Review: The Bigs 2 (Xbox 360, PS3)July 15th, 2009 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
America’s pastime has always been one of the most popular sports to play and one that everyone can seemingly enjoy and excel at without requiring too much of a learning curve. 2K Games’ The Bigs franchise exceeds all expectations by offering over-the-top dynamics with baseball, allowing players to hit balls farther than possible, throw fireball pitches and perform impossible catches in the outfield. While an addition of a Legend and Season mode make The Bigs 2 a notably different game that 2007’s title, slight miscalculations with the game’s AI will leave some infuriated being belief, which is quite a shame considering how fun the game could truly have been.
The Bigs 2 focuses its sights on delivering a high-octane, arcade style of baseball. Although the game goes through the motions in many respects, most of the core gameplay will feature players who can perform extraordinary abilities similar to if everyone in the League took performance-enhancing drugs. The Bigs 2 lets players play on both sides of the field and both styles are dramatically different from one another. While pitching requires strategic placement and accuracy, batting feels more of blind man’s luck with batters swinging wildly at pitches hoping to draw contact. That isn’t to say it is impossible to hit the ball (on the lower difficulty levels), just that it requires more of an edge to perfectly nail it.
Pitching requires you to move the left analog stick within the batter’s box, the area which shows the area of swing. It is here where you can position your pitch to be thrown high, low, middle or even outside the box itself. Choosing the right placement of a pitch could mean the difference in strikeouts and hits, so naturally there are ways in which you can outperform the batter and ensure yourself a strikeout. Once you have picked your location, players must than press a button corresponding with their desired pitch and hold it down till the gauge on the left rises to the top. The closer you get to the top without cutting it short or going over allows for a nasty, super fast pitch. Getting a pitch to stop exactly at the top will get you a perfect pitch with is 99% unhittable most of the time. If however you make a big enough mistake when trying to stop the gauge, a marker appears on screen letting the batter know where exactly the ball will arrive, making it easier to hit. What makes pitching so strategic are the ways in which you can trick up the batter and cause confusion.
Each batter has an area in the batter’s box known as the batter’s wheelhouse, which allows them to more often than not hit the ball if pitched in this area. Pitchers can try to pitch in these wheelhouses but there are pros and cons of doing so. If a pitcher successfully gets a strike, they earn turbo while if they fail and the batter hits the ball, the batter gets double turbo. It’s a unique feature that should create some tension amongst thrill seekers looking to make things interesting. Of course, batting is as simple as hitting one of two buttons (contact or power hit) that allows you to get on base, but most of it requires dumb luck in guessing what pitch is thrown and where it will end up in the batter’s box. If you so happen to get dozens of hits against a certain pitch, that pitch will be removed from the pitcher’s repertoire for the rest of the game, making it easier to correctly guess what pitch comes next.
Now while pitching and batting are both equally standard to maintain on opposite sides of the field, base running and out fielding are equally as frustrating. Playing on defense will be hard for some to manage considering the game always selects a different player to retrieve the ball rather than the one closest and the AI always seems to wander about like there is no care in the world while the base runners are bolting around the bases at high speeds. Base running is also as confusing since the players sometimes never run when they are supposed to (resulting in easy outs), run incredibly slow or always get thrown out by some amazing outfield throw. You tend to want to help your befuddled teammates occasionally but the crazy controls only makes things more irritating trying to figure things out.
But what makes The Bigs 2 so appealing are its arcade-like superpowers that lets players blast home run balls on any pitch, throw fireball pitches and run and throw at amazing speeds. Unlocking these abilities is as simple as throwing strikeouts, getting base hits or making amazing catches. There are different point totals depending on what is performed and once you rack up 100,000 points you are than able to perform a Big Blast, a hit that will produce a home run no matter what. Pitchers can also perform Big Heat if they receive the same amount of points, allowing them to throw 100 MPH balls or faster. If both teams happen to initiate Big Blast and Big Heat at the same time, a duel mode will commence which has the batter trying to hit insanely fast balls thrown at them. It is almost impossible to ever hit these pitches, so batters have to look out to make sure the opposing team can’t ruin their Big Blast fun. Big Slam has also been added that allows players to hit four consecutive pitches in an attempt to load the bases and hit a Grand Slam. The pitcher only gets one chance to throw a certain type of pitch, so this new form of super hitting adds some depth to both the batter and the pitcher.
But while using these super powers is fun, the computer always gets the upper hand in every game we played. For starters, the computer always seems naturally able to perform legendary catches, which nets them 20,000 points per catch. These are catches that require you to perform button presses and other mini games to catch a ball that would have been otherwise impossible. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, the computer seems to have a knack of performing amazing catches even in the most unlikely of places. Because the computer can so easily perform legendary catches and rack up 20,000 points apiece, netting 100,000 points or 120,000 in order to use a Big Slam is fairly easy. Needless to say, that three run lead you held for the whole game will probably disappear in the ninth inning when the computer decides to unleash their super power and finish you off with a Big Slam.
It’s unfortunate these moments have to happen at all because the Bigs 2 features a brilliant Create a Legend mode that lets you create your own player, adapt him to any team you choose and play through multiple seasons. Each city lets you raise your players stats by performing catching challenges, running drills and batting practice while winning games let’s you steal other team’s players to add to your own roster. There are also objectives scattered throughout some games that force you to throw at least ten strikeouts in a game or get three hits with your own player that adds some tension to the season, but the inconsistencies with the base running and fielding and the unnaturally gifted computer catches make some games just frustrating to finish.
Home Run Pinball has also returned but this time you can choose from multiple locations to wreak havoc. In this mode players try to rack up the highest score by hitting balls into neon lights, billboards and other buildings to cause destruction. The game continues until you run out of outs, which are gained by striking out. This is definitely the highlight of the game and one that will have the biggest replay value, and with the new locales, such as Las Vegas, that adds more flair and colors to the mode; players will always have fun demolishing everything in sight.
The Bigs 2 is a solid sequel to the first game and the new Legend mode really adds some longevity to a game focused around arcade style baseball. However despite all the new updates you can’t help but shake the lack of polish, most notably in the base running and fielding sections. A more rounded approach would have been welcome and perhaps a lesser emphasis on giving the computer dozens of legendary catches a game would let some players just enjoy the Bigs 2 and play baseball for fun, which is how it should be.