Reviews > The Bigs
July 8, 2007
This year has already seen the release of three other baseball videogames. MLB 07: The Show, MLB 2K7, and MVP 07 NCAA Baseball are all pretty solid offerings, and by this time have given players plenty of action for the 2007 season. With half the season gone, and the All-Star Break upon us, where does The Bigs fit into the mix, and what does it offer that those other games don't. Is it even worth picking up at this point?
To set things straight from the start, The Bigs was clearly not designed with the baseball aficionado in mind. This game is basically the NFL Blitz or NBA Jam of baseball - an over-the-top but shallow arcade experience, really aimed more towards the casual fan or general thrill-seeker. For that market, however, The Bigs delivers an enjoyable alternative to the usual baseball simulation.
The game is all about the "big play" - homeruns, stikeouts, diving catches, etc. As each game progresses, getting hits and making flashy plays in the field fill up the "big play meter," which is the key to blasting huge homeruns and smoking the ball by opposing batters. "Big blast" turns any contact into a homerun, and "big heat" makes pitches nearly unhittable, as well as draining the opposition's big play points. Either of these can be activated for the duration of a single at-bat, after which the big play meter must once again be filled by making lots of littler plays. For all the time in between, there is the "turbo meter." This one is filled by throwing strikes on defense or taking balls on offense (hint: it fills faster on defense). Unlike the big play meter, the turbo meter grows to a maximum of five uses, which can all be saved up and used in succession - a great rally-starter. When used, turbo enhances a player's abilities to hit, throw, or run. Batted balls will oftentimes knock fielders off their feet, pitches will leave batters in the dust, and runners will sprint like Forrest Gump. Each use only lasts for a single play, however - that's one pitch, one swing, one throw, etc.
The basics of pitching and hitting are similar to what gamers are used to seeing in an arcade-style baseball game. There are contact and power swings, each mapped to a separate button. The player can also attempt to direct his hit by pushing in the desired direction on the left analog stick. Success at the plate is based on timing rather than aligning a cursor or guessing pitches, and the pace is faster than a normal baseball sim. Pitchers have a very streamlined system of chucking. Each pitch is mapped to a face button, and holding that button down activates the pitch meter. One must release the button when the gauge is full to throw a perfect pitch, and letting go before a designated "tip-off" line causes inaccuracy and makes batters more likely to mash the ball. The controls in the field and on the basepaths are mediocre at best. Fielders are very jumpy and don't move with the precision one might hope for. Additionally, the game's auto-selection leaves much to be desired - more than a few times, the logical choice is not the one the game makes. This problem makes balls that should have been routine outs become undeserved hits, thus making games play out unnaturally. It is a frustrating issue. As for running the bases, there is a good concept behind the setup (using the analog stick instead of buttons), but it ends up being clunky in practice. With all the runner selection, directional changes, and acceleration going on, it'd be more productive to just take the control completely out of the player's hands and leave it to the AI.
The Bigs is what you might call a dumbed-down baseball game. There are no season or multi-season modes, no contracts, little stat tracking, no pitcher warmups, no injuries, no postseason modes, no minigames, and limited rosters. There are only three starting pitchers per team and only four men on the bench, and games are only 5 innings long! This is likely not a big deal for those who just want to jump in and play, but for enthusiasts, it equates to a certain degree of blasphemy.
What the game does include are exhibition and homerun derby modes, a light create-a-player mode, and a bit of roster management (trading players). The biggest draw, however, is the rookie challenge. This career mode begins with the creation of a custom player who is subsequently thrust into the big leagues, beginning with spring training and hopefully ending with a World Series ring. Along the way, there are a variety of different scenarios that the player is put into, from simply winning game to pulling off come-from-behind victories to simply getting hits with the custom rookie. There are also a few fun training segments designed to help boost the rookie's stats, because they dish out many times more "upgrade points" than performing well in regular games. While fun and engaging in the early goings, the rookie challenge becomes stale after being asked to play out similar scenarios over and over. The ability to steal players from other teams is a plus later on in the campaign, but not quite enough to revive the fading interest.
Graphically, the game fails to impress. Player models are, for lack of better words, funny-looking. They have strange proportions and don't look very much like baseball players. On top of that, they have little texture work applied to them, and their faces are only very loose approximations of those they intend to recreate. Stadiums suffer a similar fate. These brightly-colored (and strangely small) venues lack the realism of other baseball videogames and feel somewhat devoid of atmosphere. The flat, unvaried, and nearly motionless crowd members don't provide any relief in that department, either. Player animations are fairly good, for the most part. In the field, plays are made fluidly, as one might expect, with special views of jumping and diving catches, as well as double plays. At the plate, stances are okay (though few), but when players swing, they end up looking like 10-year-olds trying to hit the ball 400 feet. These wild cuts are almost painful to look at, because nobody in "the bigs" would ever swing that way. A big plus for The Bigs is that the frame rate stays consistent throughout.
The game's high-octane nature is exemplified by its audio. Sound effects serve to make the pitches and hits seem more epic, with cracks, smashes, and whooshes that would normally be reserved for heroic cartoon characters. The licensed soundtrack's focus on heavier rock tunes is also a good fit - getting the adrenaline flowing is never a bad idea in The Bigs. KNBR's Damon Bruce does a good job with commentary, too, rarely missing a call and bringing a more lively personality to the plate than your typical baseball commentators. The only problem is that many of the "sounds of the game" are missing. There is no chatter from the dugouts, no hecklers, etc. Again, though, this is not a sim.
Overall, The Bigs is enjoyable as long as gamers don't expect more than what the game aims to be. It is NOT a full baseball simulation, and it is NOT for baseball fanatics. Casual fans will eat it up, though, as long as they don't have to do too much fielding. It's like...baseball lite, all jacked up on red bull.
Visuals – 4.5
Audio – 6.5
Control - 4.5
Story – 3.5
Fun – 6.5
Value – 4
Style – 6
Overall: 5.3 (Mediocre)
*Eddie R Inzauto - Senior Editor, GameWad.com
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