In my mind, the world of sports games is equally divided between two realms, each with its own cadre of fanatical followers -- titles such as Madden (Year) and MLB (Year): The Show which revel in realism and rosters, and titles such as NFL Blitz which take copious poetic liberties with trivial things like physics and gravity to add arcadey flair to our nation's athletic pastimes.
While I certainly understand the appeal of the first group, I've never been a stringent follower of any sport -- therefore, the depth and simulation in these titles have no currency with me. When it comes to sports games, I want them loud, fun, fast and rewarding.
The Bigs 2 possesses all four of these properties in spades.
For those not familiar with the first entry in the franchise, the original Bigs was an arcade style Major League Baseball title, infused with stylish acrobatic feats, flaming pitches and two turbo meters. Yes, two -- one for normal turbo, which you fill by throwing strikes or passing on balls, and a "Big Blast/Heat" meter, which you fill by doing ... a lot of different kinds of awesome stuff, like getting hits, making double plays or flying four-hundred feet into the air to fish a grand slam ball out of a low-hanging cirrus cloud.
The turbo meter can be used in the manner you've been familiar with since NBA Jam, giving your players a temporary burst of speed, throwing power, hitting strength or pitching prowess. The "Big" meter, once full, can be used to knock a sure-fire home run out of any pitch you make contact with, or to make your pitches nigh-unhittable. When both teams activate their "Big" meters at the same time, "Duel Mode" is engaged, which creates a type of dramatic tension I'm not really comfortable with experiencing in a video game context.
Other than that, it's just baseball. The teams are all there, the rosters are all there, the basic mechanics of the sport are all represented extremely well, aided largely by an intuitive control scheme and a very creative tutorial sequence. Hardcore baseball enthusiasts may take up issue with the Angels in the Outfield-esque superhuman feats, but they can't dispute the baseballishness of the product 2K Sports has created. It's extremely baseballish.
Well, okay -- traditional baseball doesn't contain quite so many quick time events. If those three words sent a jolt up your spinal cord, you may want to steer clear. In The Bigs 2, most of your player's legendary feats will be predicated upon the correct and speedy entry of a few buttons. If you're a sports game enthusiast, you may find it infuriating that your Shenmue-playing friends will probably whomp you into submission.
"You may find it infuriating that your Shenmue-playing friends will probably whomp you into submission"
The few game modes offered are all entertaining in their own rights, including a standard exhibition quick play mode, some simple online multiplayer modes and a Home Run Pinball mini-game -- but a majority of your time in The Bigs 2 will be spent in the game's Become a Legend mode. The "plot" of this mode has you create a player who's recovering from a near-career ending injury in the Mexican minor leagues. Your ultimate goal is to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and your road there will be hell.
You (and your selected team) will bounce between cities, playing games to unlock new items and move ahead in the rankings. Meanwhile, your player will compete in mini-games to increase his stats, and face off against classic all-stars to earn Hall of Fame votes. It's pretty engaging for a while, but eventually, the game begins make demands of you that go above and beyond mere victory.
For instance, in your five-inning game against the Phillies, your team not only has to win, but your created player has to get three hits. That's a pretty demanding request, which will at least lead to a few retries, and at most lead to a SIXAXIS through your flatscreen. After a while, these special requirements become extremely grating -- especially when placed before you during an All-Star match. Still, the action between these games is extremely entertaining, and gripping enough to keep us coming back, despite our repeated in-game punishments.
The Bigs 2 is an outrageously fun and addicting little sports game designed specifically for people like me -- people who can't stand sports games. Of course, I only picked it up because I'm familiar with 2K Sports' easily accessible, entertaining pedigree. In that respect, their latest baseball title does not disappoint.
One of my few complaints, however, is almost a deal breaker. The soundtrack -- O God, the soundtrack! I seriously thought that we, as a people, had grown beyond the point where POD's "Boom" could be considered acceptable music for human consumption. I guess I thought wrong.