MLB Slugfest: Loaded
System: Playstation 2
Publisher & Developer: Midway
Released: June 2004
Capabilities: Memory Card, Dual Shock Analog 2 Control, Network Adaptor for up to 2 players online
Review Written: August 2, 2004
With hardcore-baseball simulations out there like the MVP, 989 MLB, ESPN MLB, and All-Star baseball franchises getting more insanely in-depth each year and coming incredibly close to the real life replica of America’s past time, it is always nice to have Midway to rely on for an ultra fast arcade-paced, pick up and play version of any sports game. This year is no exception with the third iteration in the MLB Slugfest series, subtitled Loaded.
The tried and true Slugfest gameplay is still here in all its glory. It has all the staples of any Midway sports product, such as the ability for players to catch “on fire,” as well as the option to apply turbo to baserunning, pitches, and so forth. There’s a little bit of a fighting system too where fielders can perform “hard tags” with the circle button to knock the lights out of the would-be baserunner. Special and trick pitches are added to the mayhem this year in Slugfest gameplay. The pitcher can perform one trick pitch each inning, along with another out of this world special pitch that can be executed once a special meter is topped off.
Midway also brought back the simulation mode they introduced in last year’s game. As you probably expected, it disables all the aforementioned trick pitches, “on fire” and “turbo” meters of Slugfest gameplay, and throws in a slightly more refined pitching system. In Slugfest mode, all there was to pitching was directing where the ball would go and weather or not it would be a ball or strike, but in sim mode there is also a timing meter (which is quite similar to the one in MVP Baseball by the way) where a correctly timed button press will effect the accuracy of the pitch. Both pitching schemes worked great for me, obviously the simulation system took a little bit of getting use to, but after a couple of innings, I was right on par with the MLB’s best.
Both modes of play work out fine, with the craziness of Slugfest mode allowing for a little bit of a more fun atmosphere to play in. However, almost as with any Midway sports title, the single player gameplay grows stale after so long with things getting repetitive real fast as you can manage to manipulate the computer AI to your advantage. The enhanced pitching system in sim mode kind of resolves the issue, but it will only hold things together for so long. Thankfully, Loaded is a blast to play in multiplayer, especially with the new online play being introduced this year, complete with headset support for on the fly trash talk. The online lobbies have a simple design to them, and I was able to hop right into a game in minutes and only encountered occasional hiccups of lag, but nothing too major to affect the gameplay in any form.
There are four ways to play Loaded this year. First off is Quick Play, which is your standard offline versus mode against the computer or a friend. Then there is the classic Home Run Derby which is a great way to get a quick round of baseball thrills in when there isn’t the time to play an entire game. Online play is third, with the only downside to it being that it only supports broadband. Finally, there is Franchise mode, which is freakishly in depth this year due to the incorporation of the award-winning PC league manager sim, Baseball Mogul. I’m all for a Franchise mode that is right up there on the same level with the bad boys of Acclaim, 989, Sega and EA, but all the in-depth off-season trades, releases, free agent signings, and all of the like seem completely out of place for a game like Loaded. Too bad Midway took out the standalone Season mode from the last title for all us anti-micromanagement freaks, but as the old cliché goes, the more the merrier.
I’m sure there will be a lot of people that will get a kick with the heavy boost the Franchise mode got this year, and as I said before even though it probably won’t appeal that much to the average arcade sports fan, it will more than likely provide hours upon end of entertainment for the hardcore stat fans of baseball. Midway also made sure to include a decent amount of movie clips, stadiums, and teams that need to be unlocked by completing specific tasks such as throwing a no-hitter, and striking out so many batters.
Graphically, Loaded’s player models are just a couple notches under what the competition has to offer due to the arcade nature of the game. This is not a bad thing however, as I do enjoy the zany fighting animations, and especially the ultra-slick flaming bats when players are on fire. There isn’t a whole lot of a graphical presentation due to everything having that quick-paced feel that Midway is known for, so don’t come expecting any killer ESPN-esque overlays, cut-scenes or replays as found in Sega’s sports titles. However, the lack of graphical flair is made up by the excellent commentating team of Tim Kitzrow & Jimmy Shorts. They add a lot of humor to the game with their pre-game jokes, and don’t do all that bad of a job calling the game down the line either. A fitting selection of licensed rock and alternative songs rounds off a nice audio package for the game.
Replay Value: 7.5
Loaded is a perfect alternative for the baseball fans that are tired
of the in-depth gameplay that 989, Acclaim, Sega, and EA has to offer. The
intense arcade nature of Slugfest mode is amazingly fun with a friend, as is the
Sim mode that is available too. The addition of online play and the enhanced
Franchise mode will have the fans of the last game nabbing this up in an
instant. I personally, recommend picking up this game if you want a baseball
game you can play countless rounds of in multiplayer, which is what Midway’s
sports title are always perfect for. The single player experience is a bit
difficult for me to recommend, Slugfest mode is fun for only so long by
yourself, and the Sim mode, while still a good offering, doesn’t stack up to the
other powerhouses out already. At the very least, MLB Slugfest: Loaded is
worthy of a rent to all baseball fans alike.
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