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Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
 
7/23/2007 12:52:00 PM

Review: The Bigs (All systems)

By Lee Clontz

To be honest, I came to 2K Sports' The Bigs with some trepidation. Over-the-top, arcadey sports games tend to either work really well, like the venerable NBA Street series, or rely on gimmicky power-ups and obnoxious special effects. FIFA Street, I'm looking at you. The problem is, even when they work, they rarely feel like the sport they're simulating. NBA Street, for example, is more like a Tony Hawk game than anything resembling real basketball.

Midway's Slugfest series made a valiant attempt to bring Street-style hijinx to the typically staid world of Major League Baseball and the result was only so-so, with players bursting into flames, absurdly plentiful home runs and an emphasis on pure action that felt like something other than baseball.

The Bigs
Derek Jeter gets into one at Fenway :: The Bigs :: 2K Sports
What makes The Bigs a success is that, for all its action-packed antics, it still feels like baseball. Every showdown between pitcher and batter is intense and potentially game-changing. The pitching mechanism is nothing novel, and batting is much simpler than MLB 2K7, also from 2K Sports. The biggest difference between this game and its sim sibling is the acquisition and management of turbo, which throws an entirely new strategic element into the game.

Teams increase their turbo meter by making smart plays on either side of the plate. Pitch a called strike... get some turbo. Let a ball go by... get some turbo. Base hit... turbo. The strategy comes when you have to decide how you're going to use your turbo. If you're a pitcher, turbo gives you extra velocity and movement. If you're a batter, turbo gives you some extra oomph and, more importantly, forces the pitcher to throw a strike. On the basepaths or in the field, turbo will give your players a speed boost or more powerful arms. How you accrue and use your turbo is probably the most important element in your success in The Bigs. Here's some in-game footage from a Red Sox vs. Yankees tilt where you can see the turbo dynamic:
The game's core mode is its Rookie Challenge, which looks at first like a standard "create-a-player" mode. It's not -- it's everything good about player creation from other games with all of the boring, unnecessary stuff taken out. Your player starts out as a position player on the team of your choice with precious little skills. As your rookie finds success behind the plate, you earn points you can use to increase his attributes and, eventually, turn him into a big-league star.

What unusual about Rookie Challenge, and The Bigs overall, is that there's no traditional season or franchise mode, and Rookie Challenge doesn't really take the place of either. You play through a season, but you have to win every game to proceed while also accomplishing a variety of challenges. Some games will demand that your rookie get hits, home runs or stolen bases. It can be frustrating, but it's a fun, fresh take on the genre.

When that gets boring -- and it won't for a good, long while -- there are a couple of fun minigames that add a little extra replay value. A few more of them would have been nice, but the core game is solid enough to keep baseball fans hooked.

The Bigs
Albert Pujols mugs for the hometown fans :: The Bigs :: 2K Sports
Online options are basic, but appropriate, with options for number of innings, team randomization, leaderboards and ranked matches. Unfortunately, online play (on the XBox 360) seems to have been rushed out the door. Our tests, with several different player combinations, were laggy to the point of being unplayable. It's really unfortunate, because it's a tremendously fun head-to-head game. Hopefully a patch will rectify the online problems, because there's tons of potential.

The game is a step below MLB 2K7 graphically, but it doesn't seem to suffer from some of the slowdown that plagues that title. The animation is consistently smooth and, for the most part, the players look more like actual human beings than zombies.

Much of the credit for the success of The Bigs has to go the experienced team at Visual Concepts, who are best known for their traditional 2K line of sport games. The genealogy of those sim games prepared them well, because The Bigs is an arcade baseball game that's actually worth playing for both casual and hardcore baseball fans.

Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 9
Surprisingly addictive, fast and fun; this is the best arcade baseball game I've ever played. Granted, that's not saying a lot, but it's hard not to enjoy the tight controls and varied gameplay modes.
Graphics: 8
Not quite up to the high standard set by MLB 2K7, but The Bigs has nothing to be ashamed of.
Replayability: 9
Great fun with another person and the Rookie Challenge mode gives a single player a slew of different -- and difficult -- situational challenges to overcome.
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Comments:

Posted: 7:35 PM, July 23, 2007   by Anonymous
This game was built for online play, and yet online, it's unplayable. Pitching is very reminiscent of the old Tiger Woods games, swinging your club by accurately double-tapping in a power meter. Timing is crucial. While trying to pitch, there was constant lag, causing my second tap to be either way too early or late. I had the same experience in game after game. Swinging the bat results in the same timing frustration. Its the worst lag on a 360 game I've seen. 2K release a patch please.

360 - ATM101
Games are good. In Europe, football is king: http://www.prenocuj.sk/
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