MLB Slugfest Loaded

Review

posted 7/15/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
When I was a kid I used to get excited whenever a bench-clearing brawl erupted. However in later years I came to realize that these so-called brawls were really just heated discussions, and that the heated discussions were really just casual misunderstandings. Yea, baseball isn’t the most testosterone enraged sport but at least we have Midway to thank for trying to inject some sort of mayhem into it. With its Slugfest franchise, the company has consistently provided a franchise that offers some much needed excitement to the sport, and the latest entry is no exception.

I’ve been playing MVP Baseball 2004 and World Series 2K4 for the past few months, so I’m glad for this change of pace. Playing a realistic recreation of the sport is entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I just don’t feel like dealing with things like contracts and payrolls. There are times when I just want to hit the field, turn off my brain and enjoy myself. For this I turn to the Slugfest franchise. In case you’re not familiar with the franchise, think of it as baseball on BALCO. Everyone has a cannon, everyone has a huge bat, and the players think nothing of sucker punches. Strategy doesn’t revolve around pitching matches of shifts in the outfield, but instead consist of deciding whether to pitch to the current guy or whether to bean him. This may all seem barbaric, and in truth it is, but it’s also insanely fun. It gives you the opportunity to toss most of the rules out the window and enjoy baseball the way you’d like it.

That’s just part of the appeal of the game; the other comes in the form of user-friendliness. Forget about doing silly things like warming up pitchers in the bullpen. If your guy is getting shelled out there, just make a call to the ‘pen and you’ve got yourself a fresh arm that’s ready to go. Pitching is easy and is akin to the olden days where you’d pick a part of the strike zone and toss the ball. You still have to select what kind of pitch you want to throw, but if the guy at the plate is a decent hitter, chances are it won’t matter. The name of the game here is runs, runs, runs, and they come in droves. It’s not to say that the pitcher is at a disadvantage though. By getting five strikes throughout the course of the game he’ll unlock his Looney Toons pitch. These include fastballs that haul ass at the batter, only to put on the brakes at the last second, making the batter swing and miss like a jackass. The best part of all of this is that it’s painfully easy to play. Even a four-year-old can pick it up. Although I probably wouldn’t start with Slugfest if I wanted to teach him about the finer intricacies of our favorite pastime.

To add some depth and realism into the game Slugfest now features a Franchise mode where players have to deal with real issues like, trades and other boring baseball jargon. By changing a couple of options, you can also rid the game of the turbo meters and special pitches. The Turbo meters operate here like they do in Midway’s other games. Holding the Turbo button while performing an action will make it faster, stronger and more INTENSE. I’m not sure why Midway decided to present the game with this option. In doing so they essentially deprive the game of its biggest gimmick, stripping down into your run-of-the-mill baseball game. You gotta leave that kind of stuff to the pros, guys who can do it much better too might I add.

As you might expect, the visual look of the game is heavily exaggerated as well, but Midway pulls it off quite nicely. Players look fairly realistic and animate with a decent amount of fluidness. Stadiums look nice with the highly being the flag waving animation. For some odd reason games have a hard time getting the flag waving right, at times making it look like a poorly spliced animated .gif. It’s a minor detail but one that I personally applaud. Of course the real highlight of the game comes in the form of particle effects. Impressive is a great word to use to describe the fire effects. Just the way it moves and flows with the bat, the way that it tails the ball and follows the path of a throw is interesting to watch. Stadiums are kind of below par from what the competition is offering, but definitely passable.
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