The news of sports betting on the Xbox leaves a prominent place in baseball in 2021. If the RBI series was already present in previous years, all Xbox fans of the sport are eagerly awaiting its arrival this month and for the first time from MLB juggernaut The Show, edited by Sony and until then exclusively for the blue mark. While we wait for what will be the main course, it is iteration 21 of RBI Baseball, developed and published by Major League Baseball (MLB) personally, that serves us today as an aperitif.
Baseball for Dummies
For a majority of us in European culture, let’s not lie to ourselves, baseball is synonymous with a father with a strange glove in his left hand throwing a ball in the direction of his child armed with a Harley Quinn bat. Equally much, this image of Epinal speaks to each of us thanks to the movies and series, as the official rules of a baseball game fell to the bottom of the Atlantic before they reached us. The following sections will try to explain simply these rules as much as is necessary to value any baseball game to its true value. For those who do not want to bother with this, let’s try to summarize this sport in one sentence. Baseball is Batte-man who has three jokers to return Deadshot’s balls.
Let’s stop playing the service series and get serious for two minutes. Baseball is one of the 4 greatest sports in North America. Major League Baseball reigns supreme in the discipline with powerful franchises (teams) known all over the world. If we tell you the New York Yankees, does that mean anything to you? If the answer is no, you know at least the mythical NY that is regularly found on caps. A baseball game opposes two teams alternating between defense and attack in 9 rounds, which in reality can be endless games where the average American fan of the Philadelphia Phillies will have swallowed 3 cheesesteaks. It is the only team sport where the duel between the teams is asymmetrical. In fact, if the defending team, composed of nine players, perfectly squares the playing field, the offensive team offers only one batsman at a time to try to score points.
For that, the batsman has only “three” attempts to return the ball to the opposite pitcher and to cover the distance to a diamond via the three bases plus the home plate (starting base). If he manages to complete a complete round this way, his team will score a point. The ultimate grail in baseball is to succeed in sending the ball into the stadium and thus secure the point without any problems, this is the famous Homerun. On the other hand, the goal of the defending team is to eliminate three bats in order to return to attack. To disqualify an attacker, either the thrower succeeds in thwarting the bat on 3 valid throws, or when the ball is returned to the playing area by the latter, a defender manages to catch the ball without a bounce using the famous leather gloves or in the event of a rebound of ball, to return it to their partners present at the bases before the batsman reaches them to secure their position. The winning team at the end of a match will be the one with the most points after the 9 rounds. Simple, right? Rest assured, this is the first and last time the rules of baseball are explained on Xboxygen!
RBI, MLB baby
You will never be better served than by yourself. The saying may be too common these days, but it is still relevant in certain situations. This is the case with MLB. Considered video games as an important communication vector for their sport, the league itself has published the RBI series for many years to fill the lack of visibility of baseball compared to other American sports on this medium. If MLB The Show looks on the side of simulation, RBI has always sought to offer arcade and simplified baseball games. The goal is to have fun with the family and to discover this sport through the title to increase the community of fans of the real MLB championship. The fratricidal war waged by major sports to attract young people with the aim of making them future consumers is not a myth, but a cruel reality.
This MLB vision for the RBI series is the origin of its strengths, but also its weaknesses. Among the highlights, being the baby of MLB, ensures that all players, franchises and official stadiums are present in the title. The modeling of players and stadiums is correct, although the graphics are not fun due to textures that are poor in detail. RBI really does not flatter the retina. However, the art direction generally does the work for an arcade-style sports game, and the feeling of being in the middle of a real league game works.
Baseball, the sport made for video games
Above all, the great strength of the title is that baseball adapts particularly well to the video game format. We can even say that this sport has followed the history of the media since the beginning. The first title under the name RBI Baseball dates back to … 1986. We remember with nostalgia that these games in the 90’s were considered one of the most beautiful. It has always been easy to develop and animate a drummer and pitcher up close. The spirits of the times were already gigantic and beautiful. And to return the ball? Fastoche, one click of the button at the right time and it was won.
And how about programming a decent defensive game? The placement of the bases for drummers to navigate has been the same as the placement of the four main buttons (XYAB on the Xbox) on controllers for decades. Nothing could be easier for a defender to send the ball to his partners near the bases by pressing the button that corresponds to the real pattern of the diamond on the court. This game, which is described in these last lines, as simple, effective and very fun to play, is the one that players have always known in arcade baseball games, and it is also the one we partly find RBI Baseball 21.
While it is still relevant to press a single button in the offensive phase, other options are offered to enrich the offensive play: a meter before pressing or using the 4 action buttons for 4 different types of keystrokes: insured, normal, powerful or muted . Various options are also available to adjust the difficulty, the speed of the elements of the game, the types of throws, the control of the defense in the play area and the attacks of the attackers. We are really free to tailor the game to our preference in all phases of the game, and that’s a good thing. In addition, a tutorial is offered to test it for each change in game mechanics. Regardless of configuration, RBI Baseball 21 remains a simple and fun game to play.
And here is the drama …
Unfortunately, like its predecessors, Opus 21 suffers from sharp weaknesses that really blacken the gaming experience and longevity. During matches, we clearly feel the limits of a limited budget. There is a huge lack of entertainment, mainly for defenders. We no longer count after a successful flag reception of the ball where the latter suddenly disappears from the screen a few meters from the defender to reappear with magic immediately in the glove of the latter. Yes, we have finally exceeded the speed of light. Animation of joy after a successful hit or even a homerun is of poor quality. The performance is generally generic and tasteless. If you ever like cutscenes forget them, there are just none. Thus, the staging around the matches, which is the strength and charm of great sports simulations to promote immersion, is conspicuous by its absence. On the other hand, the sound environment fits in well with our game sessions, and some titles on the US charts fill downtime.
The biggest weakness of RBI Baseball 21 is mainly the lack of content. It will be very difficult to hold on to the title of the next edition. For the solo player, the franchise mode allows to be bored for ten seasons in a row with his favorite team, but the game proposal is limited to a minimum and stays very far from the standards imposed by the references to the sports simulations of EA or 2K. It’s simple, we simply bore the games played or simulated according to the set schedule, we follow the statistics of the players and the rankings, and we participate in the playoffs in case of a good regular season, hoping to reach the World Series. The mode does not allow the management of franchise finances or training. Transfers are simple exchanges of players between teams where you can force AI in the options to accept everything even if it is unbalanced. Unfortunately, the seasons follow each other, and only a single randomly generated player will be able to join the team each season to get new blood. In addition to the franchise mode, the solo player can also indulge in elimination mode to find themselves directly in the play-off phase, train through the classic single battle or meet AI in batters duel mode, which quickly becomes boring and tasteless in this setup. And so it is, apart from the inevitable struggle.
Spend some time with family or friends in local multiplayer games. The Batsman duel suddenly becomes much more fun since a maximum of 8 players can play as a batsman in a mini-knockout tournament. In a confrontation between two players, each has 4 minutes to hit the most ball. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the one with the longest stroke. Finally, nothing will replace the joy of a single match in local multiplayer. However, since the two opponents share the same screen, it will be absolutely necessary to switch the game mechanics of the launch vehicle to classic mode, so that the latter does not struggle to hide the intentions in front of the sofa next door. Therefore, the part of the bluff that lies between the pitcher and the batter at each end will always be the source of good laughter.
Test performed on Xbox Series X