R.B.I. Baseball 16 is a game of pure baseball simulation, opposed to MLB: The Show's more gleaming, polished take on the sport. While its Sony-backed competitor is innovating, R.B.I. is content with treading water and refining its gameplay – which is by no means a bad thing, considering how easy it is to pick up and play this year's entry in the franchise that started way back in the 80s.
Upon entering the game, you'll find that it's a very bare content-wise for a sports game. All in all, there are four modes in R.B.I. 16: Exhibition mode is the usual pick-up-and-play fare, while the Season and Post-Season modes let you take the helm of a team over the course of a year – with the ability to simulate games instead of playing them added in this year. Of course, there's also an online multiplayer for you to select – but that's about it. This lack of new modes is understandable considering the low price and the fact that this is only the third edition of the franchise's reboot, but it doesn't make the game's mode shortage any better.
Although the simplicity of its modes is a shortcoming, the simplicity is of its gameplay is certainly a strength. Batting, fielding, pitching, and base-running are all very easy to do, and all feel realistic and satisfying. A full nine-innings game can be played in under 20 minutes, and – despite the tutorial only extending as far as a few in-game tooltips – you should be able to pick up the controls in your first match, thanks to most of the gameplay being based on two buttons; a big selling point for casual players.
Batting now feels more realistic thanks to a new engine, and fielding is far improved with the addition of dives, wall catches, and fake throws – though often times you can't control when your players dive, with the AI handling that aspect. In fact, most of the game's new features solely focus on AI and real-life statistics factoring into the game, so barely any of the improvements are noticeable, and R.B.I. 16 still feels like "just another roster update" – the stereotypical chain that all sports games try to shrug off.
Then again, what a roster update this game is. The ability to edit line-ups before the game and make substitutions has been added in – as well as being able to switch between 40-man and classic 16-man rosters – and thanks to its official license from the MLB and MLBPA, all of the game's players, scenarios, and AI decisions are affected by a huge statistical database, meaning that the gameplay often feels like the real thing. Pitchers who, in real life, have a strength in varying speeds will change up their pitching speeds more often, and batters who specialise in hitting narrow or wide shots will often play to their strengths.
But that's really all there is to say about R.B.I. 16. Sure, it's a fun baseball game, one that's easy to pick up, and one that's better for casual fans rather than hardcore baseball nuts, but its shortcomings do make it feel a little disappointing at times.
While its competitor MLB: The Show swings for the fences, R.B.I. Baseball 16 is happy to bunt this year round – and that's okay. The controls are easy to pick up, the games are short and sweet, and the simplicity of it all is what makes this year's edition appealing to casuals. Still, its lack of innovation and modes mean that the title gets to second base – but not much further.