It's difficult to imagine an over-the-top version of a game paced as slowly and deliberately as baseball. While a slew of baseball games are released every year, to date there have been only a handful--Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 and Super Baseball 2020, to name a couple--that have attempted to bring some extra-added action and mayhem to this tactical sport. Coming from some of the same people responsible for games such as NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and NHL Hitz, Midway's MLB Slugfest 2003 brings some good, clean fun back to a genre teeming with stodgy simulations.
So much for good sportsmanship. You'll win by any means necessary in Slugfest.
MLB Slugfest 2003 doesn't take too many liberties with the rules of real baseball. The most obvious change is that the game defaults to seven innings, though you can play a full nine if you so desire. You can also disable the pitcher's ability to throw balls (as opposed to strikes), forcing a more offense-oriented mode of play. Beyond that, it's still three strikes and you're out, as well as force-outs, double plays, and so on. The one major addition that makes Slugfest different from your everyday baseball game is the ability to "clear out" opposing players. These clear-out moves are essentially attacks, and they add a whole new level of strategy to base running. For example, say you've hit a line shot up the middle and to the wall in center field. You're running around the bases at full steam and going for a triple, but the outfielder uses a bit of his turbo meter and sends a throw screaming in to the third baseman. Normally, you'd be out or you'd have to turn around and get caught up in a pickle. But here, you can keep running full steam at that third baseman, hitting turbo and the clear-out button at just the right moment to deck the maroon, flooring him. Hit him hard enough, and he might even drop the ball, potentially opening up an opportunity to head for home. On defense, the clear-out button executes what we'll call "aggressive tags." Timed properly, these moves can stop the base runner from knocking you over and get you the out you deserve. All this may be unsportsmanlike, but it's pretty entertaining.
The game's turbo meter also requires a bit of strategy. You can use it to beef up just about any move in the game. Players run faster, pitches become more exaggerated and twist every which way in flight, clear-outs are more likely to cause dropped balls, and swings have a bit more power. But unlike in other Midway games, the meter doesn't automatically replenish when you stop using it--instead, you'll have to earn more turbo. You'll earn back turbo by striking out batters, performing diving catches, and hitting home runs. Also, your entire meter refills every half inning. Running out of turbo essentially makes your outfielders useless, as the huge outfield very much favors the offense. Players can also "catch on fire," giving them unlimited turbo until they are struck or tagged out.
Each player is rated in the categories of batting, power, and speed. Pitchers can choose to throw bean balls at any time, and targeting different parts of the batter has the ability to lower one of these three stats. So there's some strategy to be found here as well, like knocking out the legs of the opposing outfielders to give your fly balls a better chance of dropping. This plan occasionally backfires, though, as it's possible to set a player on fire by beaning him.