MLB Slugfest 20-03
Game Info
PS2, GC, Xbox
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Comic Mischief, Violence
The Good

• Stadiums and players look really good
• Fun arcade gameplay
• Great announcing

The Bad

• Glitches during fouls balls
• Not for sim players


Slugfest 20-03 takes the traditional sport of baseball and juices it up a bit. Okay, not just a bit. More like A LOT. It's like they crammed Emeril LeGasse into the game to take the stuffy sim elements of previous baseball titles and make it fun. Players can choose to play a single game, the Challenge Mode against other teams in the league or in the Season Mode, where you can try take your team to the World Series.

Visually, Slugfest shows off a really nice graphics engine that sports both well detailed stadiums and character models. In fact, the stadiums themselves are excellent representations of the original parks with a lot of nice touches to draw you into the game. Everything, ranging from the stadium crowd, which is a step above the usual bobbing cardboard cutouts, to even the textures on the infield that make it look like the groundskeeper has recently mowed, shows a great attention to detail. When you start up a game, you'll immediately notice all of the familiar landmarks and even the flashing lights from the crowds adds that little extra touch that really just makes the game "feel" like baseball. Easily the standout of the game, the character models are well animated and excellently detailed. You can see muscle tone and each player looks pretty close to their counterpart. Since each team is basically made up of the starters and a few big-name pitchers, a lot of time seems to have been spent making those characters look really good. You'll easily be able to tell the difference between Mark Grace and Matt Williams. And since the game runs as such a nice and steady framerate, the animations for anything from taking a swing to throwing a ball just look really good. So when your guy wiffs at a fastball, you're gonna believe it.

Between the dead-on sound effects and assorted crowd noise, the audio portion of the game is as well-realized as the graphics. I would be remiss not to mention the announcing, which is done excellently and provides just the right touch for Slugfest. The humorous quips and zings are varied and just downright funny. The duo of the dry Timmy Kitzow and the Harry Caray-esque Jimmy Shorts is just a blast to listen. From time to time, you'll hear something repeated, but for the most part, their repetoir is so varied and deep, it may take you a season to hear it all.

At the heart of this game is a fairly simple and easy to pick up gameplay. Pitching involves selecting one of four pitches and then slinging it across the plate. But, you also can shift your outfield and then move the location of the pitch by using the D-pad/Analog stick. And, you can also choose to throw a "beaner", which will cause the batter to lose some points in one of their attributes, depending on pitch location. But, don't get too greedy with it, as hitting batters too often will get you pitcher beaten up and even make the batters better by way of an adrenalin boost. Once batters are on base, you can also try pick off moves. Fielding and throwing the ball is easy and familiar. Using the turbo on defense will allow your fielders to move and throw faster.

When at bat, you'll have the choice between straight contact, a power shot, or bunting. You can also lean the batter in or away from the plate to alter hit location. And, if you have any men on base, you can also signal them to steal with the L1 and D-Pad. Once you get the hang of batting, which won't take long, you can consistently get hits. Once on base, you can perform take out slides and use the Turbo to make your player run faster. Also, you can punch basemen in hopes of making them drop the ball, which in turn will allow you to steal another base.

The strength of the gameplay it that the player is given just enough options to keep a degree of strategy in the game, while at the same time keeping it simple enough not to bog them down with way too many simulation elements.

With so much going for it, the really isn't a lot I can fault Slugfest with. Sometimes, especially during foul balls, the game suffers glitches, like whole sections of fans disappearing from the stadium or even rare instances of pop-up and slow down when performing a turbo catch or throw. It's nothing major, but it does show up. Also, as with most sports games, there will come a point where you will have heard and done everything in the game and it may grow a little repetitive. But, I figure by that time, you'll be pining for 20-04.

One of the nicest touches about the game is how well it plays up the "over-the-top"ness of it all. From the well-animated crotch-grabbing to the crazy fly-ball grabs to the way your character catches fire when they're on a streak, it's all rather well polished. If you're a sim player, you might find this one a hard pill to swallow. This is an arcade game at heart and you're going to see a lot of hits, homers and runs. Don't be too surprised to see an NFL type score at the end of your game. If you want to play a ball game that's just plain fun and looks good, look no further.

- - Kinderfeld

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