The Bigs 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Arcade, Sports
As much as I like the sport of baseball I haven’t really enjoyed a baseball video game since Triple Play ’99, a time way before the original The Bigs shipped last summer. I’m guilty of buying too many sports games that I play religiously for the first couple of weeks only to see them collect dust for 10 months before I trade them in advance of the next instalment. This leads me to my next point, The Bigs 2 does something which other “be a pro” or “create a legend” games seem to miss. Like its predecessor, it gives me a compelling reason to keep playing the game and furthering my characters stats while still keeping it fun, and in the end this makes me want to play more often, allowing it to be dust free for a longer time period than most other sports games in my collection.
At its core The Bigs 2 is an arcade take on Major League Baseball with lots of over the top pitches, plays and hits. While The Bigs 2 offers several game modes, including a new season mode, the meat of the game lays in its Become a Legend mode. Similar to last year, you are asked to create a player whom you steer from the minors to the majors in the hopes of being inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. This year the game offers way more in terms of customization for your character including faces, features, layers of facial hair, tattoos, stances, swings, accessories and more. Sadly, the game does not allow you to use the Xbox LIVE Camera to scan your own face onto a player like you can in such games as Rainbow Six Vegas or Tiger Woods. I wish more games would utilize the camera to do this and I think 2K Sports missed something by not adding this feature. Could you imagine taking your virtual likeness from the minors all the way to the big leagues and eventually the MLB Hall of Fame? That would be cool indeed.
In terms of the progression for the Become a Legend mode, the minor leagues act as a sort of introduction, a tutorial so to speak, to the game. Once you complete this section you have a choice of MLB teams to play for where you will then play through a “season” of different challenges, scenarios, and games that then unlock newer cities with new challenges. You will also develop your created player’s characteristics. While this may sound somewhat RPG’ish in nature, the game does not give you the choice of where to apply accumulated upgrades. Rather, the game’s challenges are specific to certain traits you can upgrade (speed or power for example), so it steers you along a specific path to a certain extent.
Gameplay wise, The Bigs 2 adds several new elements compared to the original. Most notable for me were the legendary plays. These require a button pressing mini-game, similar to Quick Time Events in other games. You would think that something like this in a baseball game wouldn’t be generally too hard; however, they come at you quite quickly with very little notice and they are paced in such a way that you will not be acing these ‘tests’ every time. This sort of thing could be poorly implemented given that this is a baseball game, but I think 2K nailed it down pretty well. Bottomline, these plays aren’t automatic and you won’t be successful every time, so when you are it provides an enjoyable sense of accomplishment. Perfect pitches have also been augmented with an aftertouch button press that, if timed correctly, gives the pitch an extra effect. Beyond a quick close up of the pitcher’s hand though, I didn’t really see much difference to be honest, but I still did it though!
My biggest criticism lies in the fact that The Bigs 2 seems to have a far more aggressive catch-up AI than the original. All too often the AI would erode leads in the last inning, win, and force you to replay the entire challenge. I don’t mind this to a certain extent but it happened a little too often for my liking. That being said, it is not a deal breaker here, but it sure is noticeable over last year and I wish it didn’t do this. Oh well, I guess I need bigger leads.
To counteract this criticism, one of my favourite features of The Bigs is back in this year’s sequel: Home Run Pinball. This year it is expanded to include four different city scenarios. Unfortunately they all seem a bit too similar to one another, but they are still fun. For those that haven’t played the original, Home Run Pinball is a modified long-ball hitting contest set in a known city environment (New York or Las Vegas, for example). You launch balls into the city as you try to hit targets which trigger multipliers that increase your score. Whiff on three pitches and your attempt is over, but you gain extra “lives” by achieving certain point levels. This is totally that mode where you’ll find yourself saying, “Just one more game” and before you know it its past your bed time.
Visually the game looks very sharp with great player models, stadiums, crowds and plenty of effects when you bust that home run through the home team’s scoreboard in left center. Night games seem a bit dark for some reason though, but overall the eye candy is nice. Sound-wise, the game delivers what you’d expect with good announcing, field sounds, crowd noise and over the top effects for big plays and events. All in all the visuals and sound compliment the total package
The Bigs 2 offers an enjoyable and arcadish take on baseball. It may not offer enough depth for purists, but for players like me, that like a little bit of arcade fun mixed in, it delivers in spades. A worthy sequel this game is indeed.