The com­plete op­po­site of pitch per­fect

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Ben Wil­son

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.

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