NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A baseball game with simple, arcade-like controls.
Reviewed on: Intel i7 x980 3.33 GHz, 9 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
Play it on: Intel Core Duo, 4 GB RAM, GeForce 9500GT
Price: $20 / £15
Release Date: Out Now
Publisher/Developer: Major League Baseball
Link: Official site
Current sports games have a lot fancy features, many of which I simply don't need. Oh, you've recorded dozens of hours of announcer voiceovers? I'll turn them off almost immediately. You've meticulously mo-capped every player's unique movements when they step out of the box to futz with their batting gloves? I'm going to hammer whatever button skips it. I just want to play the game.
While I don't need all those bells and whistles, it's still nice to have, perhaps, one or two whistles? Maybe at least a single bell? R.B.I. Baseball 2015 is stripped down to what is essentially an arcade game, which is great if you want to dispense with the flash and just play ball. It's so basic, though, it completely lacks personality, and isn't much fun.
Controls are straightforward to the point of being a little disappointing. You can choose from a 'normal' pitch (whatever that is), a fast pitch, or the most erratic knuckleball you've ever seen. You can steer the pitch left or right mid-flight to approximate curves and screwgies, but there's no pitch selection menu to pick a circle change or split-finger fastball or anything like that. While batting you can swing high or low, which will result in a grounder or fly ball if you connect, or hunch over for an aimless bunt. It's a bit awkward on a keyboard (you can't use the mouse at all, even on the main menu), and you can't change the mapping, so it's best played with a controller.
As far as fielding and baserunning, there's no option to dive for a catch or to slide for a base, though the AI will sometimes do it. Sometimes. I've had fielders chasing down fly balls only to watch them drop at their feet because they didn't dive when they should have.
I appreciate the arcade-like simplicity, and the ability to speed through games without much (or any) ado. There's no time wasted with silly business like the catcher throwing the ball back to the pitcher (he simply doesn't), and after a strikeout the batter vanishes and is replaced by the next as if by arcane magic. Despite the fact you can race through an inning in a few minutes and an entire game in a half-hour, games still seem to drag because, frankly, R.B.I. Baseball 2015 just isn't much fun.
The game has zero personality. Player models are identical, with only differences in skin tone and the developer having selected 0 or 1 in the Beard Value column of some hidden database. You can adjust your lineup and move players around on your own team, but can't trade with other teams, though at least you can download up-to-date rosters to reflect the current season. If you're taking a team through a season, there's no option to simulate a particular game even though the rest of the league presumably has their own games simulated. You can't create your own player, either, and shepherd them through the big leagues, though I'm not sure what the point would be anyway if they looked exactly like everyone else.
What little animation there is isn't great. When players throw the ball it appears to hang in front of them for a moment before rocketing away, and while catching it sometimes appears behind them before snapping back into their glove. The most emotion I've seen a batter express is by putting his hands on his hips after a called strike, and even delivering a fastball into someone's ribs isn't fun to watch since they instantly teleport to their base and are replaced with a fresh doppelganger.
What's more, every single game I've played has been tarnished by one bug or another. An out being called despite an infielder never making a tag or stepping on a base. A batter stopping short of first base during a double play and allowing himself to be put out by a late throw. A fielder grabbing a ball in the outfield, then running face-first into the wall and sticking there, legs pumping in place, while the runners round the bases and score. I'm hit by AI pitches so regularly, sometimes several in the same inning, it's not a bad strategy to simply crowd the plate and get plunked until the runs start scoring.
I've tried on several occasions to find multiplayer opponents, but no one has ever picked up on the other end, so I can't judge how well the game plays online. As for single-player, I was left with the feeling it should have been called R.B.I. Baseball 2017 and put into Early Access for a couple years.