Raise your slugging percentage.
They Jammed the NBA, Blitzed the NFL and even handed a Red Card to soccer. Midway finally treats Major League Baseball to its own special blend of over-the-top extreme sporting action. Slugfest 20-03 brings out the duel at the mound, turbo charges the infield and sets the outfield on fire. I thought you could get arrested for that?
Glancing at the Main Menu, you wouldn't be able to distinguish Slugfest from any other baseball game. You've got a Quickplay option, Challenge, 52-game Season and Tournament modes, all of which are nothing out of the ordinary. But don't let this fool you. Once you get into the game, you'll see just how different Slugfest is.
When it comes down to game time, you'll notice that the basic rules apply with the addition of a few tweaks. First of all, management has been dumbed down, eliminating any ability to change the lineup, put in a pinch hitter, or even choose your starting pitcher. Depending on how much control you like, this can be either a good feature or a bad one. Die-hard baseball fans will probably wince at this lack of control, but those who would rather not worry about personnel strategy will find the simplicity a godsend. But frankly, MLB Slugfest isn't really made for the sim fans.
Don't think that strategy has disappeared from the game completely though, because Slugfest has made a few strategic adjustments in other interesting places like pitching. In addition to deciding which pitches to hurl, you'll need to decide just how and when you want to bean your opponents. Yep, you heard me right. Pitchers have a bean option that can swing the momentum of the game. Use it at the right time, and you'll be able to bring down the stats of the batter. Hit him in the legs and you'll reduce his speed or smack him in the head and you'll bring down his batting skill. Give him a good body shot to knock down his power. Body blow!
But if you bean the wrong guy, you just might increase his stats and set him on fire with super speed, power and batting. The worst-case scenario even has this super player rushing the mound and beating the snot out of your pitcher. Youch.
The batting comes with not one but two swing options. The "Contact" button attempts a nice, safe hit that has a higher chance of getting the batter on base. It's far from guaranteed, but it does up the odds. The "Power" button goes for it all, but requires perfect timing for the desired results. Hit the sweet spot and the batter is sure to set the ball on fire.
Base running has also has an interesting little twist to it. All runners are equipped with a nifty little punch button that can cause a baseman to *accidentally* drop his ball. This works even after a normal play would have ended, giving runners the chance to deck the guy with the ball and steal a base. After all, what's a Slugfest without a little slugging?
Despite the cool new twists to batting, pitching and base running, the fielding isn't hot. Every once in awhile, getting control of the correct fielder is a bigger challenge than it needs to be. Picture this: the outfielders are playing deep and a fly ball is hit to center field between the center fielder and the second baseman. You would think that the "change player" button would give you control of the nearest, most capable fielder of making the play. In this case, the center fielder would be the best candidate since the ball has already flown over the second baseman's head. But no, more often than not you'll find yourself in control of the second baseman, who isn't even on screen. Even pressing the change button again won't get you into the right pair of cleats. It's frustrating when an easy play like that gets blown because of a simple control error.
Another blemish on Slugfest's record is that it gets repetitive pretty quickly. After playing for a few hours, all the games start to feel the same. Different teams, same outcome. Like all sports games, Slugfest is best played with a friend, so there's still plenty of multiplayer fun here. But as a single player game, it definitely starts to drag.
The game's visuals retain that typical Midway flair with the Midway cheer girls popping up in various screens throughout the game. In-game graphics are pretty good, with decently modeled player faces and a nice little "On Fire" effect. Not a bad eyeball experience.
Even the commentators provide some amusing audio. A hefty amount of color commentary can be heard throughout the game and there's a pretty good chance you'll get a chuckle out of at least one cheesy line.
And like any good Midway game, there are a few wacky extras hidden away. The pre-game code screen makes yet another appearance and with the right information, you'll be able to unlock things like the Roman Coliseum or even a team of horses. Some good things never change.
Overall, Slugfest 20-03 is not a bad first baseball effort by the veteran Midway team. Everything you'd expect from an "M Sports" title is in the game with some nice twists. A little work with the outfielders and a few free beers just might send this game to the playoffs.