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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-2
August 26, 2002
MLB Slugfest 2006

MLB Slugfest 2006

MLB Slugfest: Loaded

MLB Slugfest: Loaded

MLB Slugfest 20-04

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on September 17, 2002

Full Review: Midway is on fire!

MLB Slugfest 20-03 is the continuation of Midway's diabolical plan to overhaul just every sport on the planet and add their own unique arcade twist to them, making a once normal sport off the wall, simple, and all about having fun. Football was covered with the originator, NFL Blitz, basketball has been portrayed in the NBA Showtime series, Hockey took the form of NHL Hitz, and finishing off the 4 major sports is the latest into their line-up, MLB Slugfest 20-03. And just like all the games before it, Slugfest turns out to be quite an entertaining and enjoyable game, even if it's not for everyone.

Starting things off, Slugfest follows the tradition and is complete with a full on team and player license, meaning all your favorite players and MLB teams are represented in full form. Other similarities include scantly clad cheerleaders (or bat babes if you will) showing off on the loading screens, Midway's classic Power-Up symbol-based code system, and all the modes and options we've come to expect from their similar titles ? including Quick Play, Challenge, Season and Tournament. These modes are pretty self explanatory, except for maybe Challenge, which basically just lets you challenge a human or computer opponent with all your stats saved to your own user name and PIN number; more of a novelty option than anything else. Of course, Midway's arcade titles have never been about game modes (even though they do prolong the game's value), they've always been about you and a friend head on in some crazy, over-the-top sports action. And once again, it's pulled off beautifully.

Upon starting up my first game, I experienced something quite unexpected ? it took me awhile to get accustomed to the control scheme in the game ? not because it's complicated or anything, but just because they're 4 different set ups ? for batting, pitching, fielding, and base running ? with the only real constant being the turbo button, represented by the R-Trigger. Each player is given a full Turbo Meter to use as you start out each half inning, and once you use it all you're empty till that third out is made (though there are ways to bring a little bit of it back). This does sort of add some strategy into the game, as you have to decide the best situations to use the turbo since it can be used to boost everything, from pitching, to running, to throwing rocket balls so you can get that player headed for home base. The game defaults to only 7-innings per game, mainly for the reason that this sort of gameplay does get tiring after so much, but there are options that let you set your innings for even less, or the standard 9, if you see fit.

Slugfest actually follows the rules a little more closely than past Midway arcade inspired titles. If you're familiar with baseball, you'll feel right at home playing the game. The rules are the same, and except for the faster, more intense gameplay, and tons of violence and attitude, it's really not too vastly different than your standard baseball sim.

The pitching and batting system are very streamlined, as you'd expect from an arcade-based game such as this. When pitching you are given a variety of throws (the pitcher you have determines what techniques you'll use) ? covering all the baseball basics such as fastballs, change-ups, curve balls, screw balls, so on and so forth ? that can be thrown is any direction. Though, the direction is not represented by an on-screen icon, therefore making things a little harder for the batter, but don't worry, hitting the ball isn't very difficult. As the pitcher you also have the option of beaming the batter (see hitting with a ball? ouchie), which will either lower the batter's stats (the stat lowered depends on where the ball hits) for a certain time period, or infuriate him to the point where he'll run to the plate to pound on you (this is priceless). If it's the latter, the batter will become ?On Fire? (didn't think Midway would forget that did ya?), increasing hit abilities significantly; something that doesn't go away till he is given an out. Besides getting hit with a ball, the other way to reach ?fire? status is by being a good hitter. The first two players on you team that hits 2 for 2 will automatically be blazing with those super-human abilities.

Players in the game are given stats that determine how well they perform. Scaled by a simple 1-10 basis (can go higher once on fire), players are given a number in the category of Power, Speed, and Batting. Power is how hard the player will hit the ball, Speed is how fast the player runs, and Batting determines how well they hit the ball. Batting in the game is as simple as getting the timing and direction down, and then swinging with either a power or standard swing. Of course hitting the ball just right will belt it out of the park, but that rarely happens with me, I'm the pop-up king, baby!

Fielding is as simple as it is in real life? or seems in real life I should say. Batter hits ball, then player attempts to run it down and catch it before it hits the ground. And if that isn't possible they immediately pick it up and throw it to the proper baseman by pushing the corresponding direction on the analog stick with the throw button. You are also given the ability to do flying dives to catch the ball, always impressive. The only real problem with fielding in the game is that the A.I. runs mind-numbingly slow, so you almost always have to change to the outfielder yourself and chase the ball down.

Base running is a tad bit more complicated. I expected the players to automatically run the bases, but it doesn't work that way. You have to actually make them run yourself with the use of the black and white buttons (one makes them run and one make them come back). Once familiar with the controls you'll learn how to steal bases, slide, and totally make a fool of your opponent. Since this is a ?No Rules, No Refs, and No Mercy? sort of game, flying fist are the norm. There's nothing quite like the feeling of socking a baseman in the jaw to make him drop the ball and then be yelled ?Safe!?

As for the graphics in the game, they are surprisingly good and stack up very well to the other baseball titles out there. Though, they're in no way mind-blowing, especially for those used to playing games on the Xbox. The character models and stadium designs for the most part look really good. The player's faces resemble their real life counterparts and there are over a thousand different, unique animations. Ranging from an outfielder showing off with some off the wall catches, to a player rolling on the ground grabbing his crouch in pain after taking a shot. The on fire effect also looks remarkable, and when the balls are hit they have a cool streak effect going on behind them.

The audio in the game is also pulled off pretty good, and sticks to Midways formula pretty closely. With baseball you're going to get the standard crack of the bat against the ball, the big WHOOSH if a power swing is missed, and any other baseball related effects. Though, the most important audio component is the announcers, which in all is sort of a mixed bag. The play-by-play announcer gets the job done, but the other has an annoying Louie Anderson quality to him. They repeat things far too much, and most of the comments are just really lame, even though something's will get a chuckle out of you. Thankfully, the option is there to turn off their random quotes.

Bottom Line
Regardless of a few neglectable mistakes, all in all MLB Slugfest 20-03 is a really fun game that deserves from baseball fans and fans of Midway's arcade titles alike, the very least a rental. Whether you should purchase it or not depends on many factors, the most important being -- just how big a fan are you? With mechanics that aren't too different from the standard simulation, hard-core baseball fans should find a lot to like. And if you liked Midway's previous offerings the game should suit your fancy. With its great multiplayer goodness and a ton of replay value, next to Sega's World Series Baseball, this is the best baseball title you're going to find on the Xbox. Check it out.

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