Review: R.B.I. Baseball 14
I definitely don’t mind reviewing all these retro remakes of classic NES and arcade games when they are good. R.B.I. Baseball 14 does have the official MLB player names, and unlike the original 80’s version, also has official MLB team names. However, it’s not at all to be considered a competitor to Sony’s own MLB 14 The Show franchise. Instead, think of it as an alternative offering a quick arcade version of America’s favorite pastime.
R.B.I. Baseball 14 is wholeheartedly based on the original game released back for NES back in 1988, just with updated visuals for the PS4 version I review here, and also for PS3 (no Vita!). People who might have lived long enough to have played the original may get all nostalgic while booting up the game where the classic intro jingle can be heard. And that’s where their nostalgia will end, as the rest of the game has all been redone with a modern look and feel.
I had fun playing this game early on as I realized its strongest points were the fact that the most complicated part of the game was choosing which pitcher out of four I would start with. The last time I paid any attention to ball player’s names and stats was back in the early 90’s when the SF Giants had players like Will Clark, Brett Butler, Matt Williams, and my base running idle Jose Uribe.
Let’s talk about the UI and HUD for a second. While picking a team there aren’t any team stats shown. It’s still unclear to me if one team is more capable in one area or another. Without picking a team and taking note of the pitching staff, they all seem to be on the same level. Batters also don’t have any stats. Of course, once I started to get my rookie pinstripes handed to me by the AI, none of that mattered.
I was actually surprised to find a Season mode in addition to the expected Exhibition mode. It didn’t take more than two games in to realize that I was not going to come out on top in my first season playthrough. Pitching against the AI becomes difficult as soon as my pitcher shows signs of wear, which is to say when his fastball is no longer 90+ MPH. The AI seems to know which buttons I’m pressing before, during and after the windup, as I’m watching the batter moving about the batter’s box in realtime.
PRO TIP: When base running, don’t get into a pickle! And if you do, returning or advancing safely is as easy as precisely timing the button press as the opposition begins to throw the ball.
Controls are simple, yet ironically remain a challenge even after playing for some time. As the pitcher, different pitches are mapped to the four directions of the d-pad. Pressing X will pitch the ball, but then, like a Master of The Force, leaning on the d-pad left or right will steer the pitch inside or out. The batter can slide around freely inside the batter’s box and needs only to press one button to swing, or can choose to waste an at-bat by bunting. Against the CPU, this never strategically pays off.
My biggest hurdle in R.B.I. Baseball 14 comes whenever the computer assigns the wrong infielder when a hard grounder is hit down the line. I assume I’m going to be controlling the shortstop when the ball is hit in the pocket between the third baseman and shortstop, but in fact the computer would have me controlling the third baseman who is now running toward the third base line. Not cool. This also happens between the first and second baseman. Once I realize who I’m controlling and try to switch to the next closest player to the ball, it has already left the infield.
Therein lies an unnecessary learning curve whether your a seasoned baseball player or new to the game. Base running is only a challenge when getting familiar with the simple two button controls and understanding when to run and when not to run. Fortunately, fielding a fly ball is rather easy when the camera isn’t trailing far behind a line drive and you can’t see where your center fielder is. Snapping into the options menu shows nothing more than Assisted Fielding, which definitely comes in handy.
Without a doubt, this game was designed to be played with a friend. On one hand, it’s a sad truth that there is no online multiplayer. I mean, with all the lag-free online fighting games, this shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, there has been a resurgence of couch multiplayer games on PSN and I think that’s fine. This is definitely one of the better games to play with your friends and something non-gamers could pick up and play.
PRO TIP: When fielding a one hopper to mid-right field, throw the ball to first base. The AI will often continue toward second during the throw. Immediately throw to second base for a quick tag out.
There are some extras or incentives to playing through the season mode several times. Every team has a Home, Alternate and Retro jersey. Although, the Retro jerseys are locked until a specified challenge is met. They aren’t exactly a cake walk. Hitting a certain number of home runs with the same player across consecutive games, scoring runs in extra innings, and even stealing bases are just a few of the challenges standing in the way of unlocking your favorite team’s Retro jersey.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to recommend R.B.I. Baseball 14 at the full asking price of $19.99. You may want to hold out for a sale to knock that puppy down to a more reasonable price. Gameplay and content is overwhelmingly shallow which forces R.B.I. Baseball 14 toward a very small group of gamers. Those looking for more bang for their buck should just put their money toward MLB 14 The Show on PS4, a real baseball game with all the bells and whistles including online multiplayer.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Mostly a fun arcade baseball experience.
- Pick up and play Exhibition and Season modes don't require much knowledge of current players or teams.
- Considerably better graphics to the original NES version.
- All 30 MLB teams with 480 players included.
- Home and Away jerseys, plus challenge-locked Alternate jerseys.
- Although shallow, it's a fun alternative to all the killing games on PS4 these days.
What I Dislike:
- The fielding camera doesn't help when trying to determine where the ball is headed both infield and out.
- AI batters know too much about where your pitches are going.
- Home runs are uncommon and there's only one disappointingly rendered animation when one is hit.
- Runs are mostly lost with poor base running, and the AI seems to always have the upper hand.
- I wish there was an option to play with the original 8-bit graphics. R-Type Dimensions has spoiled me.