|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blue Castle Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The Bigs franchise is 2K Sports' arcade twist on Major League Baseball. Last year's offering showed promise but was held back by features and options that were poorly implemented. This year, Blue Castle Games and 2K Sports went back to the drawing board in order to bring gamers a more comprehensive and polished experience for The Bigs 2 (TB2). While gameplay is still a lot of fun and the package is far tighter than what was brought to the plate last year, The Bigs 2 still seems to suffer from a number of inadequacies. Nevertheless, it's a good game.
Interested gamers will be happy to know that TB2 packs a whole lot of fun. If you enjoy over-the-top arcade features and dig baseball, then you're going to get your money's worth out of TB2. That's because gameplay in TB2 is worth the price of admission despite its shortcomings. The most important facet of any baseball game is the duel between the batter and pitcher. The team at Blue Castle Games has done a good job of enhancing this part of the game while still keeping it light through arcade trappings.
This year, pitchers will have to contend with glowing red zones in the batter's strike zone called the Wheelhouse. The Wheelhouse represents the batter's favored area to get pitches. If a pitcher throws a meatball into that zone, chances are overwhelming the ball will get smashed for extra bases. That being said, going after batters by bringing truly nasty stuff they can't hit despite being placed in their Wheelhouse will actually shrink the zone permanently. As such, it's important to test yourself and the batters early on (especially against big thumpers) in order to get their Wheelhouse zone to a more manageable size. Once you've gotten the Wheelhouse down a bit, all you'll have to do is throw toward the white zone with well-timed pitches. If done in this way, you'll be able to cruise through the opposition's lineup with ne'er a hiccup (that is, of course, till you crank up the difficulty setting).
In the interest of keeping things balanced, pitchers also have their analog to the Wheelhouse. As games wear on, pitchers actually run the risk of losing key pitches if they give up too many bases/runs with the pitch. As a batter, if you are able to key in on your timing, you can force the pitcher to start throwing secondary and tertiary pitches to you, or even force the skipper to make frequent pitching changes.
Further enhancing the pitcher/batter duel is that of Turbo usage. Both offensive and defensive players will have access to their team's reservoir of Turbo points, accrued by making nice plays from both the diamond and the batter's box. Players can tap into this turbo meter in order to put extra zip on their pitches, guarantee home runs, and even fabricate grand slams. While Big Heat (guaranteed strikeout) and Big Blast (guaranteed homer) are holdovers from last year, the Big Slam is new and it's a way for the offense to get an edge. If you fill your Turbo meter all the way, you will gain access to the Big Slam mechanic. This will allow you to load and clear the bases with four successive rapid-fire pitches. Though initially difficult to pull off, this eventually becomes a key determinant to winning and losing games. Being able to put four runs up on the board, seemingly out of nowhere, gives the offense a huge advantage. While I found the Big Slam to be a lot of fun to pull off, it felt too harsh on the defensive side. Besides, there is no parallel mechanic to combat it for pitchers. This definitely skews the game toward the offense, significantly unbalancing it.
In addition to Turbo, which can be used by players outside of pitching and hitting, you can also make exceptional grabs in the outfield to rob batters. Great Catches are pulled off simply by getting to the ideal spot on the field and activating the grab via the A (Xbox 360) or X (PS3) button. This will allow you to rob home runs and hold on to infield liners. Occasionally, players can make a Legendary Catch. These grabs are insane web gems that can only be pulled off by successfully executing a quick-time event. At first this can be quite difficult to pull off, as rocket-shot comebackers lead to a jarring QTE cutscene that can initially be difficult to cope with. After a few games, however, you'll be nabbing foul balls previously destined for the stands and rising up to grab a blistering liner like a champ.
As you can see, The Bigs 2 is loaded with arcade features that distinguish it from sim-baseball offerings. Of course, diehard baseball fans will still greatly prefer the intricacies other titles offer, but anyone and everyone will still enjoy the simple fun the arcade gameplay of TB2 brings to the table. Nonetheless, I did find the pitching, batting, and fielding to be a bit too straightforward. For example, making contact while batting is nothing more complex than timing your swing correctly. As a batter, pitch location is never an issue - you'll simply have to judge speed and, therefore, timing. As a pitcher, other than avoiding the batter's Wheelhouse, all you'll have to do is concentrate on the power meter - selecting your best-rated pitches and keeping them in the green usually leads to Ks. While fielding, all you have to do is get close to balls and the computer does all the work. This is made slightly more challenging by the infrequent Legendary Catch QTEs. All in all, if you're looking for a sim-like baseball experience, know that TB2 will not satisfy you.