I’m a huge Dodger fan. Strike that, I’m a huge baseball fan. I’m a purist at heart, I think that it’s pitching and not hitting that wins games. Strikeouts, not homeruns that keep the fans glued to their seats. No-hitters, not three homerun games, keep me coming back for more. In recent years I’ve become less of a fan of the game mainly because of the inflated statistics and off-field drudgery. Do I really need to hear about Derek Jeter’s partying habits? Do I need to see 15 kids in the Giants dugout during the World Series? Do I care if Sammy Sosa is taking steroids? Not really, I care about what happens on the field, not off.
This is why I’m such a huge fan of baseball games; they throw out all of the unnecessary distractions and let me get straight to the action. All right so I like deep simulations like Out of the Park Baseball
on occasion but I’m all about the action. I loved the action in MVP Baseball
, I loved the action in World Series Baseball
and I loved it in High Heat Baseball
. I didn’t like the action in Microsoft’s recently revived Inside Pitch
franchise. There’s more to the problem than just the action though, there are a whole host of problems that plague this otherwise decent first outing from Microsoft.
It’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the game it’s more like there’s nothing fundamentally right with it. There are some nice touches abound (such as the Championship Challenges) but the fact of matter here is that everything is rather ho-hum and lags light-years behind what the competition is offering. Baseball games need to offer something over the competition to remain competitive and while Inside Pitch
has the distinction of being the first Xbox Live enabled baseball title, it still feels empty and on the whole, shallow. Inside Pitch
features the requisite exhibition, season and playoff modes that we’ve come to expect from our modern baseball titles. Where this game deviates from the competition is in the online and Championship Challenges modes. Championship Challenges has you trying to top some of the most spectacular feats from the 2002-2003 season. For instance one of the goals is to try to top Shawn Green’s record-setting performance where he earned a total of 19 bases in one game against the Brewers. Another has you hitting for the cycle with Craig Biggio in five at-bats. This is definitely one of the best modes to come along in quite some time and beats the hell out of those lame trivia games that some of the competition offers.
Propelling itself ahead of the competition (albeit on paper), Inside Pitch
is the first baseball title to pit players from across the nation against each over via the Xbox Live network. Don’t expect something groundbreaking or monumental though as gameplay is limited to one-on-one exhibition games where one basically feels like he or she is playing for nothing. There’s absolutely nothing at stake, no rankings, no ratings and no bragging rights to speak of. Because of this the online mode becomes appealing only to those who want to play against their friends across the country or those who have no actual friends to speak of.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. This is all assuming that someone can actually derive some enjoyment from this rather lackadaisical title. Trust me on this one, this is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination.
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