The baseball season is now in full force and the end of the baseball video game season is winding to a close. Microsoft earlier this year announced that they would be making their first attempt in bringing their very own baseball title to the Xbox. One of the big features running behind it was the Live support that offered baseball fans the chance to play other people from all over the world. The ideas and features behind the game all sounded like they were in place. So how does the gameplay hold up? Well let’s just say you might want to look elsewhere.
With all the baseball games being released these days it would even seem pretty impossible for Microsoft to come out with a Home Run their first time out. What I didn’t expect though is that it would fail to make any attempt at being a decent baseball title.
As you start up Inside Pitch 2003 you will see the laundry list of different gameplay modes to choose from. These modes include Single Game, Season, Playoffs, Live, Homerun Derby, Championship Challenges, Create Player, Tutorials, and Team Manager. And as you can see the list is quite long, and at first glance the menu can be quite intimidating. So with all these game modes all you can hope is that the gameplay holds its own to make these modes worthwhile. Also what was Microsoft thinking when they shipped a baseball title to the Xbox without a Franchise mode, where is the depth?
Let’s get into the actual game itself shall we? First let’s talk about the hitting system, which tries a different approach to batting, and it’s just too easy. Basically you put the bat where the ball is going and hit the ball at the right time and bam you have an easy double. Timing is key to Inside Pitch 2003 and that’s not a good thing. Once you get your timing down (it only takes a few pitches) and you will be able to get base hits over and over again. You will find that you can usually just leave the bat in the middle of the strike zone and still get easy hits. There are 9 squares which are places you can put the bat and only a few of them you actually need to worry about.
Pitching in Inside Pitch 2003 is basically useless when playing another person but when playing a computer it seems to be a bit more effective. Basically the pitching is pretty closely related to High Heat Baseball. You pick one of up to four different pitches (each pitcher has only 4 pitches) and then place the ball where you want to pitch it. This sounds great and at first it seems to work well but for some reason you never seem to miss the spots. Even as you get tired you seem to get quite close to pinpointing every pitch. Another problem is that pitchers seem never to get tired, they stay fresh for quite a long time.
Fielding in Inside Pitch 2003 also needs some work. There are a lot of flaws in the fielding that will make you quite frustrated. The physics are probably the biggest problem with the fielding because nothing seems to work right. Grounders are always slowing down a good deal for no reason, and throws home are as slow as malicious in February. Another weird feature is on the fielding is the Diving. For some awkward reason you can dive like ten feet for balls. The dives first off don’t look realistic and second they seem to make you speed up a great deal for no reason.
The one thing that Inside Pitch 2003 has that none of the other baseball titles have is online support. I am not exactly sure who would want to play this game on Live but trust me there are people playing. The games don’t seem to have much lag problems but there just isn’t much reason to go play other people. The one game mode though that did catch my eye was the Championship Challenges. It’s not that the idea is new (All-Star Baseball 2004 did something very similar) but it was the one modes that I didn’t mind playing.
Also in Inside Pitch 2003 the Create a Player mode adds some new ideas to the mode. Instead of just making your player and then leaving him with whatever stats you want, you can now practice with your player, to gain points for your skill level. It’s just too bad you can only play through with him for a season and not watch him progress for more then one in a franchise mode.
Probably out of all the features included in Inside Pitch 2003, the custom soundtrack was my favorite. This is a nice feature that allows you to listen to all your custom soundtracks throughout the menu’s and in the game. Like all sports games the commentary can be a key factor into the overall game. This time the team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver step to the plate for the challenge of commentary. They actually do an impressive job of saying the right things at the right times in a nice fashion. Overall I was quite impressed with the commentary, which was probably the most notable aspect of the game.
The one thing I have yet to see is an excellent looking baseball game. All-Star Baseball has been quite good over the years and Sega Baseball 2K3 was also quite impressive, and probably the best looking was MVP Baseball 2003. Inside Pitch 2003 is one of those games that the bad outweighs the good, and it quite frankly might be one of the poorest looking baseball titles on the market.
The players of Inside Pitch 2003 are not all that bad; each player is represented in a decent fashion, but it’s nothing anyone is going to brag about. Basically the character models are there and get the job done, and that’s about all there is to say about them. The one thing though that is a positive for Inside Pitch 2003’s graphics are the stadiums. Each stadium exactly represents the real deal.
Probably the biggest downfall to Inside Pitch 2003 graphics is the animation. All the animations throughout the game look and feel clunky. Nothing seems to move with that polished feel to it that we have all got accustomed to.
It’s actually quite funny when I came to this section, because at times I did have a lot of fun playing this game. There are times in Inside Pitch where it doesn’t seem like you can miss the ball and you end up have a ten run inning. Besides the few times of glory the game just seems to become very repetitive and throwing shutouts can be done way too easily. There are just too many awkward problems that make this game feel like it is still in development rather then a $50 investment, and that’s why this is where the game loses all it’s fun. There just isn’t enough replay value, and all the problems seem to add up into a game that turns out to be quite boring.
With all of the Baseball games out on the market these day’s there are just to many better options to go to, to even bother with Inside Pitch. With all its plaguing problems I would hope Microsoft goes back to the drawing board with this one to re-think most of it’s game. Let’s just hope the 2004 version fixes all of these huge problems hurting this year’s version. The only reason I would recommend Inside Pitch is for those of you who honestly can’t wait until next year to play a baseball game on Live.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.