If there has ever been a series I have rooted for more than R.B.I. Baseball, I’m not sure what it would be. Baseball needs a good product on every platform and with MLB The Show on the PS4 being your only option, you are limited as a Nintendo or Microsoft console owner.
It also goes without saying that R.B.I. Baseball has been a bad to terrible series thus far. Also it is worth noting R.B.I. isn’t supposed to be a sim, it’s an arcade baseball game that resembles the retro games of old (and coincidentally, MLB The Show 18’s retro mode).
So with all that said to give the backdrop for where R.B.I. Baseball 18 has come from, where is it at now?
What I Like
- The Improved Visuals/Animations – MLBAM did a great job with these this year. R.B.I. Baseball 18 was promising some improved visuals and they were delivered upon. The batting stances, animations and stadiums all look pretty good. They don’t quite compare to the competition — but the progress here is huge over last year. That’s a huge compliment to how far the series has come in the last couple of years.
- The Control Scheme Is Simple – I have never had a problem with R.B.I.’s controls and this year’s is no exception. The ideas behind how they were executed is well thought out and you don’t feel like you are having to do anything too complex while playing the game.
- Franchise Mode Is In – If you can stomach the loading times and the slog of a 162 game season, you can play multiple years. The mode is bare bones but it is here and functional. Don’t expect anything close to what else is out there, but the mode is a good and solid addition that hopefully leaves room for improvement in future years.
What I Didn’t Like
- The Load Times – This is seriously bordering on the unacceptable level. I didn’t time these, but they just feel…so…long both to get into a game and to move in between half innings. This takes away a huge chunk of the flow of the game and really makes getting through a full game feel like a giant slog.
- The Fielding Controls Seem Sluggish – It may just be me, I really don’t know. But the fielding controls definitely feel like they are delayed somewhat and that can result in some misses, especially on sharply hit balls.
- The Audio Is Ahem, Bad – The game just seems dead when you jump into it. I honestly thought that with the improved graphics would be an improved in-game audio package, even if it was just better crowd reactions and PA stuff. But that was skipped over and it’s too bad.
- Typical Franchise Mode Issues – By that I mean, AI roster management and how contracts are handled, etc. is definitely going to need work either in patches or in next year’s game.
- Static Camera Views – If you are someone that likes trying different views, you are out of luck.
- HR Derby Is Limited – You can only play the mode in Nationals Park with only a few players, which takes away a great deal of variety you could have in the mode. The mode otherwise is fine — but the limited nature puts it in the negative column for me.
- No Big Variation In Pitchers – I get some guys may throw faster than others, but you really don’t feel much of a difference in the best pitchers of the game and a commonplace bottom of the rotation guy. This feels like a missed opportunity of sorts to deliver a unique take on the retro version of baseball by offering up a new way to have pitching feel different based on who is on the mound. The way things are right now really does make each game feel similar after you’ve played a handful of games.
So here’s the deal with R.B.I. Baseball 18 in one simple phrase: it’s improved, but it’s still not where it could be.
The improved graphics are great, but the loading times are seriously something I hope gets fixed in a big way. The game feels like it’s a pick up and play type of game but behaves much differently.
The gameplay itself is simple and it’s arcade, and even with those two words I feel like more could have been done to make the gameplay more interesting and exciting while keeping the retro idea alive. The addition of franchise mode is welcome, but it’s going to take some work to move through all 10 seasons the game will offer you.
This is the type of game where if you are baseball starved you can look at it, and you may actually enjoy it a bit, but it’s not going to replace any of the heavy hitters in our genre for this year at least. R.B.I. Baseball 18 is an average arcade retro sports title that takes no real risks, but also in return doesn’t deliver any huge thrills.
I do hope MLBAM comes back in ’19 though, because progress has been made and I think the series has the potential for a pretty bright future.