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Midway Sports has once again given us a great alternative to the sim-heavy baseball games of its competitors. With great arcade gameplay, good graphics and a killer audio package, Slugfest 20-04 is the baseball game to get if you aren’t into sims.
That’s not to say that 20-04 isn’t a unique and fun take on baseball, because it is and even non sports fans who are critical of baseball and their games as being slow paced will find plenty to enjoy here as this game pretty much takes all the traditional rules of fair play and throws them right out the window. Fielders punch out runners, runners slide into other players forcing them to drop the ball at every turn and punch them in order to distract them – it’s insanity at its finest and its pulled off to a genuinely excellent degree leaving enough room for those who prefer traditional baseball and its mechanics to also find some interesting details added to this title that naturally fit.
Slugfest 20-04 is a baseball game for people who don’t like baseball. The simplicity and novelty of Slugfest are its strengths, but its lack of depth is a glaring weakness. MLB Slugfest 20-04 is rated E for everyone with elements of comic mischief and violence.
Like the other Midway Sports titles, MLB SlugFest 20-04 puts an action spin on the athleticism, adding flaming power-ups, some slapstick antics, and a bit of violence to the national pastime. New elements this year include more accurate player animations, improved player statistics, a create-a-team function (but no create-a-player), and a home-run derby. The addition of pinch hitters, player trades, and more players per team (20, versus last year’s 12) only enhances the core gameplay.
As stated earlier, Slugfest will always be a better two-player experience. The single player still does not have the depth of AI to contend with some of the more sim-style titles on the market. The addition of Create-A-Team is a noble idea, but it would have needed better implementation to be a real draw. That's not to say that there isn't a place for this game in your library. It's hollerin' fun if you have a group of people gathered and can be cool solo if you stick to the Challenge Mode.
The beauty of Slugfest is that it's pretty easy to pick up and play. The controls are intuitive, and the pitching and batting interfaces work well. Once you've mastered the timing of things, like the swing of the bat and the hard slides and tags, it's easy to get hooked. All in all, the game has more in common with the great 8- and 16-bit baseball games of old than with today's complex simulation-style affairs. Players who lost touch with baseball games when they went 3D on the PlayStation may find that Slugfest is exactly what they've been missing.
Despite longevity issues, MLB SlugFest 20-04 comes together extremely well as a whole. While almost identical on the GameCube to its PlayStation 2 cousin, both versions step up to the plate and deliver a dazzling dose of high-energy sporting. For a limited, but still significant amount of time, you'll get a lot of pleasure out of the product, even if returning fans will find it's simply a minor enhancement over the previous edition. In its second iteration, the series has added needed polish and poise … it'll definitely be making a run for the pennant next season.