BIG hits, BIG catches, BIG pitches, BIG fun.
But 2K Sports' The BIGS dares to bend the rules of America's Pastime and gives us a refreshing and, above all else, fun new outlook on the game, speeding it up and giving it a whole new attitude.
One thing this game is not is a simulation. In fact, it's far from it. Although all of the teams in MLB are present, there are no standings, no win-loss records and no statistics. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to play this game. A basic knowledge of it will do. The controls are easy to use and won't require too much thought. No more pulling the thumbstick back and pushing it forward to hit the ball; aim your hit and press a button. The same thing can be said for pitching; aim your pitch and press the desired button. Fielding is even easier, as the fielder will automatically run towards the ball and catch it. You just need to press the button corresponding to the base you want to throw to and that's it. All of this works pretty well except for the fielding, where it seems like the game often selects the wrong player to field the ball, making it very frustrating.
Aside from the controls, the game has other aspects which make it different from any other ball game out there right now. Every good play you perform, whether it be a base hit, home run, strikeout or a good fielding catch, will earn you points and, at the same time, will fill up your Big Play meter. When that meter is filled, it will start flashing, indicating that either the pitcher or the hitter is ready to execute a Big Play. When you're ready, press both triggers to activate it. The screen becomes surrounded with a blurry effect. If you are pitching, the pitcher will throw very fast balls surrounded by fire. If you are hitting, the batter will hit a certified home run if you make contact with the ball. If both sides activate it at the same time, a duel will be initiated, with the winning side getting their Big Play meter refilled.
Not only is there the Big Play meter, there is also the Turbo meter. Turbo is earned by throwing strikes if you're pitching or taking a ball if you're hitting. This meter fills up faster than the Big Play one, but is a little less effective. Your hits and pitches will be stronger than normal ones though. You can also use the Turbo while fielding, making the throws faster and more accurate.
There are different game types in The BIGS, but let's talk about the most important one, the Rookie Challenge. You start off by selecting the team you want to play for, your jersey number and your fielding position. You can then customize your player. The player customization isn't very deep though, as you'll get a default appearance where you can change the color of the eyes and hair, but that's about it. As you progress though the Challenge, you'll get to choose your entrance song, your nickname and other cool stuff like that.
The Challenge itself requires you to complete certain tasks against all of the teams in your league. These tasks vary from winning a game to hitting a certain amount of home runs, getting a certain amount of strikeouts, and so on. Naturally, the tasks will get harder as you progress through the Challenge. Once you complete all tasks against a certain team, you will be able to steal one of their players by winning the final game against them. You can steal up to 10 players, so choosing wisely is a must here. As your Rookie progresses through the Challenge, he will earn upgrade points which can be used to, you guessed it, upgrade his fielding and batting attributes. This is by far the best part of The BIGS and, although it could have been a little more fleshed out, it is still really fun and challenging to complete all of the tasks.
The other game types include Quick Play, where you select a team and jump right into a game, Home Run Derby, where you choose a player and battle an NPC in this All-Star Game tradition and Pinball, where you choose a player and hit homeruns in the middle of Times Square in a very flashy and destructible environment. All of these game types are quite well done and the Pinball one is a ton of fun to play. Quick Play & Home Run Derby can be played online as well. Speaking of which, the online works pretty well, but there isn't much meat on the proverbial bone here.
The graphics in the game are pretty good, without being outstanding. The aspect that stands out the most about them is the player models. They look absolutely stunning. Every player looks huge and bulky, although there are differences between real life big players, like Albert Pujols, and smaller ones, like Pedro Martinez. The animations, especially after the player hits a home run or makes a great catch, are nice, but they get very repetitive, as the same animation will appear several times during a game. The stadiums also look pretty lifelike and similar to the real ones.
The sound aspect isn't anything groundbreaking. All of the sounds you'd expect to hear in a baseball game are present here, except for when you use the Big Play. When you hit the ball during that time, it sounds like the ball is being crushed. When you pitch, it sounds like a rocket going by. This adds to the arcade style of the game. The commentating, on the other hand, is very poor, as the same thing will be repeated over and over again. The stadium announcer often says the wrong player's name when he comes to the plate. Every sports game needs a soundtrack and The BIGS is no exception. Although the song list is quite short, it's still very good, with a mix of rock and grunge, including Stone Temple Pilots' Plush and Motorhead's Ace of Spades.
In conclusion, The BIGS will not be remembered as a ground-breaking baseball game, but it's still a very enjoyable and addicting game. There is enough stuff here to give it a good replay value and lend itself to a different experience every time. Albeit it's flaws, it's sure to entertain even the most novice of baseball connoisseurs.