THE BIGS doesn't take itself as seriously as other baseball simulators out this season, and that's the goal: to offer "epic arcade baseball action," as the box says.
But this game doesn't push the envelope far enough and ends up being a pretty straight shooter with a few flourishes of fantasy. It's no MLB Slugfest, with its brawls and flaming bats and players. But it's not really horrible, either. Instead, fans of the grand old game are left with a title that toes the Mendoza line.
The stadiums all look great; getting the hang of the controls isn't too hard; and the "home run pinball" mode -- in which sluggers crack dingers into the middle of the neon circus that is New York's Times Square -- is the best part of the game. Sadly, hitting, playing defense and the horrible player renderings (is that really supposed to be Nomar Garciaparra?) are all serious detractions.
Also, resist the urge to try the Wii version unless you're in tiptop shape. Throwing a fastball (by violently waving the Wii remote) requires nearly as much energy as chucking one for real. After a few tries, we were ready to join Jason Schmidt of the Dodgers on the DL.
Details: All platforms; $59.99 to $39.99; rated Everyone (mild violence).
The video game industry's annual dog-and-pony show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, rolled into Santa Monica last week sporting a new, slimmed-down look. Gone were the massive, ear-splitting, eye-popping, over-the-top booths of the L.A. Convention Center, replaced by restrained meeting rooms at a gaggle of beachfront luxury hotels spread out over about six miles. But we still got excited about several cool new titles.
The best of the bunch was Fracture, coming next year. Using grenades, players can alter the ground they stand on, never before possible.... Nintendo's latest nontraditional way to interact with its system, the Wii Fit's balance board, was a fun idea that might actually be good for couch potatoes.... The best-looking game was surely Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The graphics for the present-day wartime shooter were frighteningly real.... Echochrome and PAIN are two must-have games, coming soon to download straight onto the PlayStation3. Echochrome's black-and-white line graphics are as simple as its Escher-esque puzzles are complex. PAIN is a cute, quirky launch-a-person-into-the-side-of-a-building-with-hilarious-results casual game.... Based on the demo, Killzone 2 is as close to spectacular as games get.... Assassin's Creed will surely be a hit, as will the beautifully done Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.... One of the most original titles, Little Big Planet, will give gamers a whole new take on colors and shapes.... Halo 3 looked good but wasn't stunning.... The co-op play of Army of Two will mean hours of fun for you and a pal.... The Wii Zapper, an apparatus that transforms the Wii's controls into a submachine-style gun, wasn't as easy to use as it should have been on Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.... And the new trailers for Metal Gear Solid 4 and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed were so cool, we wish it were 2008 already.
Full of action, options
Transformers: The Game is better than most film tie-in games because of its options: Playing as a good guy or bad guy -- in either giant robot form or whatever machine it can become (like helicopters, cars, trucks and jets) -- and going through a separate story line for each choice means getting two great games for the price of one. Like the Michael Bay summer blockbuster from which it's derived, Transformers also packs a lot of explosions and destruction -- although being an evil Decepticon and wrecking the beautiful worlds on screen is a ton more fun than playing nice.
Details: All platforms; $59.99 to $39.99; rated Teen (violence).
All brawn, no brain
If the makers of the Darkness, a game based on a comic-book series of the same name, had spent the same amount of time perfecting the controls as they did shining up the impressive graphics and adding all that cool extra content, then maybe they'd have a hit. Alas, controlling the plodding main character is so difficult that it makes following the convoluted hit-man-turned-supernatural-monster story feel pointless, despite the brilliant, sometimes grisly visuals.
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, suggestive themes, strong language).