball realistically diminishes over time, forcing you to call in relief pitchers throughout the game. Fielding is also quite simple: Controlling the fielders is a simple task of guiding them to the ball using the D-pad and throwing the ball to the bases, which are intuitively represented by the individual buttons on the face of the controller. The players move at a realistic speed and are very responsive to controller commands. The only problem you have when fielding is when the ball gets past your fielders, since the default camera angle stays trained on the ball. This would be fine if there were an indication as to where your fielders are in relation to the ball, since it's hard to guide them to the ball when they're offscreen. While a major nuisance at first, it does get easier with time. The AI of the computer on the lower difficulty setting is fairly easy since it grooves most pitches right down the pipe. On the harder settings, the computer is a lot pickier about the pitches it throws and the balls it'll swing at. It's incredibly hard to beat the computer on the game's hardest difficulty setting.
Where High Heat MLB 2002 really runs into trouble is in its overall presentation, especially in the graphics department. Visually, the game is simply poor, especially when compared with other PlayStation 2 baseball games, such as Triple Play Baseball and All-Star Baseball 2002. The most noticeable problem with the game is that it hardly has any transitions between the different player animations. Players go from one animation right into the next. For instance, if a pitch is thrown inside, it causes the batter to start an animation of jumping away from the plate. If you try to take a cut at the pitch anyway, your batter will abruptly change to a swinging animation, which makes the batter essentially disappear and reappear in the swinging animation. The player models are decent, especially when you see one of the stars of the MLB, since 150 of the top names in baseball have their faces mapped onto the heads of their polygonal counterparts. All the stadiums have been re-created and have little touches, like working JumboTrons that show the action of the ballgame in a picture-in-picture type of fashion.
In the audio department, the music and sound effects are decent. The sound effects of the players sliding into second, the bat hitting the ball, and the rest of the game's sound effects all sound fairly realistic. Two real-life baseball announcers, Dave O'Brien and Ray Fosse, handle the game's play-by-play and color commentary. The commentary is a little dry but proficient--you'll hear them comment on a pitcher's or batter's streak for that game, but you'll also hear them repeat a lot of phrases way too often. The only real music in the game includes a few licensed tracks that roll during the game's menu screen, like Soul Coughing's Super Bon Bon.
In the end, High Heat Baseball 2002 is a competent game that should please those who are looking for a realistic version of baseball. The true-to-life ball physics and accurate attributes of the players in the game translate into fairly accurate statistics and situations on the field. However, for those who are looking for a flashier, more entertaining game of baseball, All-Star Baseball 2002 and Triple Play Baseball are better choices.