R.B.I. Baseball is not a new series per se. The brand's legacy dates back all the way to a line of bat and ball titles that launched on SEGA platforms – among others – through the 80s and 90s. The last one released in 1995, until last year, when R.B.I. Baseball 14 brought the series back – albeit in underwhelming fashion. Spoilers: R.B.I. Baseball 15 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, delivering a boring effort.
Right off the bat [Oh, you – Ed], the best thing about this game is it being fairly cheap – $19.99, in fact – while still boasting the official MLB rosters. Usually with a cheaper sports game of this kind, you tend to end up with make believe teams and players – like in Super Mega Baseball, which is a far better game by the way. R.B.I. Baseball 15 may have real names, but it ain't got much game.
The release definitely takes cues from its early 90s counterparts, even if it's not full-on retro. The animations, for starters, seem ancient; the way that you position the pitcher on the mound is awkward and clunky, for example. The visuals aren't terrible across the board – the grass on the fields is nice and some parts of the uniforms are well detailed, too – but there are areas where it all looks really low budget. The inanimate, cardboard cut-out crowds are a good example of this.
The controls, at least, are of this century, and offer a nice, simple, highly intuitive scheme that allows you to chug through a game like nothing. That's perhaps one of the beauties of this title's terrible animations – they aren't used a lot, so you can run through a match without having to contend with all of the presentational panache present in a property such as Sony's popular MLB The Show. The downside to all of this is that, sadly, it's just boring – and it makes getting through a full nine innings a bit of a chore.
The pitching and hitting, while easy to learn, just doesn't offer any excitement. While other baseball games are able to make the pop of the ball off the bat an exhilarating sensation, this title does none of that. The audio work is acceptable, sure – but it does nothing to elevate the experience. This is a great example of just how important sound can be when trying to create an exciting atmosphere in a sports game.
To make matters worse, there aren't a whole lot of modes either. During our time with the game, we dipped into Exhibition mode, started a Season – with the Yankees, of course – tried out Post-Season mode, and played a little online. Everything works as intended, but in a colour by numbers kind of way – it's all so safe and straightforward.
At the end of the day, we're not entirely sure why R.B.I. Baseball has been revived. A full-on, retro styled game would perhaps be a reasonable alternative to MLB The Show, but this game ventures way too closely to Sony's series without having the budget to compete – and it makes a poor connection as a consequence. Bench this one, and get your baseball fix elsewhere.