I know very little of baseball, aside from the basic rules, some of the teams, a thing called the World Series and it being referred to as ‘America’s Pastime’. From there though the extent of my knowledge ends. Heck, I’d even been to see a baseball game – the Clearwater Threshers – so imagine my surprise when they weren’t in R.B.I. Baseball 20. Turns out there is a minor baseball league just underneath the MLB. Who knew?!
I also had to do a quick Google search to discover what R.B.I. stands for – ‘runs batted in’ if anyone is curious.
What really stumped me with R.B.I. Baseball 20 though was that a season consists of 162 games! Loading up a 10-year Franchise would mean 1,620 games in total, more if you manage to guide a team to the Postseason. It could be said that I had my work cut out, but my first decision would be to decide which team to choose since as the Threshers wouldn’t be making an appearance…
R.B.I. Baseball 20 is the latest annual baseball game from the series and continues to offer a more arcade focused style of gameplay in comparison to its biggest competitor, MLB: The Show. With MLB: The Show going multiplatform in the very near future – having been solely PlayStation for the past 20 years – the pressure is on R.B.I. to ‘come out swinging’.
First and foremost, gameplay has received a massive overhaul, and it is definitely for the better. In essence, it has been simplified to really give it that arcade, pick up and play feel. For pitching, a submenu appears detailing the type of pitch, along with the pitcher’s ability and confidence. This can change dynamically through the course of a game; consistently get hit off a certain pitch and the confidence will drop, and the pitch then becomes harder to complete. Holding down the A button for longer will also increase the speed of the pitch, but this again makes it harder to complete.
The revamped pitching also has a new perspective, making it more in line with television broadcasts to give a better view of both pitcher and batter.
Speaking of the batting, and this too has undergone a massive change. Again using the A button you can hold for more power, and it is here that stealing bases can be managed through using the LT button.
Fielding has been vastly improved as well. It never occurred to me that the ABXY buttons are mapped almost like a baseball diamond already, and in this update they do now represent the bases to throw to.
Initially, the speed of the pitches caught me off guard, and I was regularly being struck out. Once you get used to that though, the controls make R.B.I. Baseball 20 simple to play, and are a great complement to the arcade approach. Everything about the new controller scheme has been designed for ease of use, and it works extremely well.
Franchise mode is where you will spend the bulk of your time, and again it doesn’t overcomplicate things. There are a variety of options available to tailor your game to how you want and are designed to get you swinging for the fences as quickly as possible. Trading and player rotation are all present in Franchise mode, but the game doesn’t steer you towards them. Any injuries that occur flash up on screen and you are taken straight to the roster to update it and then it is back to the action. It’s very streamlined and perfect for more casual players.
Away from the Franchise mode, and it has to be said that there isn’t much else in the way of content. Exhibition match is simply a single game of baseball, and online multiplayer is once again here. The only other mode is Home Run Derby; based on the real-life event that occurs each year. This is an 8-man bracket for who can hit the most home runs in a four minute time period. Pitching is slowed down to make it a little easier to hit the ball, and it is a lot of fun. It is also worth noting that this is the only mode that features any form of commentary; something that Exhibition mode and Franchise mode are missing.
Home Run Derby also has licensed music playing on a loop in the background – this can also be found in the menus – and it is worth noting that it is a very good selection of upbeat music and feels like the soundtracks of sports games of old, where the standard of songs was much higher.
You can also create a Postseason bracket if all you are interested in is the intensity of knockout baseball.
Other presentational parts seem to be lacking in other areas too. Work has been done on character models and for the most part they are acceptable, but it is in their movement that things are pretty poor. Everything just feels… janky. Pitching movements are fine but almost every other action is disappointing, in particular catching. As a batter you never know if a ball is safe or not; a catcher could be a fair distance away from the ball and it still ends up in their hands. You could say that it’s part of the arcade gameplay, but I say it’s poor movement design.
R.B.I. Baseball 20 has 20 achievements in total. Many of these are for performing certain feats during a game such as scoring seven runs in one inning, advancing a runner on a bunt and three outs fielded by one fielder. As you can imagine, these may take a bit of time. Others are for winning rival matches but perhaps the longest in terms of time to unlock will be R.B.I. Aggregator which is a 100G achievement for accumulating 1,000 total R.B.I.s. Overall though, this is a decent mix of easy and hard achievements.
I can’t say that R.B.I. Baseball 20 on the Xbox One has necessarily won me over to become a fan of baseball. The game itself is a marked improvement from previous entries – the focus on simplifying controls has worked a treat. However, the sport itself isn’t for me, but this isn’t a negative to mark the game down for. With a few extras and a bit more attention to player movements and graphics this could be a home run. But then again this is a licenced sports game at half the price of a regular game, coming in at £24.99, which at least makes it a two-base hit.