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RBI Baseball 21 Review – Struck out Looking

If there was ever a ringing endorsement for spending the extra money and getting MLB The Show 21, RBI Baseball 21 would be it. The latest installment in the RBI Baseball series from MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), RBI Baseball 21 looks to enter a more realistic environment for players while keeping an arcade feel. Though it does some things ok, it’s mostly wrapped in a package not worth touching.

RBI Baseball 21 Review

What to do

Before getting into the on-field action, let’s talk about what there is to do. RBI Baseball 21 includes Play Now, Home Run Derby, Postseason,    and Franchise Mode. There’s also a new Create-A-Player option that allows you to build the players you want, including yourself. It’s a pretty deep suite for a first-time offering, and you can take the players you create into Franchise Mode to use however you want.

Franchise is where you’ll spend all of your time as you spend up to 10 seasons building your team into a World Series contender. The mode gives you various settings you can change like in past installments, but there’s not much new there that you haven’t seen before.

Online play is non-existent on the Steam version of the game. There’s the workaround using Steam’s “Remote Play Together” feature, but it’s just not the same. 

Sliding on…grass

The gameplay is where RBI Baseball 21 really falls flat in so many ways. The game is a buggy mess with animation, AI, and just general issues galore. 

There are pitching bugs where a curve ball will be 150Mph and look like something out of backyard baseball. Then you’ll see your third basemen run all the way to center field in a situation that doesn’t call for it. You’ll also witness the AI, even on the higher difficulty settings, make a throw to absolutely no one.

I get that it’s an arcade game with some semblance of simulation, but this isn’t a case of a “simcade” game looking more on the arcade side. This is clearly a case of a game that didn’t take time to make sure animations flow in any normal capacity. 

While sometimes players will actually look like they are running like normal, other times will see them slide across the field. You’ll see a ball look like it’s going to go by a fielder only for it to warp and magically end up in a player’s glove. Throws will look as though they are coming out at terrible angles and missing the target only to still end being accurate. 

RBI Baseball 21 gameplay

The animation issues take you away from any sort of immersion in the game, and makes you feel like you are playing an alpha build of a PS2 game. 

Luckily there are a couple bright spots with gameplay. Hitting does feel better than in past installments with it being more responsive no matter the controls. And pitching is easy to grasp and is a pretty nice mix between that simple arcade style and simulation level of control. It’s just not enough to make the game very fun on the field once the ball is in play.

Better on mute

The best part of RBI Baseball 21 is how the game looks. Player models are impressive and the stadiums look great. The new progressive day/night cycle adds to the real life feel of the game, and it’s a really nice transition when you go from sunny afternoon skies to a setting sun at dusk. Everything from the shadows on the field to how things look in the stands offer a nice broadcast-like touch.

Unfortunately, once again, the drawbacks take away from any positivity this game offers.

Play-by-play makes its way to the series for the first time in the form of MLB Network’s Fran Charles. But let’s be real, it’s a feature that should’ve stayed in the dugout. While adding play-by-play was a desire for many fans, including myself, it doesn’t feel like it was a fully hashed out feature.

Charles is fine, but the splicing together of the audio is something straight out of the early PS2 and original Xbox days. Everything sounds like there’s too long of a gap between the lines, like when a player name is said and then the action happening on the field. 

Potential is there, but, like the animations, MLBAM just didn’t succeed in the execution of the element. 

RBI Baseball 21 review verdict

RBI Baseball 21 tries. It really does. But trying only gets you so far. The game needs to be fun. It is in short spurts, but there’s nothing really redeeming about what RBI Baseball 21 has to offer. Franchise Mode is the same as it has been and the animation and AI issues just cause more headaches than what they’re worth.

If you really want a portable MLB game for the Switch or you have a young child that won’t care about the problems much, then RBI Baseball 21 could be a game worth getting. But, even at a $30 price point, it’s tough to really recommend this game for anyone looking for anything more. 

RBI Baseball 21 Review
Overall
4/10

Summary

RBI Baseball 21 had a chance to be the best game in the series. But too many shortcomings take away from any improvement the game had over last year, keepin g it a skippable title for many.

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