Inside Pitch 2003 Review


Video baseball games tend to fall into one of two camps.  You have the games that try to be statistically accurate simulations, with realistic batting averages, game scores, and other statistics.  This accuracy comes at the price of an increased difficulty of play - after all in baseball you can be a superstar even when you fail to reach base two out of every three at bats. Other games choose to go for ease of play, sacrificing statistical accuracy for action and faster-paced play.  Games are all virtual slugfests, with players racking up hits and regularly banging out homeruns. These games are also more accessible to the average gamer as they are easier to play, saving gamers from the frustration of strikeout after strikeout as they try to learn how to time their swings.  Inside Pitch 2003 tries to straddle the line between the two, but in reality it is an arcade game that lacks the insane action that can make those types of games so much fun to play.

Screenshots
Bonds at the plate.

The main problem lies in the area at the heart of every baseball game, the pitcher-batter duel.  Pitching has been oversimplified to a three-step process that could have just as easily been a two-step process.  You select from your pitcher's repertoire of three or four pitches by pressing the corresponding button on the controller.  Next you select whether to throw a ball or a strike.  Finally you select the pitch's location and the ball is thrown.  The strike zone is divided into a nine square grid and if you choose to throw a strike, then you can only choose to throw the pitch into one of those nine locations.  There is no opportunity to fine-tune the placement of the ball or to change the location during the throw.  It is the same with balls; you can only pitch to designated squares that ring the strike zone.  To make things even easier for the batters, the pitches come in quite slowly compared to other games which gives batters plenty of time to react to the pitch.

Batters will not have too much trouble reacting to pitches, but just in case they do the game makes it even easier.  A graphic appears after each pitch to show how well-times the swing was, and where t was in location to the pitch.  This would make a nice learning aid for a game that made hitting a challenge, but in this case things are easy enough as it is.  Watch the ball onto the bat and you'll consistently hit the gaps for extra bases or knock the ball out of the park.

All of the effort to simplify pitching and hitting is countered by some frustrating play once the ball is hit.  The fielders move slowly, both in getting to the ball and in throwing it to a base, making it tough to turn double plays or stop runners from taking an extra base.  It seems that the game's developers realized that the fielding was too sluggish and tried to balance it with superhuman dives.  Outfielders can routinely make impossible catches if they can get within five yards or so of where the ball will land and press the dive button.  Throws in Inside Pitch 2003 are handled by pointing the right stick in the direction of the base to which you want to throw (right for first, up for second, etc.) and a click of the stick will cause a fielder to hit the cutoff man.  It takes a little getting used to as baseball games pretty much use the face buttons as the de facto standard for hitting the bases.  Once over that initial hurdle you'll feel that the right stick throw mechanism is actually a pretty good idea, but you also get the feeling that it isn't implemented quite right in Inside Pitch 2003.  Fielders take so long to throw the ball that you literally have to hold the stick in a direction from the moment a fielder approaches the ball until it is released from his hand to be sure that it registered and that the throw goes to the right base.  Add these problems to the fact that the game often neglects to default the player selection to the fielder with the best chance at the ball and you get a frustrating time trying to put together a decent defense.