You know, for a game that is both published and developed by Major League Baseball I find it kind of interesting that they continue to go this route. I mean, you would think that they would want the game to be as highly accurate and as detailed as possible. And feature all the strategies and nuances that make Baseball the Great American Pastime. But on the other hand, instead of a sim approach like another baseball game on a console that shall not be named, they choose to revive an arcade style throw back to a 90’s favorite.
I can only venture to guess why this is the course they have decided upon and my guess is accessibility and time. With RBI Baseball, you could play through an entire nine inning game in just about half an hour. The controls are simple and they leave out a lot of the strategies like shifting the outfield one way or another or playing your infield in to cover a bunt. This may actually be a good thing in terms of attracting younger generations to the sport. By keeping it simply to the nine inning, three strikes, three outs formula they give a fairly decent introduction to kids who perhaps have never played organized sports.
Any fan of baseball knows that a game can last hours, and no one truly can predict how long a game will last. Unlike other sports there’s no game clock in baseball so for a video game I can definitely appreciate the faster pace. Baseball on Xbox however is a bit of a touchy subject for some, simply for a lack of options as the RBI franchise is the only choice available. Look, I’m not gonna whine and gripe about a game simply because it doesn’t give me what I want out of a game. That wouldn’t be fair. Instead I shall give an honest review based on the execution of what’s on offer.
So, for the bargain price of $29.99 you get fairly well replicated stadiums, domes, and ballparks. Full rosters that you can keep current through your franchise by importing roster updates that replicate what’s going on around the league in real life. Easy to learn controls. And an up tempo pace where you can actually say, “l think I’ll play a quick game of baseball”, and not be lying. Now, onto gameplay. As I said, the controls are easy to learn and for the most part respond well. I played on the medium difficulty level so I expected to lose some games but even medium is a little steep. Not one to back down however, once I got the timing of my swing down I was making good contact with the ball an acceptable amount of time. After playing about thirty games my player stats were right about where I expected them to be. Fielding is a different story.
Playing against the AI in franchise mode there is always that split second of indecision when your opposing batter hits the ball as you never know which fielder the game will choose for you to control. This gives your AI opponent an advantage I’d say, as their defense always seems to move with a greater amount of fluidity. You can combat this by turning on assisted Fielding but you sacrifice control until your player has the ball in hand. While not ideal I found playing this way caused less frustration than running in the wrong direction in right field thinking that the game would give me control of my center fielder.
If the game was more consistent at putting you in control of the best option to make a play on the ball then I don’t think I would have had a problem. Pitching is a little trickier. You can choose how hard to throw, and you can steer the ball somewhat, but working the corners of the plate is more difficult than some other baseball games I’ve played only because you have no indicator of where the ball is going to cross the plate. The rest is simply baseball. You can check your swing, you can bunt, you can steal bases. You can call for a pinch hitter, and go to the bullpen when your starting pitcher has had enough.
For $29.99 the graphics are right on par with what I’d expect in that price range. The Stadiums look clean and do a good job of representing their real life counterparts. Player models are kind of blah but not terrible. No facial animations kinda hampers the games personality. Crowd models are super bland and very cookie cutter. I think I’ve only noticed maybe two distinct characters in the crowd that are just repeated over and over. I think the crowd models might actually BE from the 1990’s. Animations are super basic and some strange physics have left me scratching my head. On the upside, the game does offer both online and local 2 player multiplayer, as well as a home run derby mode, which is a great place for batting practice. Unfortunately, however, the game does suffer from some glitches that cause periodical freezing.
You never see the ball actually go into the glove. On more than one occasion the player seemed to have no chance at making the catch only to cover an insane amount of ground at the last second. Sound design is also middle of the road for me. Generic crowd noise, generic organ music. Even hitting a home run you never get that satisfying THWACK of the ball coming off the bat. You do get a bit of a nostalgic Bwoooooooop sound effect when you hit a fly ball however. No play by play commentary. Baseball is a game of personalities and sadly the poor audio presentation detracts rather than enhances the gameplay.
The casual baseball fan will assuredly have fun here, while those that are more passionate and hardcore, as many baseball fans are, will be left wanting. As far as baseball games on Xbox go, you can’t make a wrong choice. It’s really the only option you have. This is a laid-back game that offers a good time, but is hindered by poor audio and questionable presentation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.