SlugFest 2006 prides itself as an arcadey baseball game, but we have to ask: where's the lack of realism? This game features big-skulled players who are obscenely bulky that can effortlessly drill 500-foot homeruns over the cheap seats. The MLB's steroids fiasco is all over but the asterisks, but SlugFest is a knowing nod to the joys of baseball's HGH (Human Growth Hormone) era.
The latest SlugFest is fast-paced bruising baseball just like its predecessors - to a fault. It's now in budget title territory, so while you'll get create-a-player (which is adequate), and updated rosters, the series has dropped both the franchise and online modes. The former isn't a big loss, but not being able to play online with a game that's best versus a human is a letdown. Especially since the upgrades aren't thrilling. But at least the gameplay has the capacity to unglue you from your seat.
As for excitement, the game's greatest pleasure comes from hurling trick pitches that bring fighting game mechanics to throwing a four-seam fastball. If you input a series of buttons presses while your pitcher's in his wind-up, you'll have access to some wickedly mesmerizing throws that humble Bugs Bunny's arsenal. The loop-d-loop change-up does a full roller coaster loop, and will have your opponent so far in front, they'll try to take a second swing. Meanwhile, the Freight Train fastball - which has smoke rings coming off of it - zips by so fast it'll make Manny Ramirez look as inept at the plate as he is in the field.
While this might be a budget title, we have one significant beef that will fluster the die-hards. It's ridiculous that Ichiro Suzuki, arguably the greatest lead-off man ever, bats sixth in SlugFest (he's batted outside of the lead-off spot .02% of the time since Opening Day 2003). By the same token, Carlos Beltran, the New York Mets five-tool center fielder, is leading off instead of hitting in the same spot (3rd) he's batted for the past two seasons. We don't mean to go all ESPN's Rob Neyer here, but these are lazy and obvious mistakes. Of course, you might say it's odd that we expect so much from a game that allows pitches to zig and zag, corkscrew and bounce... and still find the strike zone.
There are even occasional (very minor) glitches that'll have you scratching your batting helmet. But it is good for a laugh if you've got 20 minutes on your hands. If you're a number-crunching statistician, you'll be annoyed by the 27 hits per side, per game. You'll also be irritated by the inflated stats. But if you're up for a quick, mad-as-hell, NFL-sprinkled version of America's pastime, you'll have a ball with the flaming players, the Ty Cobb-like take-out slides, the fist-fights, the insane diving catches, the impossible pitches, and strategically using the turbo button to snatch victory from the bitter jaws of defeat. If only it were online!