|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blue Castle Sports||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 7, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (multiple online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 13, 2009 - Recently, 2K Sports has struggled to put together a truly compelling baseball sim that can match the quality coming from the Sony camp. While MLB 2KX will try to right the ship next year, baseball fans can look forward to their refined baseball arcade title, The BIGS 2; set for release immediately preceding the All-Star break in July!
Fans of the franchise were pleasantly surprised by The Bigs' clever mix or arcade mechanics and sim-like authenticity. While The Bigs was a solid leadoff title, 2K Sports is looking to bat clean up with the sequel. It appears that the developers, Blue Castle Games, are on the right track. With substantial visual upgrades in tow, The BIGS 2 will also bring with it a series of gameplay upgrades that are sure to make the title far more convincing.
For starters, the game will feature greatly enhanced batter-pitcher duels via The Batter's Wheelhouse. Every batter starts out a game with a sweet spot inside the strike zone - the better the batter, the greater the zone. If a pitch enters this honey-hole, the batter is likely to stroke the ball for extra bases or even touch all the pads. Of course, missing an opportunity to make contact with a pitch that's within the batter's wheelhouse will cause the zone to irreversibly shrink, giving the advantage to the pitcher. Hauling off and sliding a strike in the wheelhouse will not only minimize this zone for future duels, it will also increase the player's Turbo Points tally, which, as with last time, can be redeemed for auto-homers and strikeouts. As such, pitchers will be rewarded for being aggressive. However, daring to test a keyed-in batter will require you to pitch perfectly. If you do achieve timing perfection, pitchers will be rewarded with increased speed and uncanny movement, making the batter's life decidedly difficult. While The Wheelhouse may not sit well with baseball purists, it should be a fun mechanic that will enhance the arcade-feel of the title.
The next big improvement this year has to do with Legendary Players. Rather than player ratings being limited to a five star scale, some ballers will actually be considered legendary. This year's cover athlete, Prince Fielder, is considered a legendary batter. Subsequently, his presence strengthens his entire team's offensive capabilities. Likewise, some players are outstanding defensive juggernauts; they will be able to make outstanding grabs and throws both in the outfield and infield. In order to do this, a bunch of context-sensitive mini-games will be used throughout the game. Whether you're trying to time your jump to rob a homerun, fighting off fans for a foul ball, or making a diving grab, fate will be decided via varied mini-games. On the pitching front, a legendary pitcher will have player-specific pitches that are truly nasty, i.e. a Nolan Ryan-like 100+ mph fastball, or a deadly curve.
As important as Turbo Points (TPs) were to the strategy of the last outing, they're even more so this time around due to the Big Slam enhancement. In the last installment, players would hold on to their TPs long enough to gain access to automatic Ks and homers; utilizing these bonuses at key moments could often turn the tide or seal another team's fate. This year, players will be rewarded for holding onto them even longer, as Big Slam mode will give you a chance to load the bases and swat the runners home. All you have to do is activate the power and then make contact with each consecutive batter. Should one of your batters whiff, they'll have to take the long walk back to the dugout. Nevertheless, if the fourth batter makes contact, a homerun will result. That means Big Slams will likely generate at least a couple of runs for your team. Of course, loading the bases and succumbing to the pressure with the fourth batter is a real possibility; miss with your cleanup batter and you'll have to work to get the runners home.
A couple new game modes have been added to the mix this year. For the first time, players will now be able to play a 162 game season via Season mode. This option doesn't let you do a lot of complex franchise management, but complete stat tracking, roster management - putting together a team by trading players - and getting to the playoffs should be compelling enough to a warrant at least a few plays through.
The last game's Rookie Challenge has been replaced with Become a Legend mode. Rather than starting as a kid fresh out of AAA ball, the story in Become a Legend picks up where Rookie Challenge left off, taking on the role of a once great prospect that has suffered a devastating injury. On the road back to recovery, you'll have to spend time in Mexico, get back to form, get back to a big league team stateside, make a major impact, and eventually build your player back up to legendary status. Along the way you'll have to complete defensive and offensive challenges such as bringing your team back from a big deficit in order to accrue points and boost your stats. Become a Legend mode promises to be far more in-depth than the Rookie Challenge, providing players with a truly convincing single-player career mode, even challenging you with boss battles against baseball greats such as Babe Ruth.
Finally, Homerun Pinball makes a return to the game. One of the best modes from last time just got a lot better with three new venues. In addition to Times Square, players will also be able to knock out the lights at a Retro Times Square, Shibuya Ward in Tokyo, and Las Vegas.
In terms of presentation, The BIGS 2 looks very sharp. The arcade charm of smoke trails and power streaks still fill the screen, but the stadiums, players, and crowds are even more authentic. The team at Blue Castle Games has been working hard to provide an extremely slick visual presentation for next-gen consoles. Of course, this game is slated for release on all current systems including the PS2, PSP, Wii, and DS. Check back around July 7th when all of the games drop for our full review of this latest baseball outing!
CCC Editor / News Director