#5 of 2009: The BIGS 2

Posted December 26th, 2009 at 11:26 am

The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.

There was no bigger supporter of the original The BIGS. It was my #1 game of 2007 and as such the sequel was highly anticipated. While The BIGS 2 didn’t have the same magic it was still easily the best baseball product available on the 360. The fun factor and strategical elements remained strengths however just a couple decisions that were made for the sequel ended up holding it back.

The BIGS 2 didn’t do anything crazy to change the formula that worked in the original. It continued to play in a surprisingly sim fashion just with an incredibly exaggerated nature on the surface. It built on that by developing some new strategical elements. In terms of the additions it had numerous good concepts and one that ultimately tainted the experience.

The power-up system based on the real attributes of players was unique and added another element of strategy. In the same regard were the “Legendary” players which could make plays that others couldn’t. The “wheelhouse” was another pitcher vs batter strategy element which worked. The use of injuries to affect the player rating “stars” was great as well. All these things forced the user to plan ahead and consider risk vs reward in even more situations.

However the addition of “Big Slam” was what hurt the game the most. Building up to that essentially provides an automatic Grand Slam. For a game that has done so well with designing the strategical elements so they were balanced this one literally would take control out of the user’s hands. After the first pitch the CPU would take over as the pitcher and throw the next three which would all be crushed. It just really stood out as the lone design decision that in hindsight was a mistake.

Career mode was improved with starting in the Mexican league and working up. Added elements of customization and expansion from a year to being a career were nice to have. Unfortunately there was still no way to play a career as a pitcher. The game also had a 162 game season mode which I couldn’t imagine playing through.

Attempting to advance through the training mini-games led to a lot of frustration because of the difficulty. The hitting mini-game in particular was especially tough and that is where I had enough. So while they new ones were creative I can’t say that they were necessarily fun nor would they improve user skill in the regular games. However the Home Run Pinball remained a big winner. The new locales were great and the ability to be played co-op online was great.

Graphically the game was better than the original and the player models were even slimmed down a tad for a more realistic look. Framerate was always smooth but the new camera utilized negatively affected the overall feel and ability to fully appreciate the visuals.

The one change that was introduced that I really didn’t like was the more zoomed in camera. Because of the speed of the game the camera cuts were incredibly quick and at times disorienting. At the very least it prevented you from being able to enjoy on-field action unfurl because most of it would be missed. The camera movement would follow the ball and dart away from players immediately or shoot in on them as the play was made. It was even damaging at times to the gameplay as it made it difficult to react to events on the field. I had circumstances where balls were hit and because of the camera I couldn’t tell immediately whether it was headed down the third baseline or the first baseline.

What I continue to appreciate the most about The BIGS series is the genuine strategy that can be formed. I like that you can go at the games, and each individual pitch, so many different ways and nothing about it is frustrating. Only a handful of other arcade games have been able to figure out that formula and none are as deep as The BIGS.

The BIGS 2 remains 2K’s best baseball offering in every way. It is remarkable that this game can be so polished and well designed while the others have released in complete disarray. Outside of the two issues (Big Slam and the zoomed camera) this was another great effort. Hopefully the series will continue but given recent statements from Take Two unfortunately that seems unlikely to happen.

#5: The BIGS 2
#6: NBA Live 10
#7: Madden Arcade
#8: NCAA Football 10
#9: NBA 2K10
#10: Fight Night Round 4
The Worst of 2009