RBI Baseball 2015 review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media
Developer: MLB Advanced Media
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

I hate to engage in console warrior-type behavior, but I feel compelled to make an exception for RBI Baseball 2015. It is so terrible, so abominably bad in every way imaginable, that I have to say that if you’re a baseball fan who only owns an Xbox One, you owe it to yourself to immediately go trade in your console and get a PS4, just so you can buy MLB 15: The Show with it and get a worthwhile baseball experience.

I don’t say that lightly. As I wrote just a few days ago, MLB 15 is a deeply flawed game, with such a horrific online experience I could see it making people question why baseball even exists. Yet, somehow, RBI Baseball manages to be even worse than that.

RBI 15_Gameplay 2

What’s so bad about it? Literally everything. Pick some aspect of the game at random, and you’ll find something to be appalled by. Take the players, for example. Even though the game was made by Major League Baseball with licensing from the MLB Players Association, no one looks like their real-life likenesses. They got the skin tones right, but apart from that, there’s no way to tell the players apart. There’s one body type for all, which means that teensy Jose Altuve looks like the statuesque Giancarlo Stanton or the husky David Ortiz– even when the reality looks like this or this. There’s nothing in
the way of distinctive stances or wind-ups; everyone bats the same and pitches the same, because, I guess, going to the trouble of making your league seem like it has distinctive on-field personalities would be ridiculous?

And that’s just when they’re all in standing still. When RBI Baseball 15 starts moving, that’s when things really go off the rails. Just before every pitch every player stands slightly hunched over, in the classic “ready” pose — just what you’d hope for. When the ball is put in play, however, they stay in that same position, rotating in place towards the direction of the ball rather than looking like they’re reacting. It looks completely unnatural — though, for maximum hilarity, just watch when a ball gets fouled off, and you’ll get to see every player on the field rotate in the same direction simultaneously.

RBI 15_Gameplay 3

That’s still preferable to watching them try to move from one spot to another, though. No one in this game runs like an identifiable human being. It would be slightly more accurate to say that they glide across the field…though gliding usually implies speed and grace, and those are qualities that absolutely no one in RBI Baseball 15 possesses. Everyone here moves at a glacial pace, which means every ball in play leads to an inept, slow-moving adventure. Fielders slowly jog/hover towards balls in play, baserunners show little to no hustle as they move from base to base, and when two or more players want to occupy the same place, rather than standing side by side, they just merge into one gangly being.

Somehow, though, absorbing each other is the least ridiculous thing players in this game do. That’s because, above all else, players in this game are mind-blowingly stupid. Every single play finds them all woefully out of position; outfielders will invariably begin every play on the warning track, leaving them unable to get to most fly balls, while all infielders have a strange affinity for standing almost directly on their bases at all times. Sometimes the latter can be explained by the presence of baserunners, but other times…I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I also have no idea what players are doing when they reach the ball. Sometimes they’ll throw it where you tell them to, but that’s hardly a sure thing. Occasionally they’ll hold on for several button presses, only throwing once the baserunner is safely on base. Other times they’ll whip it to a teammate standing in the general vicinity of the base — though not, it’s important to note, actually on the base or near the baserunner, because that would just make too much sense. Still other times, the player you’re controlling will just give up entirely and hurl the ball into the outfield, as his teammates just stand and watch the ball roll all the way to the wall. You can’t totally blame them for not throwing it to the right teammate in the right spot, though — I lost track of the number of times where a ball would reach the base before the baserunner, only for the fielder to just stand there and watch as the runner slide safely into the base. (Though considering how frequently I watched as baserunners went into bases standing up on close plays, that may not have been the worst strategy.)

RBI 15_Home Run

If the players all act with general indifference, perhaps it may be because they realize they had very little control over how the ball acted. Without a hint of hyperbole, I can honestly say that RBI Baseball features the wonkiest ball physics I’ve ever seen. Angry Birds features more natural physics than this game. There was absolutely no predicting where balls would go once they hit the bat. Sometimes sharply hit balls would bounce softly to a waiting infielder (provided they were waiting near a base, of course), while other times soft fly balls would end up floating for 400+ feet for a monster home run. The difficulty in predicting how a ball would react was compounded by the fact the game rarely showed the trajectory of foul balls; you could see it fly off the bat, frequently in fair territory, but the game would declare it foul and you’d instantly move on to the next pitch.

And speaking of pitchers…no one in this game has any sort of stamina. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a soft-tossing lefty like Mark Buerhle, a knuckleballer like RA Dickey, or an innings-eater like Felix Hernandez: you’ll inevitably need to bring in a reliever by the fourth or fifth inning, because your pitcher will be completely gassed, lobbing the ball in at around 60 miles per hour with no movement. As you can imagine, this is moderately annoying if you’re playing a single exhibition game, and absolutely disastrous if you’re trying to play a full season — relievers all have lousy stamina and only slightly better recovery times than the starters, so you’d better either have a very, very deep bullpen or be okay with being involved in lots and lots of slugfests. And don’t go thinking you can just call some extra relievers up from the minors or acquire some in a trade, because you’re stuck with the same roster all year long.

If the game has any saving graces, they’re in places that don’t really work in RBI Baseball 15’s favour. Unlike last season’s game, for example, this edition of the game comes with the ability to track stats over the season. While that would’ve been revolutionary way back when the original RBI Baseball hit consoles back in the mid-’80s, it’s obviously significantly less impressive today. Likewise, RBI Baseball’s online play isn’t as profoundly awful as that of MLB 15, but that’s only because it’s non-existent. Theoretically, it has that feature, but after trying and failing to find anyone else online multiple times across multiple days, I just gave up on it. (And sorry to beat a dead horse, but that’s how bad MLB 15 is when it comes to online play: it’s literally not better than nothing.)

RBI 15_Lineups

What I find most puzzling about RBI Baseball 2015 is that reviving the original RBI Baseball’s arcade gameplay shouldn’t be that hard. Just a few months ago, Super Mega Baseball proved that arcade gameplay definitely has a place in this post MLB: The Show world. If MLB Advanced Media are serious about keeping baseball alive on non-Sony consoles, they’d better be looking at that game and taking notes (or, failing that, at The Show itself), because as it stands, their efforts just aren’t cutting it.

Grade: D-