The number one complaint I’ve seen used against the RBI Baseball series is that it feels too much like an arcade game. That is very true. The controls are simple, there are only a few modes, and all in all it isn’t what people expect from a sports game nowadays. However, feeling like an arcade game isn’t RBI Baseball 16’s weak point. It’s actually what makes it a good game.
The thing that no one has ever seemed to realize about it is that it is trying to have that feel. It isn’t pretending to be a next-gen sports sim such as The Show. It’s trying to be a game that is easy to pick up and play while you have some spare time. There’s a reason that the series is also available on iOS devices.
Despite that, it still has enough to pass off as a “real” game. For starters, the visuals, while not jaw dropping, are pretty good, and a definite improvement over last year’s installment. It is also definitely an MLB game, not something made by a small team with limited resources, as it features all MLB players, ballparks, and jerseys. Also, just like in real baseball, you have to switch out your pitchers throughout the game due to them getting tired, and, if you want, your batters. If you get really into it, you can actually edit your entire lineup before the game starts.
Now, getting into the game itself. When you first start you are greeted with a menu that leads to your choice of four game modes: Exhibition, Season, Postseason, and Online. The names are pretty self-explanatory. In Exhibition you set up a game playing as one team against another team. This is also the mode where you would play couch co-op if you have someone to play with. In Season, you play an MLB season, however the number of games can be shortened if you choose. You can also sim games to progress faster. Postseason is where you skip the season and go right to the postseason. Finally, Online is where you play against another player. As I said, these are pretty self-explanatory.
Since the first three modes all function basically the same once you’re in game, I decided to put most of my solo time into Season mode. I opted to play the full 162 game season, knowing full well that I will probably never come close to actually playing every game in the season, with the Online mode readily available and Exhibition mode to play with friends and family.
After playing for only a few minutes, I figured out what my number one complaint about RBI Baseball is. This, despite the visual upgrades, was nearly identical to last year’s RBI Baseball 15. I had actually noticed this in the menus, but didn’t really think anything of it until I started playing. The controls, the way the players move, the menus, it all looks exactly the same. The only noticeable differences were minor, and seem like they could have been added in an update patch rather than an entire new game.
But putting that aside, I still continued to play through several games. It ran great. There were almost no glitches while playing solo, and I had a lot of fun. The AI, while definitely not completely realistic, was passable and gave an experience that was realistic enough. The arcade controls make the gameplay really simple, but in an “easy to learn, difficult to master type” of way. As a batter, there is one button to swing, one to bunt, and one to control the other baserunners to steal bases. It goes on like this for the rest of the positions, with one button to do each action, but being able to change some things up, particularly while pitching, with the thumbsticks.
After I played a few games I went to the Online mode. It’s the same gameplay, with the one major difference obviously being that you are playing against a real person instead of the computer. This makes the game a lot more fun, as you get more realistic reactions to actions such as trick pitches and stealing bases. I played a lot of games in this mode. When both you and your opponent have good internet connection you can have a great time. However, if one side has a bad connection it is almost unplayable. But when they are good, it runs pretty close to perfectly smooth There was only one glitch that really affected the gameplay, and unfortunately it was a major one. Sometimes, while playing as an outfielder going to catch the ball and throw it to a base, the indicator that showed you what bases players were on and running to was missing. Obviously, this completely alters what move you make, changing it from a game of skill to guessing. Fortunately, this didn’t happen often enough to really ruin my experience.
Despite popular opinion, RBI Baseball 16 is a great baseball game, as long as you’re willing to see it for what it really is, an arcade game and not a baseball sim. So, while it does succeed at being a good game, it also doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table. If you didn’t like RBI 15, there’s no way you’ll enjoy 16. But if you did enjoy 15, the only reason you should consider upgrading is for the obvious updated roster and the upgraded visuals.
Original Release Date: March 29, 2016
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PS4, PC
ESRB Rating: E – Everyone
*A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
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