Reviewed: July 15, 2009
Released: July 7, 2009
I was always a big fan of arcade style sports games. Games like Midway's NFL Blitz and NHL Hitz were always on my must buy list. But for awhile there seemed to be a bit of a backlash by the leagues (or more accurately, the leagues were getting pressure from anti-violence mamma's boy groups).
But now a happy medium seems to have been found. It's sort an “extreme” version of sports with very exaggerated player physique and skills. While violent sports have been relegated to non-licensed value bin fodder such as Blitz, more extreme skill games have come on the scene in the form of 'street' games such as NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street. They are fun to a point, but so is clotheslineing an opponent and curb stomping him. I guess that's why UFC is so popular.
So now we have The Bigs 2 baseball from 2K Sports. The first Bigs game came out in 2007 and received favorable reviews. It wasn't a great game, but certainly added some extreme scoring and excitement to a fairly boring sport. It took 2K Sports two years to bring out the next update so let's see just how big an improvement two years can make in The Bigs 2. This game is clearly for the fans. Everything has been bumped up a notch from amazing catches to new game modes.
The opening menu is big and bold making it easy to get you where you need to go. Play Ball mode kicks you right into the team selection screen. You have all 30 Major League Baseball teams, the American and National League all-star teams, plus the San Guerrero Pollos, Cozumel Casadorez, Shinjuku Red Lanterns and Nagano Mountaineers. Become a Legend mode brings a background story and some purpose to all the task oriented gamers. You start by creating your player by selecting all his attributes right down to choosing from 16 nicknames. Who knew there could be 33 different bat stances?
The story is, you already have the major league material. But due to a major league injury, you now have to earn your place again. So you got shipped down to the Mexican league to play with the San Guerrero Pollos. It's not the major leagues. But rest assured, you won't be there very long. You'll go to Japan and back to the bigs in no time.
Become a Legend mode is a nice twist on the usual training mode you find in sports simulation games. In The Bigs 2 you play games and work on your hitting and fielding skills. As your attributes build you quickly find yourself back in the majors to try and earn your place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. To get there, you have to beat Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs, Reggie Jackson, and Ryne Sandberg in a challenge. Good luck.
Home Run Pinball is the classic Home Run Derby with a fun spin... it's in cities like New York and Las Vegas! Hit the ball into various buildings and cars and rack up points for your leaderboard score. This is probably one of the most fun modes in The Bigs 2 even though it's just a mini-game and not baseball as such. Spread the destruction and get more points. Just don't hit the pitcher... if you do, he will give you a little payback.
Extra Game Modes include a much requested Season mode, while certainly not as robust as you would find in MLB 2K9, it does provide a good mix of arcade action and MLB season simulation. One thing to note, the most recent roster update online was from April. That was 3 months ago. I really hate when a publisher includes roster features and doesn't support them with updates. There isn't even a way to download user created rosters.
Other modes include Pick Up Game where you basically choose your own all-star teams. Tutorial game where you get coaching to make you competitive against other gamers. There are also mini-games to help improve your power, contact, glove, and speed.
Online play includes the usual Quick Match, Custom, Lobby, Leaderboards, roster downloads and stat card. You can play a normal game or Home Run Pinball. Up to 4 people can play online, though you'll have to get on during peak hours to find enough people to play. Home Run Pinball seems to be more popular online than a regular game.
One thing that you'll notice right away is the improved graphics. Not that the first Bigs game was bad, but this new version has improved in just about every way. The surface shading is probably the most noticeable change. Everything from player uniforms to the clock at San Francisco's AT&T Park have improved shading and textures.
The only minor stumbling point graphically are the fans. Granted, they are not the focus of the game, but they barely move. Ever. They don't leave their seats, they don't clap their hands, they don't interfere with plays. Nothing. You only see them move when you are almost in the stands to make a play. Otherwise they basically look like cloned colored cardboard.
The announcers in The Bigs 2 are also extreme. They provide over-the-top comments and even make fun of your futile attempts. Rarely are the helpful aside from the Home Run Pinball game where he will announce your points and how many pitches you have left so you can keep your eyes on the action. In both cases, I never found them to be annoying enough to turn them off, but your mileage may vary.
2K Beats music includes 17 songs from P.O.D., Daughtry, Korn, Pantera and others. This is one of the rare soundtracks that I didn't mind, but if you find the songs to be too much to stomach, you can always turn them off in the settings menu.
The Bigs 2 includes plenty of help you get you competitive. It includes a 14-page manual, tutorial game modes, and an in-game Strategy Guide. The Strategy Guide is full of tips to give you the edge over anyone you might go up against, especially the seasoned pros online. But the tutorials which actually stop the game and give you suggestions are much better than reading all day.
There are 38 Trophies to unlock. Most are of course involved in playing a baseball game, but there are quite a few dedicated to Home Run Pinball. Matching all the Legendary Milestones and striking out Babe Ruth appears to be the most painfully difficult to get.
The improvements are there, and The Bigs 2 is certainly a step up from the original. The inclusion of a Season Mode is a huge improvement; although it's not anywhere close to the detail level you find in sports simulations such as MLB 2K9. The Bigs 2 is a fun arcade style game with big league features that is sure to entertain even the most fair weather fan.