Microsoft Game Studios steps up to the plate with its first Xbox baseball title while Ea and 3D0 Improve upon Last year's Playstation2 models
Inside Pitch 2003Microsoft Game Studios, $49.99
Nonfans of the sport often identify America's favorite pastime more with the movies that capture its romance than with the actual game itself. And who could blame them? It's far more interesting to witness locker-room sex scenes, stadium light explosions, and raising of the dead than any nine-inning no-hitter. Field of Dreams. Bull Durham. The Natural. These are stories that infuse so much drama and excitement into the game that they seemingly transcend the sport itself. Witness: the slow-motion image of Robert Redford crashing a scoreboard clock against a starry night or the breathless moment when Ray Liotta, as the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, first steps out of an Iowa cornfield. Sure, these are illusory moments of staged, artificial emotion. But wondrous, mystical moments, nonetheless. Of course, Hollywood isn't the only entity guilty of overselling these constructed realities. Video-game manufacturers have for two decades launched game after game in the same tradition, as far back as Nintendo's first hit, Baseball Stars, circa 1989. Now Microsoft Game Studios has released its first Xbox baseball title into the pantheon, hoping to put a Babe Ruth-sized imprint upon the genre. Unfortunately, in Inside Pitch 2003, the magic generally fails to coalesce. However often Inside Pitch 2003 is touted as the only Xbox baseball game to support live, online play, the feature hardly merits its functionality when the action itself isn't worth screaming about. Yes, Nomar Garciaparra's face appears exquisitely detailed, and the ballpark graphics are adequately realized, but the action here is so stiff and rigid, it's as if you're stringing a team of puppets. Batting, too, is an inorganic process, void of an intuition curve, and pitching feels like, well, it doesn't feel like anything but a series of preprogrammed choices. If Inside Pitch 2003 offers one bright spot, it's the jovial commentary by Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, who add a trace of color to an otherwise gray world.