looks stupid." - Tara Edwards, loving wife.
once in a while, Buhner.com has its perks. When
I decided to put up a "reviews" section
at Buhner.com, I had dreams of companies sending
me free stuff for me to review. You can imagine
that when I received a FedEx containing the latest
of Midway's "arcade sports" line, I could
see my dream coming true. Only, the free game
had nothing to do with Buhner.com. It had
to do with Maxim. See, before the baseball
season started, I entered a Maxim-sponsored fantasy
baseball game Maxim called "Fallacy Baseball",
where points would be scored by your players doing
badly. Seemingly knowing more about crappy
baseball players than good ones, I entered, played
for like a week and promptly forgot. Weeks
later, I get an email from Maxim stating that I
had won a prize, and to give them my mailing address
so that they can send it to me. I respond,
and here we are with the FedEx.
Slugfest isn't a game I would have gone out and
purchased. Baseball games for console machines
have repeatly fallen short over the past few years,
and while the PC has several decent baseball sims,
picking up a baseball title for the PS2 that even
resembles realism is difficult. However, Slugfest
never claims to be "realistic". Working
with Midway's "arcade sport" theme first
seen in their arcade hit NBA Jam, Slugfest portrays
baseball in an "over the top" way that
emphasizes home runs, bean balls, and taunting.
Oh, the taunting. There's nothing like
a game where after hitting a home run, the batter
crosses home plate and repeatly points to his ass.
the game is done very nicely. Stadiums are
accurate, players for the most part look like their
real-life counterparts, and the images come off
very clean. The range of motions that the
players go through is pretty impressive, and makes
for some entertaining gestures and movements. Uniforms
are accurate (although with the occasional "batting
practice" or third color jerseys, which aren't
controlable), and overall, the images take nothing
away from the game.
sound is where some people may have to make a determination.
Baseball can be pretty boring without commentary,
and many a baseball game has been ruined by the
commentary, either by it being incredibly stupid
or by being incredibly repeatitive. One of
the first things that impressed me about Slugfest
was the game's commentary. The flow of the
two person commentary goes along nicely, with comments
continuing from the point where they started until
they finish. In many games, a commentator
will begin a story or a comment when a play
begins, which is immedately cut off by the same
commentator's play-by-play. Slugfest allows
the commentators to continue their stories, even
as the game is unfolding in the background. Since
the play-by-play isn't too necessary in a
baseball video game, the complete sentences of the
commentators can be a welcome change.
commentators manage to put some humor into the play-by-play,
which can be tricky to pull off. It's like
garlic in a recipe; some is good, but too much can
take away from everything else. They do, however,
get repeatitive. It isn't too bad (especially
if you change the settings to include 2003 &
2004 commentary), but it can be annoying, even after
just a few games. The repeated comments (at
least the ones I came in contact with) are mostly
"responce" comments, such as after the
main commentator saying that the pitcher has a great
arm, the other commentator wonders if that is the
pitcher's "real" arm. Some jokes
hit, some miss, and some you'll hear over and over.
What's good is good, but it will eventually
get on your nerves.
for the gameplay... it's really not that bad. Controls
are easy to manipulate, but not adjustable, and
it takes a little while to get used to the "turbo"
button. Running is actually a little easier
than most games, with one button being used exclusively
for advancing, and one for retreating. Swinging
can be a little tricky at first, but only because
of judging pitches. The pitches thrown by
pitchers can be very challenging, with curveballs
having a great amount of motion, while fastballs
move very quickly. There were plenty of strikeouts
before I learned how to hit the ball. As for
the swing itself, there is one button for a "power"
swing and one for a "contact" swing, but
after a game or two, you just end up power-swinging
with everyone on the team. Games tend to be
high-scoring without a great pitcher, and even then,
the strike zone is a tough one to handle (most pitches
not directly down the middle of the plate end up
being called balls.) Instead of specific fatigue,
pitchers have a rating for every pitch they throw,
and as the pitch is used, the rating goes down,
making the pitch less effective. The batters
have three ratings that you can see either when
making lineup changes or when they reach the plate.
These ratings, "Batting", "Strength",
and "Speed", are deceptive in that the
"strength" rating has nothing to do with
the batter's power. Instead, the "batting"
rating itself is broken down into three separate
ratings, which aren't viewable unless the batter
is hit by a pitch, and even then only seen for a
short period of time. The "strength"
rating is only a mystery, although it is implied
by the game that the higher a player's "strength"
is, the better they do in brawls and their ability
to withstand injury. The actual statistics
given to the players during the game is questionable.
Batters coming up to the plate are shown with
a "career avg.", although their career
averages may be nowhere near that number. This
number (again, no home runs listed unless you pause
the game and look at the lineup) gives you an idea
of what kind of hitter the player is, although it
comes in less useful when you find yourself swinging
for home runs every at-bat.
game features are limited. Slugfest allows
you to play in two progressive modes; one of which
plays like a "season", with statistics
kept, while the other deals with the more arcade-like
way of selecting a team and attempting to beat every
team in the league, such as has been done with Midway
games since NBA Jam. The game also features
a mode which allows for more immedate play, and
a home run derby. Players are not customizable
or creatable, so if your favorite player this season
isn't in this game, tough luck. There is no
real "season mode" which plays out more
like a real baseball season, so no trades or even
player fatigue. The game is meant to be played
one game at a time.
the game is not for players looking for a baseball
simulation in the same light as EA Sports' Madden
series for football. Players looking for a
realistic simulation to go along with their gameplay
will be hard pressed to find one for a console system.
However, while that area is lacking, those
looking for a baseball game to play on the PS2 will
find it difficult to find one better than Midway's
MLB Slugfest 20-04. The gameplay is fun, and
the controls are easy to pick up. While not
necessarily a game I'd recommend purchasing, it's
definitely worth a rental, and with the console
baseball video game field as poor as it has been
in recent years, it's easy to see why the Slugfest
series has grown into the #1 selling baseball title
for the PS2.