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The Bigs 2

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Blue Castle Games


PS3/X360 Review - 'The Bigs 2'

by Jesse Littlefield on Aug. 2, 2009 @ 6:40 a.m. PDT

Known for its over-the-top style of gameplay, The Bigs 2 focuses on the “big” fast-paced moments in Major League Baseball with new opportunities to go up against MLB legends, more mini-games like Home Run Pinball, and a variety of other thrilling new features.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Release Date: July 7, 2009

Too often, people only read the first couple of sentences of a game review, scroll down to the bottom to find the score and move on with their lives. If you're one of those people, then this is for you: The Bigs 2 is the best baseball game on the Xbox 360. Of course, that isn't saying a whole lot, as the only other offering for the 360 right now, the MLB 2K series, has been struggling to release a solid product for the last few years. That's not to say that The Bigs 2 isn't a good game, as it's a thoroughly entertaining romp through the world of arcade baseball, but the game still can't hold a candle to the PlayStation exclusive, MLB: The Show.

The original title provided a solid foundation, so the main focus of this iteration seems to be tweaks and new features. The biggest addition is a full Season mode, which was sorely missing from the prior edition. It's fully functional and does just about everything you would expect. The problem is that the nature of the game doesn't make for a particularly engaging season mode, as you don't exactly sit down for hours to manage a team that's playing realistic baseball. This is a game about taking baseball to its extremes. Home runs will shake the park, collisions will be violent, spectacular diving catches are the norm instead of the exception, players will be knocked around by the force of the baseball, and pitches will catch on fire. Any absurd thing that you can think of with baseball is present here, and it fits together wonderfully to essentially create the sort of magic that was felt when we sat down with NFL Blitz in the late '90s.

Also new to this year's game is the inclusion of several mini-games. These range from training games, where you need to outperform another player in some practice routine, to those that resemble Quick Time Events from games such as God of War or Shenmue. To complete certain spectacular plays, you'll often be given a button-pressing mini-game where you must do things like hold a button for a certain period of time, press it at the right moment, or input a series of buttons extremely quickly. Failure to do so results in a botched play, and the runner will end up on base and then some (in some very bizarre cases, a nearby player will recover and make the catch, which counts since the ball never actually hits the ground). These mini-games generally do a good job of making spectacular plays seem challenging by providing more player involvement without breaking up the gameplay.

As you play each game, you'll earn points for hits, amazing catches or strikeouts, and you gain access to a special ability once you reach 100,000 points. If you're pitching, this is the "Big Heat," which means that everything you throw is in turbo mode. Strikes in this mode earn you many more points to fill up the meter again, which is likely to be used for the offensive versions of this weapon, the "Big Blast" and "Big Slam." The Big Blast essentially gives you the entire at bat to connect your bat with the ball, and when you do, you're going to hit a gigantic home run. As an example, you may hit the giant glove at Pac Bell Park, which, if I remember correctly, no player has ever done in real life.

The Big Slam costs more points but gives you four swings. The first three at bats get runners on base, and the final swing is the home run swing. This allows the batter to do the physically impossible: generate a grand slam home run when no one was previously on base. It's extremely overpowered, and there is absolutely no defense against it. (Players can try to defend against the less-powerful Big Blast with turbo pitches or engaging in Duel mode by activating "Big Heat.") These big plays are really the heart and soul of the game. Many games will be determined by good use of those three superpowers, which can turn a game on its head in a hurry.

The main offering in The Bigs 2 is the Become a Legend mode. The story here is that you're a superstar player who had an injury that almost ended your career, and now you're trying to come back from it. You start off with no ability whatsoever as a player on some minor league team, but you quickly come back to the majors and that's where the real game begins. There's a ton of content here, and you'll find yourself playing many full games, lots of mini-games and several challenges. Along the way, you'll occasionally face off against an MLB legend; for some reason, beating this legend gives you votes toward your end goal of getting into the Hall of Fame.

The mode's greatest strength and biggest problem is that almost every game comes along with some extra baggage that must be dealt with to fulfill the conditions for victory. Winning is almost never enough in The Bigs 2. The baggage will usually include some task that you must complete with your created player. Sometimes it's simple and easy to do, like getting two hits. Other times, luck comes into play, and you're asked to do things such as throwing a runner out. You have no control over where the other team is going to hit the ball, or even if they will hit the ball. Tasks like that quickly became annoying because my created player was a first baseman so I had to play him out of position to complete these tasks.

My personal favorite was a game where I was asked to hit a Big Blast home run with my created player. By the time I had access to the special ability, it was the top of the ninth inning, and I was winning. Since I was pitching, I had to intentionally blow my lead so that my player would be able to come up in the bottom of the inning and hit a walk-off home run using the Big Blast. While I like the idea of adding some variety to the gameplay, these abilities often got in the way of winning the game and fell into the area of blind luck. It can frustrate most players to the point where they may completely abandon the mode instead of finishing it.

That doesn't mean the end of the world for the game, though, as The Bigs 2 excels at straight-up baseball. Whether it's played against the AI or another player, the core gameplay is very fun to play on its own. As an arcade baseball game, there's not a ton of depth to it, and pitching is significantly deeper than the timing-based batting. There also seems to be very little physics involved, as there are about 30 places on the field that the ball can land, but I suppose that's the "price" of arcade gameplay.

If normal gameplay doesn't suit you, then you may be happy that Home Run Pinball has returned. There are more crowded streets to take to, and you must destroy things for points, but this mode is more of a distraction than a main attraction. You can play by yourself to try and get the best score or you can play against or with someone, but destroying things with a baseball in an extremely canned manner isn't fun for more than a round or two.

When all of your local options have run dry, online play is fully functional and mostly lag-free. Finding a game and setting up is quick and easy, although I noticed that the game gives me two chances to choose the number of innings to be played. Unfortunately, that's about it for the online. It's a very bare-bones setup, but at least it's functional and fun to play.

Visually, The Bigs 2 doesn't look that much different from the original title, but it still manages to look more appealing than MLB 2K9. All the players have a very steroid-y look to them, but it fits the game quite nicely. Faces generally look right and are even capable of some emotional display, the frame rate holds solid, and the stadiums look good. The only thing which might irk some people is the camera angle, which is pulled in closer than you get in most baseball games to give the players that larger-than-life look.

Unfortunately, things couldn't quite come together on the audio front. The soundtrack is made up of rock songs from several years ago that weren't exactly the cream of the crop back then. It fits the title reasonably well, but that doesn't mean it's anything that people should have to listen to. The announcer isn't nearly as bad, but he repeats himself far too often to actually be entertaining. His one-liners are great the first few times you hear them, but they're limited in quantity and run their course in a hurry.

The Bigs 2 is a very solid arcade baseball game. It set out to improve upon the original title with more content, and it mostly succeeds. The arcade nature of the game makes it ideal for playing with friends rather than a serious investment of solo time. With a season mode in place and Become a Legend mode being a fun, if often frustrating, experience, The Bigs has quickly shaped itself into the best baseball that 2K Sports has to offer. It's not on par with MLB: The Show, but it's a great arcade alternative to America's pastime.

Score: 7.9/10

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