R.B.I. Baseball 14 review: easy out

Nostalgia is a powerful tool. MLBAM is bringing back the NES classic R.B.I. Baseball, replicating the "good ol'" two-button gameplay of old with a presentation that tries to compete with today's more sophisticated sims. Does it pay off? Playing homage to its simplistic origins, R.B.I. Baseball 14 is not an in-depth sim along the lines of the recently released MLB 14: The Show. Instead, it's an arcade game with just three basic modes to choose from: Exhibition, Season and Post-Season. There's multiplayer as well, but you're limited to playing with a pal in the living room, as the game's only online support is leaderboards. When it comes to capturing the spirit of the classic Tengen NES release, R.B.I. Baseball 14 does fairly well. The batting merely consists of hitting the ball at just the right angle when it comes in, or bunting if you feel like making a sacrificial out. With pitching, you can glide the ball past the base with top speed, or go for a "sloop" pitch that comes drooping across the plate, hoping the batters will sucker into swinging at it. As far as outfielding and stealing bases goes, the controls work just as simply. You'll make a play for a fly ball by watching a ground indicator to see where it is--and how high up it is--before going for the sliding catch. With bases, you'll simply see an opening and go for it with the press of a button and directional stick.

The game looks good for a reboot

The gameplay may be simple, but there are times that R.B.I. Baseball 14's AI cheats to its advantage. For instance, the batters have no problem reading your pitches--even the "sloops"--and still nailing a single, leading to loaded bases. Meanwhile, when you try to make a play, it's as if the outfielders are psychic, making miracle catches even if you swear the ball is outside their reach. The game fares better in multiplayer, since you're both human players. While the lack of online multiplayer may be a bummer to some, it's at least enjoyable when it comes to a couch session. The modes are cut and dry. Exhibition has you playing a single 9-inning game (or less, if you prefer); Season can cover you up to an entire season of baseball, though it will take some time to get through, and with no opportunities to adjust your team; and Post-Season takes you right into the race for the Pennant. This is probably the best mode of the bunch, as you can go straight into pursuing the true reward of the game.

Get used to this working against you if you're playing the AI

How you enjoy R.B.I. Baseball 14 depends on your love for the original game. This remake does play just like it, and its modes are good fun as long as you bring a fellow player along for the ride. However, modern gamers expect more from their games, even if its an homage to a classic. With no online support and no adjustable difficulty options, R.B.I. could have benefited from more of an update. [6]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, purchased by the reviewer. R.B.I. Baseball 14 is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iOS, and will release this May for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.