Updated: Mar 21, 2020
Base on Balls
Yeesh. I don't know how to start this review. Usually I kick off a baseball game review by mentioning something about being excited for the start of the baseball season - but I can't do that. It's a sad, sad time when we can't even look forward to peanuts and Cracker Jack. So what else can we do - go outside? Nah - let's play baseball video games! Unfortunately, our choices are rather limited. We can either play MLB The Show on the PlayStation 4, or this game - RBI Baseball '20. And depending on the type of gamer you are, this one may actually be the better choice!
Let's get something straight right off the bat (get it? I'm so clever). RBI Baseball is not an amazing game. But as a baseball game, it works. It may not work well at time, but it's passable. I grew up on games like Bases Loaded and the original RBI, so I may be a little jaded. I personally don't need all the bells and whistles in my baseball games, nor do I need the game to look like a televised game with constant commentary by former players who just drone on. I just want to pitch, hit, and run.
And that's where RBI Baseball '20 works, for the most part. It's a bare bones baseball game. You don't get tons of gameplay modes – just exhibition, franchise, playoffs, and home run derby. Again, it's basic but it works. In franchise mode, you take control of a team for a set number of years, make trades, and either play or simulate seasons as you try to win the pennant. Exhibition is just a basic one-to-two player game, and home run derby is pretty much what you would think it is.
Gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag. Every year, RBI '20 makes nominal improvements to their UI, batting and fielding. They get a bit better, but never fully reach greatness. The same applies in this year's game. Luckily, there's a ton of options for both batting and fielding. You can choose whether the AI assists with fielding, or if you want to do the whole thing yourself. You also can choose between two different styles of batting (although I preferred classic style). You can also have the option of aiming where you want to swing and at one angle. It's great to see the different options; RBI Baseball '20 is accessible to gamers of all skill levels.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is not without its bugs. In one instance, the batter just disappeared and the pitcher stood still. We couldn't pause the game, change any settings or anything else. We had to close the game and restart it. In another instance, the AI hit a grounder which my second baseman fielded – then just froze. I could have thrown out the batter with no problem, but due to this bug I was not able to complete the play. Finally, during a pop-fly the pitcher disappeared during another pop fly and I couldn't get an easy out. Now, these bugs were not necessarily commonplace, but were very frustrating nonetheless.
Presentation has its ups and downs. Like I said, there's nothing that makes this look like a televised game. I'm cool with that, because it's all about the fun of playing baseball. The downside is that animation is pretty static. The game looks like a late-era PS2 game, the edges are jaggy and there's clipping aplenty. The home run animation is pretty much the same every time, and the crowd is very blurry. It ain't pretty, but again, it's all about the gameplay. There is some attention to detail, though. On your first game in franchise mode, the team's field will have “Opening Day” art painted on it.
The sound, though,is awesome. RBI '20 has an amazing soundtrack. Different popular songs are played in between innings and when hitting home runs. An announcer will enthusiastically yell “Double Play” or “Grand Slam!” at the right moments. The audience ambient sounds just fine. But most importantly, there are little throwbacks to the original RBI Baseball game. The organist will play sound clips that are straight out of the original title. It's a small touch, but it's also much appreciated.
Multiplayer is fun, and it works. I played a few games against my son and we had a good time doing so. I must note that I played the Switch version, which unfortunately does not have online play. So if you're looking to play against any of your friends, you'll have to be in the same room.
RBI Baseball '20 isn't going to win any awards. It's a by-the-numbers baseball game that works well a majority of the time. If you're looking for an all-in-one package, look elsewhere. But if you just want to jump in and play a quick game of baseball, then RBI Baseball '20 is worth taking a swing at.
The Tip and the Top:
It works as a baseball game
Perfect for beginners