previews\ Feb 9, 2003 at 7:00 pm

MLB Slugfest 20-04 - XB - Preview

The runner on first takes off for second. The pitch nips the outside corner for a called strike, and the catcher bounces to his feet and fires a missile toward second. Speed kills and the runner slides in ahead of the tag. Popping up, he decides to add insult to injury and throws an elbow, staggering the shortstop covering the bag.

In real life, that may be the impetus for a full-on team brawl, but not here. After all this is Midway’s latest take on baseball, and that means it will be a little more ‘colorful.’

GameZone was invited to step into the batter’s box and take a few cuts in the preview build of the upcoming title.

Jim Edmonds, of the St. Louis Cardinals, graces the cover the Xbox release of MLB Slugfest 20-04, which for Redbird fans is enough of a reason to buy the game. But for those who don’t eat, sleep and breathe Cardinal baseball, this game is packed with enough features to make the boys of summer game players take notice.

The new features in this release will include:

* Create-A-Team, which allows players to fashion their own all-star team.
* Customizable instant replay
* A Home-run derby, replete with clown outfielders and biting (Ok, semi-sarcastic) commentary on the hitter’s prowess with the bat
* Authentic batting stances and pitching motion
* Fantasy stadiums and characters. Ever wonder what it would be like playing in an Atlantis-themed stadium? Standing ankle deep in water with a giant squid decorating the centerfield bleachers are just the beginning.
* And expanded rosters which hold 20 players, including six pitchers

The animations of this game are superb. The batting motions are incredible and if you have Barry Bonds step into the batter’s box for the home-run derby, you will swear that it is indeed the reigning dinger champ. Some people, especially those in the Bay Area, may be stunned to see ­ on one gaming occasion in the challenge ­ Bonds wearing an Anaheim uniform. But with the ability to create a game, you can take a host of the game’s stars and place them on the same team. That is not, however, always a precursor to success.

The game also features dynamic lighting elements to give a great bit of eye candy to games played at various times of day in different environments.

Control elements have been kept simple and the learning curve is small. The audio portion renders all the sounds of a baseball game while adding biting and timely commentary. This is a game that looks great and sounds great.

The host of game play options is also very nice.

MLB Slugfest 20-04 is certainly making pushing other Major League Baseball titles to keep pace with the fundamental look and sound of the game. Adding a few elbows, hard slides and other aggressive elements may have limited appeal for baseball purists. But there is no denying that this game provides solid sports entertainment.

To paraphrase a legendary baseball broadcaster: "It might be, it could be…. " The final verdict will have to wait until its release, but all indications point to a home run.

The game will be released for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Game Boy Advance and is scheduled for release in the spring.

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