Jul 27

Written by: Thryon
7/27/2009 11:22 PM  RssIcon

Box Art
52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 28
The BIGS 2
Release Date: July 07, 2009
Developer: Blue Castle Games
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
It may have been only 10 weeks since I featured The BIGS as my Canadian Game of the Week, but it has been more than two years since that first game was released. I really liked The BIGS and was looking forward to seeing what improvements, if any, was made in this time period.

The BIGS offered a very fast and action filled baseball game (unlike the real deal I must add). I was not at all disappointed when I loaded up the game and noticed that The BIGS 2 was The BIGS with some a few new tweaks and enhancements. All the key ingredients of what makes previous title so special have returned. The Turbo and Big Play meters are back to wreak havoc with gamers well planned ball playing strategies but the two systems have changed just enough to enhance the action of the game without breaking the game.

Just as in The BIGS, teams performing good actions such as getting base hits, making catches or tagging out opponents will be rewarded with a little bit of their Big Play meter being filled in. Once the Big Play meter is filled, it can be used to initiate either a Big Blast (while batting) or Big Heat (while pitching). In Big Blast mode any contact with the ball will send it out of the park in a flurry of sparks and cheers, needless to say this is a move best kept for when bases are loaded while Big Heat mode will turn every pitch a searing comet that is near impossible to judge requiring the batter to simply guess as to when to swing. Joining the ranks of Big Play is the new Big Slam mode. This mode allows the batter take 4 swings to first load the bases and then hit a grand slam. Any contact with the ball in Big Slam mode will result in a base hit till the bases are loaded and then any contact will result in a grand slam home run. So if Big Slam is initiated with runners on base, the changes of hitting a grand slam is greatly increased. Needless to say that Big Slam can quickly change the course of a game. My only complaint about this new mode is that the opposing pitcher only gets to pitch one pitch with the other 3 pitches being automated. Also there is no pitcher equivalent to the Big Slam that allows a pitcher to strike out 3 runners at once by allowing them to only take one swing. Using the Big Play meter will completely drain the meter so its use must become part of the gamer’s strategy.

The Turbo meter is filled by throwing strikes (when on field) or taking balls (when batting). New to The BIGS 2 is that each subsequent strike will increase the amount of turbo gained, the same is true for each subsequent ball taken. This small but key difference will greatly increase the amount of turbo gained in a game. As before turbo is used to temporarily increase any in-game action. For example turbo can be used to propel a base runner trying to steal second and alternately the opponent can counter by using turbo to provide the catcher with a canon arm to toss a fireball to second plate to tag out the runner. Proper use of the turbo can alter the course of a game. Using turbo is simple; just press the Right Trigger when performing the desired action. The Turbo Meter is sectioned off into smaller units and each time turbo is used, a unit of turbo will be drained. Turbo can be used as soon as a section has been filled.

Once again simplicity is the key to this game. Unlike real baseball, the game is about action and not stats. Sure stats are tracked, but they are really simplified. Players are rated in six different categories using a simple five star system. New to The BIGS 2 is the “legendary” status for those special players that are truly the best that ever was in specific categories. These players are to be respected and possibly even feared. I made the mistake of thinking that I could strike out a legendary batter since I can throw perfect pitches over ninety percent of the time. Even after delivering five perfect pitches, I watched as the sixth perfect pitch was sent sailing towards the billboard in center field. Always respect legendary players.

I was very pleased to see that they did not mess around with the controls of the game opting instead to keep the simple controls of the first game. In a realistic baseball game, gamers may demand realistic controls and pin point accuracy, but this is not a realistic game, this is an action game and thus everything, controls included, needs to get the gamer into the game as quickly as possible. Pitching for example is still controlled by first selecting the target delivery area in the strike zone, then selecting one of four available pitches by pressing its corresponding button (A, B, X and Y) to start the pitch windup which is displayed visually on screen by a meter and finally letting go of the button to deliver the pitch. The precision of the pitch will be determined by how much of the meter was filled when the delivery was made. A perfect pitch will occur when the delivery was made with the meter completely full. Perfect pitches have a greater importance this time around as the batters have gained some new features.
Screenshot
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Batting has changed little, but the changes that have been made are important. At its most basic form, hitting is simply swinging the bat at the correct time and making contact with the ball. The A button is used to make a contact swing, and the B button for power swings. Home runs can only occur on a power swing. If a gamer only pressed the A and B button they can make contact and potentially even win, but a good batter will know how to direct a ball exactly where they want it. New to this version is the batter’s wheelhouse zone. Each batter will have an area of the strike zone that they are more proficient in, making any contact in that zone a much more potent hit. Some batters such as Alex Rodriguez have a wheelhouse zone that covers almost the entire strike zone forcing the pitchers to make perfect pitches every time. Taking strikes in the wheelhouse zone will cause the zone to shrink and taking strikes from perfect pitches will cause it to shrink even more.

Base running was a sore point for me in the last game, and things have not improved any here. The concept was designed to be quite simple, use one of the main buttons to select a base runner and then use the left analog stick to direct them to a desired base. Now The BIGS is a very fast arcadish baseball game with ball players’ capable or performing superhuman actions. A ball hit in deep outfield can be tossed back to the infield in a second of two leaving very little time select a base runner and then directing them towards a particular base. This left me with the option of leaving the AI decide base running, which is not always a great idea, or controlling it myself and hope I press the correct button at the correct time. After more than fifty games, I was still get base runners tagged out because they got stranded in the open. This must be an indication that either I need to dedicate a lot of time to learn base-running or the designers need to tweak the base-running system.

Just as base running, fielding did not appear to benefit any of the changes between versions, if anything fielding has regressed in my opinion with the introduction of the “Legendary Catch”. When a “Legendary Catch” opportunity arises a mini-game will appear in which the player must complete the required mini-game to execute the catch. The mini-games vary a little but are all basically nothing more than a Quick Timed Event. Anyone who read my previous 27 write-ups will know that I do not like QTEs. Luckily Legendary Catches opportunities occur so few in a game that I was able to just ignore them. Actually I tried to ignore fielding as much as possible for fielding is just a guessing game. Once a hit was made, I was constantly guessing which outfielder the AI would auto-select and his relative position to the location of where the ball would land then start moving in that direction and hope for the best. I found that the best trick was to trade for outfielders with legendary arms to be able to gun down base runners once the catch has been flubbed.

All of the controls did benefit from a little improvement, but the areas that needed most work changed very little and that is with the Artificial Intelligence. It was very easy to pick a pitcher with a legendary pitch and then to keep throwing the exact same pitch to the exact same location to batter after batter with the exact same results over again, even late into the ninth. There are numerous other examples I could give, but I will just say that the AI still need improving.

Graphically the game looks very similar to The BIGS, but there was been some improvements in animation and most importantly clipping. I have not witness the ball going right through infielders or the outfield wall as in the first title (and MLB 2K series I may add). I personally thought this was the best effort so far in a 2K Sports game to have the players look like their real life counterparts.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
The BIGS 2 offers plenty of game modes. The biggest change is with the Rookie Challenge that has been replaced with the "new" Become a Legend mode. The mode is identical to the Rookie Challenge with only subtle changes and an improved storyline. Yep, a storyline in a sports title. Become a Legend mode has the gamer first create a player and then the story indicates that this created player was injured and sent to Mexico to prove himself worthy to play in the BIGS. After having accomplished the goals set out for him, the player gets a chance to return to the Majors to the team of the gamer’s choice. The BIGS 2 does feature every Major League Baseball team, players and likeness. Once the player is in the BIGS, they will still require to meet expected goals and mini-games for each city. Ball games are still only a five inning affair when a full game is played that is. Some scenarios place the player in the bottom of the ninth, behind by a run with the goal to win the game. At times the goal will be for the player to gain a hit and steal a base, winning or loosing is not important. For the most part, the challenges and mini-games are quite varied and fun. My only issue was with the “make contact” mini-game in which you must hit a series of balls from an angle that I never saw again anywhere in the game. The mini-games are also just about the only way to increase a player’s stats. So that super annoying “make contact” mini-game will reward the player with an extra star in the contact category but at the price of driving me insane. Adding to the variety is that not all challenges will occur in MLB locations as some games were played in Mexico (where the game starts) and Japan. A nice touch was that the in-game dialog changed according to the game’s location. Become a Legend mode has the same drawback that plagued the Rookie Challenge. The game mode is very long and the goals become more and more complex. It becomes less about winning and more about setting up the perfect situation to accomplish the required goals. This does wear thin after about only a few dozen games.

Not interested in accomplishing crazy goals, but just to play ball? The developers did indeed listen to the criticism applied to the first game and introduced a new Season mode. Not only can gamers play a full season, they can actually play nine inning games. That is the good news; the bad news is that the game is nothing more than that, a full one hundred and sixty-two game season including an All-Star game and trade deadline. Once the season is done, there is a playoff and that is it. Great job guys, but for The BIGS 3, implement a Dynasty mode as well.

One of my favourite parts of The BIGS was the Home Run Pinball in which a selected batter was placed in Times Square to knock balls into signs, billboards, screens, lights, cars etc…to score the biggest amount of points possible before striking out. I found the mini-game addictive and fun. I must have not been alone in my enjoyment of this mini-game as the Home Run Pinball has returned with all new location do trash. Along with Times Square, there are three other new areas including downtown Tokyo. The mode also introduces more visual damage. This time hitting specific stuff will cause bit and pieces to fall off while providing plenty of sparks.

Online play has returned virtually unchanged over, but this is not a bad thing as the online portion did indeed work. Do not fix what is not broken. Gamer can compete with friends in ranked or unranked matches or can join a friend in need in some coop play. The BIGS is most fun when played with a friend.

The BIGS 2 improves in a lot of areas over its predecessor, but other areas not so much. The whole QTE while fielding is just annoying and serves little to make the game enjoyable. Overall the game is great and will please just about any action sports fan. Now for the bad news. If you already own The BIGS, there is no compelling reason for you to go out and purchase the sequel unless you really do want to play a full season. I would say to hold off for the follow-up that hopefully will include a dynasty mode, better AI, more realistic attribute progression and more Home Run Pinball stadiums. I would love to knock the dome off the CN Tower.
--Brian Wray

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