|Inside Pitch 2003 is different from the other baseball titles released for the XBOX this year. Is that a good thing? You bet it is, and I will tell you why. That is what makes this title the surprise baseball game of the year. While other games are concentrating on getting that "exact" baseball game feel, Inside Pitch 2003 insures that your gameplay will be more like an arcade game than a simulation. With this in mind, enter on-line capability via XBOX LIVE! Some of you might be saying, "I like the single player simulation." Then this is NOT the game for you. This game was obviously developed with more attention to on-line play, and this is where the game shines. Place yourself in a 1 vs 1 situation with the ability too talk trash to your opponent till you turn blue in the face. No other baseball title this year will give you that. The game speed is perfectly paced to enable some of the closest plays you will ever experience. If you have played either Inside Drive or NFL Fever, then you will know what kind of gameplay to expect from this game.
Pitching is a breeze. As you can see in the pictures(click to enlarge), you just have to select a style of pitch by pressing the button which represents the pitch you want. Then, the next screen shows you three options. They include strike, ball and pitch-out. Once you have made that selection, you then press the D-pad in the direction you want the pitch to follow. For example, up for a high pitch or down+right for a down and to the right pitch. The ball will be called a ball or a strike from which selection you made earlier. Remember though, just because you choose strike doesn't mean it will be a strike. Other factors come in to play like fatigue and flat out just missing the target. HINT: The single player game can sometimes be easy to strike out, but your on-line opponents will not be so easy. You should be random with your pitch selections and throw balls as well as strikes to keep them on their toes.
Batting is also fairly easy, but there are some tricks to it as well. First you can move yourself left or right which places you either closer or further from the plate. Then wait for the pitch. Once the pitch is on the way, you must decide if it will be in the strike zone or not. This can be tricky with curves, sliders, and off-speed pitches. Once you believe you know where the pitch is going, you place the bat there. This process is done by using the d-pad. Not using the d-pad swings level. Using the d-pad, you can press up to swing high and press down to swing low. But that's not all. You can also press left or right to pull in or reach out across the plate. After all that, press "A" to make contact, or press the "black button" for a power hit. Pitch location and bat location are very realistic. Just because the ball goes right down the middle and you swing in the middle, doesn't guarantee a home run. If the ball is slightly higher it will obviously lead to a pop-up. HINT: Know who your power players are when using the "power swing", because the power swing might do more harm then good with the wrong player. One more thing, your pitcher is not a likely candidate for the power swing!
Fielding can be made by first selecting the easiest way for you to play. Choose from using the d-pad and "A" button, or just the primary buttons which for the diamond. Pressing the "A" button with the ball in the air will make the player dive for the catch. Using the right trigger and the button that corresponds with base allows the pitcher to pick-off base runners. Now that I got that out of the way, fielding can be a nightmare. Diving either makes you a hero or a fool. Miss the dive and you are guaranteed to give a triple away. Also, diving in the infield is pretty much useless except to stop a double. The diving infielders (most of the time) cannot recover quick enough to throw out the runner at first. HINT: Hit your cut-off man from the outfield if your outfielder can't make a solid throw to a base by pushing in on the right analog stick. Also, it seems that stealing bases at anytime is a big thing while playing on-line, so practice your picking off and catcher-throwing skills.
The single player gameplay is down right sad. Some of this obviously applies to on-line play as well. There are too many confusing selections in the menu system. Just try to play a playoff series and you will know what I mean. One game in the middle would lock up on me, and I finally had to resort to simulating the game which lead to a loss. But the series did continue! Base running needs to be polished. If you get too anxious with pressing the "X" button to progress the runner, he will definitely go past the base you intended to the next. This leads to a frustrating out. Base stealing can be a trick too. Using the "X" button to lead off then having to use up as well to begin the steal, beaks in to your swinging concentration. There are no replays, but after every play the player who made the play takes a bow to the crowd - how corny is that? A routine play does not mean we need a standing ovation from the crowd.
The graphics are sub-par from what the XBOX allows, but acceptable even though Microsoft designed the game. The stadiums on the other hand are beautiful and are very close to replicas. Lighting was obviously left out, which would of given the graphics a little more realism. The sound on the other hand is up to you. That's right, you can add in your own tracks and hear snippets of them during batter up, and between innings - just as if you were at the park. This can help you get through the game easier when pumping up to some heavy-metal riffs when your players come up to bat!
Things I like about the game:On-Line capabilityEase of pitchingEase of battingAbility to add music tracksAbility to play games with as many or as few innings you chooseDownload content - There is already a new stadium
Things I dislike about the game:Single playerbase running is confusingIf the game lags - it lags during the pitchNo replays, but every play is celebratedPlaying season and playoffs can be confusing
Only purchase this game if you plan to take out your aggressions on-line, because you will get frustrated with single player. Although, the single player game does offer scenarios like trying to hit Barry Bond's 600th homerun and other great baseball accomplishments, and it does this in a very cool way. The game doesn't make you play the whole game just the parts that make it essential to accomplish the goal. But if that isn't enough to sell you on the single player game, than this game is not for you. If Microsoft polishes the things I mentioned in this review, look for next year's title to be the game to get!