RBI Baseball 15 Review: Strike Two
Ryan Bloom / Apr 9th, 2015 No Comments
RBI Baseball returned last year after a decades-long hiatus, but like a washed-up veteran attempting to resurrect his career in the minor leagues, the result was more hype than substance. The plan was to revive the game’s classic arcade style with modern rosters to appeal to a casual gaming audience turned off by the advanced systems of current baseball sims. However, RBI Baseball 14 was barely a passable game.
RBI Baseball 15 builds on what little groundwork last year’s game laid. It has undergone significant changes — most notably with visuals and gameplay options — but the much needed improvements are not enough to make this small market team a competitor.
The second attempt at reviving RBI Baseball produces a much better result. While last season’s game catered to casual players, RBI Baseball 15 adds depth that can be appreciated by hardcore MLB fans without turning off its niche audience. This time up, the game takes full advantage of the official MLB license. Teams have full rosters and each MLB stadium is recreated in virtual glory. These features shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but RBI Baseball 14 did not include them, so they are a welcome addition.
On the field, players are actually modeled based on their real-life counterparts, a stark contrast to last season when the same character model was used for each player. The more accurate look and batting stances of each player, combined with official stadiums, provide visual appeal that RBI Baseball 14 lacked. But while player models have been upgraded, they still don’t perform based on real-world attributes and stats. This is most apparent when trying to take an extra base on offense. Even those outfielders known for having weak throwing arms fire balls back into the infield faster than you can say “Yasiel Puig.”
Off the field, there is much more depth to RBI Baseball 15. Gamers can take part in full 162-game seasons (as well as shorter seasons), and users have the ability to modify lineups and adjust rosters. The game even has extra players in reserve so gamers can move players in and out of the 25 man roster. Because pitchers tire quickly, the added roster spots make it less taxing on relief corps over the course of a long season. This is the type of depth that is expected from a modern baseball game, but it was lacking in last year’s seemingly rushed iteration. The lack of these necessary features bogged down the experience, and now create a much richer baseball game.
Despite all its improvements, RBI Baseball 15 fails to capture the magic of the iconic franchise. It sticks too closely to an outdated two-button format, which is especially frustrating when dealing with the rudimentary pitching system. The A button is used to throw all pitches, so how you use it with the analog stick will determine the outcome of your pitch. This essentially makes all pitchers the same player, but even if this is the case, mapping curveballs and changeups to other face buttons would make more sense.
Fielding is also unnecessarily frustrating. Tracking fly balls is essentially a game of guesswork. An indicator shows where the ball currently is, but it is difficult to figure out where it will land, so positioning fielders to make even routine catches turns into a trying mini-game. There is no button to dive for balls; the AI will dive when appropriate, but this is hit or miss, especially when it comes to line drives.
RBI Baseball comes from a time when the D-pad was the prominent form of controlling characters. However, directional throwing does not translate well to the analog stick. It is far too easy to throw a ball to home instead of first or third instead of second. The poor fielding aspects mean players will not only be fighting the opposing team, but also the controls.
After a terrible performance last season, RBI Baseball took big offseason strides. This year’s version is much closer to a true baseball sim, but it doesn’t sacrifice the franchise’s reknown arcade style. There are plenty of new options and visual enhancements aimed to appease serious baseball fans, but the core gameplay remains oversimplified and bland. RBI Baseball strikes out again this season, but at least this time it strikes out swinging.
Note: RBI Baseball 15 was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
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