The Bigs 2 Preview
Although there will be differing opinions, it is our stance that MLB 09: The Show represents the best baseball simulator on the market, and for the second straight year, the MLB 2K franchise ranks second to Sony’s unbelievably authentic series. Therefore, if you’d like to support the efforts of the talented 2K Sports team, we suggest turning to The Bigs 2 this summer. It’s basically on the exact opposite end of the spectrum; it’s a flashy, slam-bang arcade-style baseball game that focuses on the crowd-pleasing aspects of the sport. Those who are familiar with the original title – a solid effort, although lacking in certain areas – will know all about this style, and if you enjoyed it, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll enjoy the sequel. It introduces new gameplay mechanics, several new game modes, and thankfully, the emergence of a Full Season Mode! It was mysteriously missing from the first game and although we don’t need the crazy depth of a typical Franchise Mode, we still want the chance to go through a 162-game season.
Furthermore, other modes are simple and easy to pick up and play, along with a variety of new mini-games that should act as a pleasant diversion from the realism of other simulators. Sure, you can trade players, organize line-ups, and fiddle around with more than a few settings; customization isn’t non-existent just because you’re looking at an arcade-style production. But that’s where the depth and intricacy ends ‘cuz the rest is all based around fun and entertainment value, as evidenced by those aforementioned mini-games. One mini-game has you aiming at targets out in the field while another just keeps chucking balls up to the plate while you have to hit as many as possible in a certain amount of time. And you can’t just swing quickly and maniacally, either; you can only hit the green balls to score points, as the red ones will deduct points from your total. There’s another mini-game that acts as a fielding complement to this one: it’s the Glove Game that has you leaping and diving after hard-hit balls, and for most everyone, it’s your only chance to do something worthy of an ESPN highlight reel. Oh, and let’s not forget the Speed mini-game that has you running all over the damn stadium!
Concerning the actual gameplay mechanics, fans of the original Bigs will be happy to learn that their beloved Turbo Meter is back. For hitters, it builds as you get hits (home runs build it quicker, of course) and for pitchers, put-outs and strikeouts will cause the meter to fill. But in addition to this appealing feature, Blue Castle Games is implementing a special “wheelhouse zone” for every batter. Obviously, it will be bigger and smaller depending on the hitter but if the pitcher accidentally serves one up and the ball is in your wheelhouse, you’ll have a much better chance to plant it in the bleachers. Just remember, though: if you miss a pitch that falls into your wheelhouse, your zone will decrease and unfortunately, it can’t actually increase. So if you keep missing pitches that you’re supposed to absolutely tattoo, you’re gonna pay for your incompetence in the long run. This may prove problematic, because even though it should add a definite challenge to the game, we have to take a mathematical approach to this feature… If it can only decrease, wouldn’t all wheelhouse zones eventually disappear entirely if we play long enough? That’d be annoying.
But the flash and panache of this game will be undeniable, no matter what. The tape measure shots will be even longer and more satisfying than ever before, and pitches will rip across the plate at well over 100 mph. Players in the field can make absurd diving and leaping catches, and you can expect teams to score double-digit runs in many games you play. To top it all off, there’s the addition of the Legendary skills. Instead of the various player attributes we had in the first game, where they were scored on a 5-star scale, these legendary abilities kinda let you rank up to an invisible sixth star. If you hit that plateau, you will indeed be a “legend.” Lastly, there are the power-ups that some players have that give them an automatic edge during a game. There are about 30 and they’re permanently affixed to certain all-stars; Dustin Pedroia, for example, gets a temporary boost when he’s down in the count, and some of the big hitters, like Alex Rodriguez, get “no doubt home runs.” These will have a definite impact on the experience, even if some of you are rolling your eyes at A-Rod and the steroid controversy right now.
Well, we don’t mean to be insensitive and we certainly don’t condone the use of any performance-enhancing drug in any sport, but perhaps The Bigs 2 is best described as The Bigs on steroids. And hey, this is a video game. It’s okay if the MLB stars are larger than life with the superhuman capability to defy physics. That’s the point of a game like this, and we’re really hoping that the combination of a few mechanical tweaks and the addition of new modes and features will make this sequel worthy of a purchase. The Bigs 2 is scheduled to launch on July 7 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
5/4/2009 Ben Dutka