The BIGS 2 Review for Xbox 360

The BIGS 2 Review for Xbox 360

Taking Another Whack!

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.

The BIGS 2 screenshot

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.

The BIGS 2 screenshot

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.

The BIGS 2 screenshot

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.

Game modes in TB2 are varied. Most players will likely want to try their hand at the Become a Legend mode. Similar to last year’s Rookie Challenge, this serves as the game’s career mode for single-player action. Starting out in the Mexican league after a near career-ending injury, players will have to complete challenges and improve their skills via mini-games in order to rise up the baseball food chain, eventually becoming a legendary player. Become a Legend provides hours of complex fun for individuals, though it does get quite tedious and repetitive after awhile (what baseball career mode doesn’t?).

The BIGS 2 screenshot

In addition to Become a Legend, players can also join up with friends (or play against the A.I.) in several other game options, which are little more than slight variations on the standard baseball format. This is one of the areas where the game really shines. The arcade nature of the title makes sharing the experience with friends truly compelling. There are also a host of mini-games that help you hone your skills. My two favorites were the power and contact challenges, as they not only helped my skill set, but they were both challenging and addictive. The glove and speed mini-games, on the other hand, are more of a chore than enjoyable. The wildly successful Home Run Pinball is back this year, but it has been expanded to include a couple more venues for your enjoyment. If you haven’t played the original, Home Run Pinball simply has you select a hitter and try to take out lighted targets (and groups of targets) in order to accrue points and set high scores. As was the case last year, this game mode is a real highlight for the title.

Last and probably least is that of online play. It’s nice that you can take the experience online to play in relatively lag-free ranked and player matches, but the experience is far more absorbing with a friend on the couch. Due to the game’s arcade elements, human players aren’t any better than the A.I. on a high difficulty setting – essentially, playing online is the same as challenging the computer. This game is best when played with a friend at home, because jawing is where it’s at! Still, if you demand a quality online experience, The Bigs 2 offers one that’s fairly barebones yet should still satisfy you.

On the presentation front, the graphics are quite solid in terms of facial and stadium detail, where the game slips up in the visual department concerns player animations. For starters, there are a very limited number of swing, pitch, and celebration animations. This also holds true for ball flight paths. Perhaps most disconcerting was that of fielding animations – players regularly contort and glitch as they throw the ball. Aurally, the commentary is quite funny and professional yet extremely repetitive. What really dogs this title’s sounds, however, are the highly obtrusive 2K Beats – the music is a collection of grating, heavy pop-rock – I’ve heard alley cats get it on with more harmony!

The Bigs 2 is a solid baseball arcade title that should scratch the summer itch. Though the game does feel a bit unpolished and unbalanced, there’s still a lot to enjoy. This franchise has a ton of potential, and we’ll be interested to see how it evolves in the coming years.

The game is visually competent but nothing outstanding is on display. 3.8 Control
The game is accessible to anyone due to its toned down mechanics and arcade features. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Despite its repetitive nature, the commentary is probably right where it needs to be. The terrible heavy pop-rock through 2K Beats is a joke. 3.8 Play Value
There’s a lot of fun to be had here despite its still occasionally unpolished and unbalanced nature. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Become a Legend Mode: Play the new and improved story mode, picking up at the end of the “Rookie Challenge” mode from the original game The BIGS. Create a player and progress your career from a Mexican league to the Majors and, eventually, the Hall of Fame. Along the way, compete in boss battles against MLB legends.
  • Season Mode: As requested by fans, enjoy a new Season Mode featuring full MLB schedules, stat tracking and roster management.
  • Improved gameplay: Experience bigger and better arcade baseball action, featuring Legendary Moves, Batter’s Wheelhouse, and a more powerful Big Slam.
  • Home run pinball: Enjoy exciting single player or co-op action in Times Square or three new environments.
  • Mini-games: Test your hitting, fielding, running and throwing skills against MLB stars in several all-new mini-games.

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