MLB Slugfest 2004 is Midway's second entry in the arcade-style baseball field and a predictably improved follow-up to last year's installment. The game retains all the gameplay aspects that made the original a success and adds a handful of new things in an attempt at improvement. The additions are noticeable, but it may still be tough for owners of last year's game to justify a purchase, considering that it hasn't even been a year since the release of MLB Slugfest 2003.
Slugfest plays a great game of baseball on all three platforms...
Just like the original, MLB Slugfest 2004 is a fast-and-loose take on the sport of baseball that tries to incorporate the same style of pick-up-and-play game mechanics that have made Midway's other arcade-style sports games, like NFL Blitz and NBA Showtime, such a blast to play. Some liberties with the rules are taken, too. Slugfest defaults to a shorter, seven-inning game, and some violence is added for flavor. All these "extras" can be disabled, and there's still a pretty good baseball game underneath, but the game is at its best with all the crazy stuff in full effect.
In the case of Slugfest, the flavor comes from the concept of hard tags and slides, which are essentially attack moves. A hard slide can knock the ball out of a baseman's hands, and base runners can throw dirty punches while standing on bases. Fielders can counter these with the hard tag, which more often than not is a fist to the face of the runner. Like all the other Midway sports games, Slugfest has a turbo meter, and players will be "on fire"--which gives them enhanced stats and unlimited turbo--after meeting certain criteria. New to this year's game is the ability for pitchers to catch on fire by doing well on the mound. There is also a special pitch meter this time around that fills slowly as you throw strikes. When it's full, you can unleash a crazy pitch reminiscent of the super pitches found in Culture Brain's classic SNES baseball game Super Baseball Simulator 1.000.
The other change to pitching this year is each pitch now has a strength meter associated with it. Each time you throw that pitch, the meter drains a bit. When a pitch's strength meter is empty, attempting to throw that pitch will usually leave the ball hanging over the plate, begging to be knocked out of the park. Also, small lights have been added to either side of the turbo meter, which makes discerning if you're gaining or losing turbo after a play a little easier. Most of the game's other improvements come in the form of new modes, such as a home run derby that supports up to eight human players. You can also create a team and take it through the traditional baseball season, and the game contains a number of fantasy players and stadiums. The Major League rosters have been updated as well.