Ever since 2K Sports got out of the baseball video game market in 2013 there has been a large opening that has left fans waiting for a developer to swoop in and capitalize on it. While PlayStation owners have been treated to the excellent MLB The Show series, Xbox owners only have one option if they want to play virtual ball. Sadly, that option is R.B.I. Baseball 15, which is only slightly better than having no option at all.
Unlike Sony’s MLB The Show, R.B.I. Baseball 15 does not try to be a simulation. Instead, the game tries to feature the arcade-style fun that brought the series to prominence during the NES’ lifespan. Sadly, the game does not recapture any of the magic, and instead feels like an imitation of itself. Most importantly, R.B.I. Baseball 15 fails at being fun, which is the most important quality in all of this.
Everything from the batting to the fielding just feels sloppy. Every aspect of America’s pastime feels a bit off. When a swing connects with the ball and sends it flying past the outfield and into the stands, it feels more like a fluke than an act of skill. The one upside to batting is that the act has been simplified compared to other current baseball games, as it only takes one button press to fire off a swing. It is refreshing to not have to use an analog stick or press a specific button depending on swing strength. While this does take away a lot of the depth found in rival games, it is a great way to make RBI Baseball 15 feel more like the baseball games of yesteryear. Which is exactly what the game is trying to capture.
Pitching is also simplified and probably the only aspect of the game that R.B.I. Baseball 15 nails the feel of. It is unrealistic, sure, but being able to slide the ball all over the plate is a staple of old school baseball games and one that is still fun to experience today. Players have a lot of control over where the ball can go (which in turn makes batting more difficult). Players will be racking up strikeouts in little to no time after they start the game up.
Where the game really struggles is in the fielding. Pop-up flies are incredibly difficult to guess where they will fall, and what should be easy outs end up being base hits. Throw in some clunky base-throwing, and you have a game that is a defensive mess. These issues would be more forgivable if R.B.I. Baseball 15’s competition didn’t completely nail these aspects of the game. Just because it is an arcade style game, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t play well. In fact, it should be more user friendly than the competition.
There are not a ton of modes to choose from as R.B.I. Baseball 15 isn’t the most content-filled package. Players can use any of the MLB teams (including All-Star squads) in exhibition, season, online and playoff modes. Exhibition mode is the quickest way to get into a game, allowing players to pick from their favorite teams and relive their most beloved rivalries. Season mode allows players to play either a full 162 game season or a truncated 81 or 52 game season. It is definitely a bit of a throwback, as it lacks the options that most season modes have in 2015. Instead, it only allows you to play baseball, which would be fine if RBI Baseball 15 was fun to play. It’s not.
Postseason mode is what the name suggests. It will let players skip playing through the excruciatingly long MLB season and go straight to where the action is – the playoffs. From there, players will be able to take their team to the top of their respective league’s bracket and win the MLB Championship. This is probably the best mode to play as each game has meaning and you won’t be stuck playing RBI Baseball 15 for 162 games.
Rounding out the package is the obligatory online mode. Players can either invite friends to a player match, or play random opponents in the ranked match. Playing a rank match will get you onto the scoreboards, which tracks your win/loss record. Sadly, I can’t report on if the online play works well since every attempt to play online ended with the game not finding an opponent. This is apparently not a matchmaking error, as the scoreboard indicates that only 41 people have tried to play online. Even with a solid netcode, online doesn’t add much if nobody is playing the game.
R.B.I. Baseball 15 is just a few features away from being a fully packaged game, and a few months of polish away from being fun to play. This could have been the MLB contender that fans want, but instead it is a cautionary tale of a sport game gone wrong. Sadly, Xbox 360 owners won’t be able to enjoy a baseball game this year, and PlayStation owners will want to stick with MLB The Show.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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