Next Time, Cork the Bats
I’ve played baseball games all of my life. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball was a staple of my childhood, and I can’t tell you the number of fistfights my brother, and I have had over the game. So you know when I tell you that I don’t necessarily need to be won over with fancy graphics and a plethora of modes, that I’m telling the truth. But, RBI Baseball 20 is so wholly inadequate in nearly everything it does that I can safely call it the worst recreation of the sport I’ve ever seen. The boys at MLB Advanced Media need to put down the peanuts and crackerjacks, and seriously think about injecting RBI Baseball 21 with a healthy dose of anabolic steroids.
I know it’s not fair to compare a game like RBI Baseball 20 (RBI) to baseball simulation juggernaut MLB The Show. Still, I must say, playing the former makes me appreciate all the subtleties and nuances that the latter does so well. It’s hard to find the fun in RBI when around every corner you’re met with another glaring problem that can’t be overlooked. Animations are janky, stiff, and awkward, with hardly anything even remotely resembling human beings responding to the plays. Even more disturbing, it seems as if what’s happening on the screen and what’s happening behind the scenes are two different things. Meaning, nearly every time you hit a ground ball, for example, it will seem like the ball is going to roll past the infielder, but at the last second, it will teleport into his glove. As I said, this happens on nearly every play, and I couldn’t get through nine innings without wanting to delete the game.
Hitting is a complete joke because it lacks any sort of option to really control the batter. You hold X as the pitcher winds up and time the swing accordingly, but I found that you can just hold the button down for max power at any point, and release when you’re ready. What this does is strip away the fun of hitting because you’re no longer timing power with the release, but rather, only the release. Not that it matters much, because swinging and making contact feels light, inaccurate, floaty, and more than anything, frustrating. I can’t see the difference in a swing that sends a dribbler to the pitcher, and a swing that puts the ball in the parking lot, and it all feels so wrong.
High and Outside
The pitching system is the best part of the package, and they may have something to build off of here for future iterations. You select your pitch with the control stick and then hold a button down to choose power. Depending on how the pitcher has been performing, certain pitches may be more challenging to get across the plate, but you can settle him down with strong results. This feels like something directly out of MLB The Show, so sure enough, it’s the best part of the game. A lot of the pitchers have their real-life windups to boot, which certainly helps to add some sort of flavor to the game.
Real windups aside, the players themselves have the same amount of life in their faces as the mannequins at Sears do, and it’s difficult not to be taken aback by it. There’s no emotion here, no trash talking, hell, these guys aren’t even chewing gum. Their eyes are more glazed than donuts, their lips are glued shut, and I can’t help but find myself lacking in emotional investment when so much of what makes sports (and sports games) so fun, is seeing players react to a situation.
Outside of exhibition mode, you’ll have access to a home run derby, and a full 162-game franchise mode, that can span up to ten years if you choose it to do so. It’s hard to imagine playing ten games of RBI, so naturally, thinking of ten full seasons has me reaching for the Xanax. Within franchise mode, you’re able to make trades and sign free agents, but that’s about it as far as managerial duties. It lacks any sort of real personalization that makes these modes a blast to play, and then even if you win the World Series, you’re not going to see a single shred of emotion in the team photo anyways. Why bother?
RBI Baseball 20 is rough. I said it before, but I’ll repeat it – this is the worst baseball game I’ve ever played. Fielding and hitting both fail to capture any of the enjoyment you’d typically get from either video game baseball, or the real thing, and the animations and character models are shockingly bad for a game released in 2020. The pitching mechanics are decent, but that’s about all that’s on tap with RBI Baseball 20. The fireworks that go off during the home run derby are cool, so it’s got that, I guess?
***PS4 code provided by the publisher***
- Decent Pitching Mechanics
- Yellich looks good on the cover
- Janky Animations
- Hitting Feels Inaccurate
- Barebones in Terms of Options
- All-Around Terrible to Play