The Bigs: Online Play Report

Posted July 1st, 2007 at 3:19 pm
The Bigs Online Play

One important aspect of a sports title that usually doesn't get reviewed properly if at all is online play. Basically, since the media sites have the game early or are working off a dev kit, they don't have anyone to play online. That is why you see them review what they've been told is there for online, but rarely do they ever lay out how good it is. Issues such as distance lag in the EA Sports titles or broken leagues in the 2K titles generally aren't mentioned.

So here is my experience with the online play for The Bigs:

The online co-op is the biggest addition and it is a lot of fun. You and your teammate alternate from being the pitcher one inning to being the initial fielder the next. On offense you alternate at-bats, and if your player gets on base you control him for that next at-bat. We played together against the CPU. Either I'm missing something, or it seems that is the only way to play co-op. I couldn't find a way to bring in two other users as opponents. It is something that has been mentioned as being possible so I guess I'll have to dig around some more on that.

One aspect of this I really liked was being able to concentrate on your job. As a fielder, you could be ready with the A button and prepared to act right as the ball is hit into play, and as a pitcher you could focus on the batter and only have to worry about backing up if you're teammate didn't get to the ball (you don't have to be ready for the quick reaction to a hit). On the basepaths it was nice to have user-controlled runners and even better when you had two user runners instead of having to switch off to take over the other one and direct them around. 

It made for a different feel than you normally get in one-on-one games. You rely on your teammate. So, for instance, when as a pitcher you forget to cover 1st base, a fielder and you throw to the wrong base, or attempt a steal and get thrown out by a mile…be prepared to get chewed out. Between us those three things happened within the first co-op game we played. It actually adds a sense of pressure since you don't want to let your teammate down.   

The head-to-head games I played were pretty much lag free. As always there is the very slight adjustment you have to make timing wise, and it wasn't long until I adjusted to that. I've read a few posts on various forums about laggy games or people having connection issues, but I didn't experience any of those.

You can set up games through Quick Match, Custom Match, or your Friends list. You can set the # of innings to 3, 5, 7, or 9 in both ranked and unranked games. In ranked the difficulty is locked in at medium, which seems good for head-to-head play.

There is a section for downloadable content, right now that includes only a roster update. Hopefully they do more updates, at the very least following the trade deadline. Something that has been bothersome with NBA Street is they don't do any sort of roster updates after the game ships, and usually it even ships with players on wrong teams. It isn't as important as it is for "sim" games but it is still appreciated.

Unfortunately there aren't any sort of mini-games playable online. Some form of the Home Run Pinball as an online challenge could've been really cool. 

One of the biggest complaints online in "sim" style baseball games is that people throw too many balls, and usually far out of the strike zone. While that is a part of baseball, the frustration is understandable because some pitches are really difficult to pick up and you have even less time to react online. With The Bigs, there really isn't much room to throw out of the strike zone and even when you do if the batter times it right they'll get a piece of it. It could be a foul ball or groundout but regardless you still have a chance at it. Even better is when you use turbo, it forces the pitcher to throw in the strike zone. It keeps the game moving along and strategically it is more important to out-think or out-guess the opponent.

In my first game online against a buddy of mine, I was up 1-0 and he had the bases loaded in the 3rd inning with 2 outs. He hit it deep to center and Ichiro jumped, I hit the button combo, and he came down with the catch. That was my first catch of that nature, and it had to be one of the more exciting moments I have experienced in a sports game online. The pressure of the situation, and not being prepared to do the button sequence until it popped up, got my adrenaline going. Of course then in the 4th I gave up a 3 run HR and ended up losing 3-1. Still though I've found that even when I lose in The Bigs, I feel like I had fun playing it.

So overall I'd say that The Bigs is one of the better sports titles for online play. The co-op is a great addition, play is generally lag-free, and the experience is quick and enjoyable.