I normally start off most of my baseball game reviews talking about the smell of gloves and bats, something about pine tar and how good sunflower seeds are. But, I chose to spare all of you for my review of INSIDE PITCH 2003. Why is that? Because, quite literally, the game doesn't deserve the introduction that other good baseball games get because this is probably the worst baseball game this season.
When I first sat down with INSIDE PITCH, I knew there were a few things wrong. At first I really thought this was a rushed project, a project that Microsoft was trying to rush out in time for baseball season. But the more time I spent, it was obvious that the game wasn't rushed; it just wasn't designed very well. My main complaint: where is the franchise mode?! What sports game these days doesn't come equipped with a franchise mode?
Microsoft made some really weird choices with the control scheme of INSIDE PITCH too. I can see how they think that using the right thumbstick for throwing, like pressing down throws home, pressing left throws to third, etc. But, the problem is, the thumbsticks aren't exactly the most accurate choices, and you'll find yourself throwing in the wrong direction a couple of times. Yes, you can change them to the face buttons. That's great. Here's another problem. You can't pre-load a throw. For those who don't understand, you can't press the right button to throw out to first while you're making the play. You have to wait until the catching animation is complete and then press the throw button. Numerous times I've missed getting an out because of this. And with fielding, is it possible that every player is as good as good as any other out there? I've seen some crappy shortstops make plays as good as Derek Jeter.
And whose bright idea was it to put the power swing on the black button? Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but considering the B and X buttons have no use, putting the power swing at either of those two buttons would have been a smarter decision.
Batting and pitching are both a little weird. Your pitcher has up to four pitches and you throw it exactly where you intend to unless your pitcher is tired. I honestly don't think that every pitcher in the majors has that kind of control. For batting, there is a grid made up of nine frames. Pick the right frame, swing at the right time, boom; home run. It's almost like the lottery. Just guess and test.
The game just also doesn't seem to flow well. Double plays aren't very convincing to me and the ball itself defies the laws of physics at times. And so do the players! I don't remember the last time I saw Rafael Furcal dive 10 feet after a ball. I also don't remember seeing many players slide past the ball either. Also, your baserunners are idiots at times too. I had a groundball hit into shallow right field, with the right fielder playing really shallow. My runner on third stood there and watched the ball. Where is his mind?! Shouldn't he be worried about scoring?
Another negative is that there is no replay. Yes, no replay in a baseball game. I won't go any further. INSIDE PITCH has its fair amount of game modes, including home run derby, single game, season and playoffs. But, with no franchise mode, the game lacks. Yes, you can create your own team but what is the point for one season. Xbox Live adds some to the experience, which is one redeeming quality found in INSIDE PITCH.
INSIDE PITCH's graphics are just average. The stadiums are beautiful, but the character models and animations are just ugly. Other than Nomar Garciappara's stance, everyone else's is generic. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver bring some nice commentary to the game, and the addition of a custom soundtrack is really nice.
In the end, INSIDE PITCH 2003 could have been a whole lot better. Hopefully Microsoft will get the idea and do a bit better for next year's release.