R.B.I. Baseball 16 is back with its third iteration for Microsoft’s baseball starved console. I definitely consider myself a MLB fan, not a hardcore fanatic but I enjoy an evening game before bed after NBA season ends. Having never played R.B.I. baseball 14 or 15 I didn’t know what to expect with 2016. I heard that the 2015 version improved on some things from the original game, which disappointed fans and critics. For this 2016 outing I was hoping to have some arcade baseball fun with my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately, it did not take long for me to realize there was no even-year magic for this series.
R.B.I. Baseball 16 does have some good things going for it. With the demise of the MLB 2K series, R.B.I. Baseball is the only current fully licensed MLB game available on Xbox One. Upon starting the game you have four main options: Exhibition, Season, Postseason and Online. Exhibition is basically a quick team versus team match against the CPU or a local co-op partner. All 30 MLB teams are available to play along with the National and American League all-stars. You can adjust the game settings such as: time of day, roster size, game length, mercy rule and controls. The rosters are updated along with the current MLB season and you can also customize your team lineups and positions.
My first exhibition game I did what most people do when trying out a new sports game; I picked my favorite team and I played against a bad team so I wouldn’t get walloped immediately. It only took two innings for me, as 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, to lose via mercy rule to the Oakland A’s, a team that finished dead last in the American League. My second try I tweaked the settings a bit, I greatly prefer using modern fielding controls. This scheme maps the bases to the face buttons on the controller, instead of with the directional pad in the classic control setting. This control change made throwing the ball to the selected base simple. Now catching a ball is another story, when a ball is hit, a reticule will form on the field where the ball will land. This reticule will grow smaller as the ball starts to drop. My outfielders always seemed a step too slow when trying to catch pop flies, I never truly felt in control of the outfield even during routine plays. There is an option to turn on assisted fielding, but that basically means the computer controls the fielding completely. This second game didn’t end as badly as the first, I was even able to hit a couple home runs. I think a lot of it had to do with me choosing an All-Star team, hits and runs were more plentiful for obvious reasons. The game’s difficulty is defaulted to normal, but I found it to be pretty difficult. After switching the difficulty to easy, my games versus the CPU were more contested and more enjoyable.
Season, postseason and online modes are where players will get most of their replay value in the game. In season mode you can play as your favorite team in a 52, 81, or 162 game season. These games can be simulated if you don’t want to play one in particular. In postseason mode you cut to the chase and start off in a wild card playoff game until you hopefully win the World Series. Online mode is similar to exhibition where you can play against both friends and randoms.
A question that a lot of people will ask is whether this game is simulation style or arcade style; my response is that it’s not much of either. When I think of great arcade sports games I recall: NBA Jam, NFL Blitz or even the Mario Baseball series. To me arcade sports games should be over the top and exciting. Arcade baseball games in particular are the perfect place to have your pitcher hurling a flaming baseball or a home run exploding into fireworks above the bleachers. What we have with R.B.I. Baseball 16 is a game without the details of a simulation game or the flashiness of an arcade game. As the pitcher, there’s no HUD showing different pitches you can use like fastball, changeup, curve, etc. Instead you have 3 basic pitches with button combinations you need to remember: fastball, sinker, and a wobbly throw. You can control the trajectory of the pitches using the left thumbstick, but the pitch usually comes so fast that it’s hard to be very precise. I really hate the lack of pitching options and no-on screen HUD; forget about using specialty pitches like forkball, cutter, or knuckleball. Back when I was in elementary school playing Tecmo Super Baseball on the Sega Genesis, pitchers had unique pitches and there was a HUD showing us the correct button. There are also no batting options aside from swinging and bunting; this means no choice for a contact or power hit. This makes grand slam or walk-off situations less exciting because you can’t go all out for a home run.
Graphically the game has a very bland style, cartoony but not outlandish. The players don’t have huge muscles or big bats or anything like that. I rarely got a good look at the player’s faces so most of them look the same, only varying on skin color, hair color and facial hair. The game looks like it could have easily been made on last generation hardware and there is also no commentary while playing. The menus are easy to navigate and there are no periods of extended loading, which is a plus.
It’s hard to recommend R.B.I. Baseball 16 to anyone but the hardest of the hardcore MLB fan. If you only own an Xbox One and you need a baseball game, I think you will find some enjoyment here. I would suggest those people to check out Super Mega Baseball, which released late last year, for a true arcade baseball experience. I can personally see siblings or parent/child combinations having fun in exhibition mode as their favorite teams. If you are considering this game to play against the CPU you might be very disappointed. Lack of features and difficult AI make a 162 game season seem like torture to complete. I’m crossing my fingers that one day Xbox fans will get the true baseball sim they deserve!
+ Fully licensed with all MLB teams and two all-star teams
+ Full season mode and online play
– Tough CPU opponents, even on easy difficulty
– Lack of unique pitches, no pitching HUD
– Only two types of swings, normal and bunt
– The game is both a poor simulation and arcade game