MLB Slugfest 2003 Review
It's tough to even imagine a game as reckless and outrageous as MLB Slugfest 2003, but Midway has been able to bring a baseball title that seriously packs in the action every way possible. Far surpassing the constructional simulation baseball game, Slugfest aims at giving players the most for their money, as they combine tremendous hitting abilities with pitching skills that'll make your head spin; it's an intense experience to say the least.
Midway revolutionized the videogame industry with NBA Jam and dominated the sport of basketball with their incredible style of play and over-the-top gameplay. The company has also used the same technique in games like NFL Blitz and NHL Hitz. Although there have been some bumps in the road for the game series, mainly Blitz, gamers still recognize the free-for-all fashion of play and the loosely regulated system. MLB Slugfest 2003 has taken Midway's renowned format of gaming and given baseball fans something they can finally call their own. Without a doubt, Slugfest will make a distinct impression upon you, whether you want it to or not.
The graphics of Slugfest are easily the best we've seen from a PS2 baseball title so far. Each player is nicely detailed with facial features and reactions. The out of proportion players that we saw in Triple Play 2002 are gone, and have been replaced with smooth body characteristics and defined muscle tone. It's really amazing to see the game running as efficiently as it does, as it surpasses the likes of its competitors. The frame rate is flawless and presents a very natural experience despite the constant action and extremely fast gameplay. The player animations, which are completely hilarious and fun to watch, are also magnificent to look at, as they show off some really nice aspects that promote what the PS2 can do. From the flaming bats to incredible leaps and dives, every aspect seems to be molded nicely and gives us something very nice to watch.
MLB Slugfest is an absolute riot to play. The game is a far cry from any simulation game and the rules correspond with it. The regular 9-inning games have been reduced to seven and the overall pace of the game is sharp and very quick. The usual stints that happen in between plays have been eliminated to better accustom an action-packed experience. Bloopers to right are quickly snagged and rifled to first, as you stare in amazement at what you thought would be a traditional single. That's the key here; this isn't your traditional baseball game. An apparent double might be stretched into an inside-the-park-homerun, while a hard line drive will be snatched out of the air for an easy out.
Slugfest has a very easy and simple interface that allows players to quickly get used to the game. The options while hitting have been broken up into contact swing, power swing, and bunt. When pitching, you simply select what type of pitch you want, and then just press X. It's as effortless as that, and Midway has shaped their game accordingly. A feature that is also important while pitching is the presence of the bean ball. If you're facing a very difficult batter and you'd rather just put him on first base, go ahead and plunk him sending the batter flailing to the deck. What's even more beneficial is that a majority of the time the player will lose a specific amount of ability in one of three categories: batting, power, or speed. This also corresponds with where you hit the player, whether the head, midsection, or legs, respectively. Be careful, though, if you hit a batter twice in a game, or even just once for some players, it will send them into a fit of rage that will have them charging the mound. Not only will you be getting the beating of your life, but the player will also gain ability in all three categories. So if it's early in the game, it might be smart to just pitch around them. Another feature that can be remembered back in the days of NBA Jam is being "on fire". Instead of making three shots in a row, players must get two consecutive hits. When this happens, your abilities skyrocket and you're twice as fast on the base paths. Sadly, only two players can be "on fire" at a time, so don't expect your entire team to be completely engulfed with flames.
Once again, Midway makes use of a turbo meter that is vital for success. Whether it be hitting, fielding, or pitching, the turbo meter must be utilized in order to achieve victory. While batting, combining the turbo button with either hitting option will add that extra pop to your bat, and possibly send a potential fly ball out of the park. Singles can quickly become doubles and fielders are able to reach balls that are hit in the gap. However, although the turbo meter is crucially important, you certainly need to keep an eye on it, as the bar will quickly go down if overused. The bar does replenish each half inning, but you'll be surprised at how fast it can be depleted.
MLB Slugfest 2003 has possibly the funniest commentary I've ever heard in a sports game. There's the regular announcer known well in NFL Blitz and NHL Hitz, and then there's the announcer known as Jim Shorts. He offers a very offbeat, comical announcing style and causes Slugfest to be that much more enjoyable. The duo also comes up with some very wacky catch phrases and comments. Tell me the last time you've heard an announcer on TV say this after a homerun, "Jack and Jill went up the hill and this Jack just jacked that little white pill!" You'll actually be in stitches after some of the things this commentating crew says. Along with this entourage, MLB Slugfest offers some very intense sound effects and all around great baseball noises. Each element is taken to the extreme with powerful effects and distinction. From the crowd yelling to the crack of the bat, Midway has delivered an overwhelming sound display.
What's especially nice about MLB Slugfest is that it controls very easily. Players respond according to what they are instructed and move very smoothly during the game. The button system is setup rather conveniently so players have a nice feel during play. I especially enjoyed how well the fielders ran after fly balls and were able to track them down with ease. Also, there is no slow-down when trying to throw to a desired base, as it was seen in All-Star Baseball 2003. As soon as you hit X with the directional pad or joystick, your player will immediately hurl the ball. This is extremely important with the fast pace and speed of the game. Overall, the game sees little problems in the field of control.
Possibly the greatest downfall for this game is the replay value. While you may be excited to play the first few games, eventually you will grow tired of MLB Slugfest. This isn't to say the game isn't fun, because it absolutely is, it's just that over time there's just so much of this outrageous gameplay you can take. A season is 52 games long and that is the only possible option for game length. Along with this mode, there is Quick Play, Challenge, and Tournament. With the exciting style of play involved with batting, I'm really surprised there is no Homerun Derby. Midway may really want to look into this if they plan on releasing MLB Slugfest 2004 next year.
In the end, it needs to be said that MLB Slugfest 2003 is exciting and entertaining to play. The crazy manner in which Midway went about creating this title is invigorating and a nice change of pace to the traditional baseball title. While High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 is still my undeniable pick for supreme baseball title on the Playstation 2, MLB Slugfest does offer some incredible gaming in various areas. If simulation baseball games aren't for you, then this may be your ticket to enjoying some of America's favorite pastime. The outrageous plays and unbelievable tactics displayed in Slugfest are enough to make you smile and laugh all around the bases.
7/1/2002 Matthew Stensrud