MLB Slugfest 20-04 Review (PS2)
Midway is at it again with MLB Slugfest 20-04. An over-the-top, extreme form of baseball. For those who don't know, Midway jumped into the foray of baseball games last year with MLB Slugfest 20-03. Our own Aaron Holbert reviewed the game and praised it for its arcade like features. This year's edition is no exemption to the statement above. The game focuses more on the action of the game of baseball, with more over the top, Midway style hits and catches.
This year's stadiums look great. The crowd is one of the best looking of all the baseball games to come out this year. You will see fans cheering on their team. Player models look great as well. You will see signature batting stances for a number of superstars in the game. This has been improved from last year's edition of the game. The one thing that hasn't been improved is the player scaling in the game. The player’s physique for the most part looks the same. Another praise about the graphics is the player faces. Jim Edmonds looks like Jim Edmonds, Giambi looks like Giambi. Midway did a great job on the player faces, and you will have no problems distinguishing the players in the game by their faces. Kudos to Midway on this part of the game, as the player faces are one of the best in any baseball game. It is evident that they took some time to work on this part of the game.
The stadiums for the most part look like their real life counterpart. The grass and turf textures are done very well. Although not in the same league as say World Series baseball, Midway did a very good job on the graphics overall.
The audio in this game is excellent. Hecklers, crowd reactions on spectacular plays are all present. But the one thing that stands out from the rest of the crowd, is the commentary in the game. The game does an excellent job at mixing the commentary with the gameplay at hand. The commentary is hilarious at times. During pauses in the game you will hear both commentators going at it on a variety of subjects. It blends in very nicely and doesn't detract form the game. I did not notice any repetition in the commentary with my time with the game. Overall a very good job at presenting the game of baseball. Another neat little option in the game is having the ability to have a choice on the type of commentary. You can choose from the 2003 commentary from Slugfest 2003, or 2004 or even have them both in the game. Nicely done!
GAMEPLAY AND FEATURES
Like I mentioned in the overview, MLB Slugfest 20-04 is an extreme form of baseball, with arcade like features. It captures more the action of the game with spectacular catches and base hits. This year's edition offers 5 different modes of play. Quickplay, Challenge, Season, Tournament and Homerun Derby. Quickplay is your basic pick up and play mode. Choose two teams, choose your options and jump right in. Challenge mode offers you the ability to challenge all 30 MLB teams. Season is where the meat of the gameplay is. You choose a team and play in a full season, complete with stats tracking. You're only limited to 52 games in season mode. You also have the option to sim or play a game. Tournament mode allows you to play against friends or the cpu in a tournament like way. You can have either 4 or 8 teams challenging in this mode. Last but not least you have the Home Run Derby with anywhere from 2-8 players at a time. This mode is straight forward in the sense that you pick your sluggers, number of outs, pitch type, and stadium. There's fun to be had in this mode with friends. Also present in this year's edition is a mode to create your own team. You can add any player to your team and also name your team and pick your stadium. You want to have all the superstars of the game on your team? Go ahead and do so. This is a nice feature and adds some replay value to the game.
Each team has one lineup with a number of reserves to choose from. Although you're able to change your batter lineup, you're not able to do so with your pitching rotation. The game is limited in terms of lineup changes. It would have been nice to have more options to customize your lineup.
Now on to the actual gameplay on the field. I noticed a good variety of hits and foul balls in the game. The ball physics are done nicely. I did notice a lack of ground balls though. Maybe it's because of the way I was pitching and hitting. But it does look like there’s a high ratio of fly balls to ground balls in this game. Another thing I noticed with the gameplay is how slow outfielders are to field a ball. This results in a high number of doubles and triples in the game. Expect to see high hitting, high scoring games because of this.
The digital pad on the controller is used to align your fielders. Tap towards the left and your fielders will shift to the left and vice versa. Also if you press on the analog stick you can view the stats/attributes for a given batter. Also visible on the screen is a pitcher meter. When a pitcher throws 5 strikes, the pitcher meter will fill and illuminate and a special pitch will be activated. Some of the special pitches are just plain outrageous.
You will see a good number of over the top catches. You will see behind the back catches, diving catches etc. Also batters will celebrate profoundly after hitting a homerun. One animation (cut-scene) had the batter celebrating and then crawling to the plate and kissing the plate. It's these little things that make this game fun to play and watch at the same time.
During the game players will catch on fire depending on how they did on their previous at bat or during the game. This will increase their attributes and make them pretty much unstoppable. (That's if you bean them like I do when they come up to bat. ;) Speaking of beaning the batter, you can do so to your liking and as many times as you want. There are no player ejections like in real baseball. When attempting to bean a player at bat there's a good chance that the player's attributes will weaken. Over time the lost attributes are regained. There is also a good chance the player will get angry and explode in anger. This will result in an increase in all his attributes. When this happens the batter will rush the mound. Who ever wins the fight will catch on fire. This part of the game is plain out funny and painful to watch at the same time.
There are no instant replays in the game after a big play, but you do have the option to view a replay manually. Throws are always on line in this game. Off line throws are not present. I'm nitpicking here, but it would have been nice to see this in the game. Also I noticed a good number of runners thrown out at first base from the outfield. Rarely seen in a real baseball game, expect to see this at least once or twice a game.
Slugfest 20-04 does a very good job at bringing out the action of the game of baseball. The motion capture is done very well. Jim Edmonds for example, bats and fields like he does in real life. The game has a nice video feature on the motion capture in the game. It is really incredible how their able to do this in sports games nowadays.