RBI BASEBALL 18
The complete opposite of pitch perfect
It’s easy to get swept up in nostalgia where sports games are concerned. Links 2004, ESPN NFL 2K5, MVP Baseball 05: these original-Xbox favourites remain revered precisely because they’ve never been remodelled or updated. Compare and contrast PES, FIFA and
Madden from the same period and history has not been kind. Which is why many fans argue that RBI Baseball, a vintage Nintendo effort from two decades before Xbox even existed, should’ve been left in the misty-eyed era of John Hughes and MC Hammer.
“You can’t touch this?” It’s a little late now for such sentiments. Five years too late, in fact. Since making a mediocrity-laced comeback with
RBI Baseball 14, the series has swung desperately for the fences every March, and repeatedly come up short by April. This year’s effort is no different. The notion of staying true to the series’ late-‘80s/early-‘90s roots has justified a raft of design decisions that are often curious, sometimes lazy, occasionally downright crazy.
RBI is a simple arcade baseballer that regularly fails to even get ‘simple’ right.
For a contemporary Xbox One game some of the animations are downright insulting. Case in point: the ball never appears to actually land in an outfielder’s glove when caught, and occasionally players mystically shift six feet closer to the ball in a single frame. Also grating is the way your batter moves around his box before a pitch; you action this using the D-pad or left stick, but his feet stay absolutely rigid as if floating two inches off the ground. That was acceptable in 1988. Look outside and you’ll see that it is not 1988 right now.
Field of screams
Similarly missing inspiration is the fielding model, which feels unintuitive and cumbersome. Lunging for catches and attempting to run out an opponent are among the most exciting facets of real-life baseball, yet here they’re reduced to going through the motions, in part because of those animation inconsistencies. Again, this isn’t just a case of being true to the retro subject material; numerous recent sports titles have injected old-school gameplay with fresh ideas, such as the three-on-three mode within NHL 18. Lack of budget does not excuse lack of innovation.
There are a few redeeming features. Pitch speed is judged perfectly; so reading velocity and direction out of an AI pitcher’s hand, then perfectly timing a home run or double along the lines, delivers plenty of satisfaction. And the one time fielding comes alive is when running down an opponent caught between, say, third base and home plate. It’s like a mini-game in itself as you have to decide when to chase on foot, and when to dispatch the ball to a closer team-mate. Sadly, as this happens less than once per match, it’s an all-too-rare break from the boredom.
That’s the most depressing part of all: RBI Baseball 18 is a boring, tedious experience. Options for a ten-year franchise, home run derby, and full post-season campaign all sound promising on paper, with live updates keeping rosters true-tolife – yet you’re unlikely to want to play this for nine innings, let alone nine months. Throw in agonising, unacceptable loading times and some wonky facial likenesses and it’s impossible to recommend this. RBI 18 is a throwback, sure enough: playing it makes you want to throw it back to whence it came. Avoid as you would a fastball to the skull.
“A simple arcade baseballer that regularly fails to get ‘simple’ right”
rightHome Run Derby is the game’s best mode, although it’s a shame you can only play it inside one stadium. BelowLive rosters are welcome in theory, but rendered obsolete by the fact that every player handles nearidentically.