Also On: PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android
With no competition for Sony’s MLB The Show franchise this year, baseball game fans were excited when it was announced that the R.B.I. Baseball series was coming back to consoles. Not only would it give Xbox owners a chance to play MLB baseball with the departure of 2K Sports from the mix, but everyone knows that a monopoly of any kind will allow developers to become complacent, so any competition is welcome, even if it’s not simulation based. Unfortunately now that it’s available on all platforms and reality has set in, it is plain to see that what was in the past is best left in the past. If they were not able to reinvent or even capture the greatness of what R.B.I. Baseball once was, why bother?
I will start off with the positives.. or positive if I am to be blunt — R.B.I. 14 does play a decent game of baseball. While it’s true that the game leans more towards the arcade side of gaming, that doesn’t mean that HRs and hits are so over exaggerated that the box scores don’t make sense. Just the opposite is in effect I must admit, but where the game fails to be sim related is in the execution of strategy (or lack thereof) and a roster of only 16 players. The limited roster comes into play as there is a fatigue system in place so you can’t technically send your starter out for 9 innings. You have a total of 11 field players and 5 pitchers to choose from and don’t expect nothing but opening day rosters here either. While I applaud the nod back to old school gaming, the lack of choice of how to field is a bit distracting. For over 20 years gamers have learned that the button patterns on the controller have represented the baseball diamond in which base the ball is thrown to, so while it plays like the 8-bit version by using the direction pad for the base you are throwing to, the lack of option to use a different scheme otherwise was disheartening to say the least.
It is the lack of roster updates, or even any updates for that matter, that really hamper the longevity of R.B.I. Baseball 14. For the hefty $20 price tag on consoles, gamers expect and deserve a bit more depth than what is delivered. In fact it is this very lack of depth that kills this game from being anything more than an afterthought. The game offers only 4 modes of play: single game, season, post season and multiplayer. Single player and post season modes really are self explanatory, so let’s move onto the other two modes. Multiplayer is for local play only, no online of any kind, which is puzzling as there is a leaderboard in play, but it only tracks your performance against the CPU. The other bummer is season mode, while at first I was excited to see a whole 162 game season included, it does little good to play them if you can’t accumulate stats. That’s correct, you play every game with your player’s end of the 2013 season stats for ERA, Avg, HR, etc. So basically you are playing 162 exhibition games with no ups, downs, progression or the tracking of anything except wins and losses. Even stranger is that the aforementioned leaderboard keeps track of your wins, losses, ERA, HRs, Ks , so why in the heck is this omitted from season mode?
Visually I like the throw back look of the game, even though player likenesses and stadium recreations are tossed out the window. The game’s simplistic charm and the ability to get a whole game in within 20-30 minutes is a plus as well. While I would have liked to see more “flash” than the HR cut scene, it is apparent that the developers were trying to go back 20 years with the idea of the old school look of the game, and for the most part…it works.
Again, if the game were released for under $10 or for the same price as their phone app with the same features, some of these glaring omissions might not be as great of an issue. I just have a hard time pushing a $20 game that puts in such little effort to appease fans or even fully utilize the basics that have been in baseball games since the 8-bit era. It is for those reasons why I can’t recommend R.B.I. Baseball 14 unless you indeed buy the phone app or the console version for around the same price; otherwise you will easily grow tired after just a few short games with little reason to play other than unlocking uniforms and completing a few challenges. Is that little bit of satisfaction worth $20 to you, even if you just own an Xbox console? That’s something you can only answer, but for this reviewer, I feel cheated greater than the Reds vs. the 1919 White Sox.