R.B.I. Baseball 19 is an interesting case. The very first thing you will notice when starting a game is that it is instantly better than any previous iteration of the series. But does this make it a good baseball video game? This is a tough question to answer in some respects.
Mode wise, there isn’t much but the standard fare. You have your typical exhibition mode, Home Run Derby, online multiplayer, postseason and franchise. I’ll first talk about franchise mode as I know most people considering purchasing this game would put most of their focus on that. The presentation is decent and there are no complicated or convoluted menus. You have all of the standard options presented on the main screen — from play today’s game down to your calendar and settings.
A couple of important settings to look at before you dive into your first game would be injuries and trades. You have multiple options for each. With injuries you have off, minor, moderate and realistic. With minor, none of your players will be injured for more than 10 days. Moderate and realistic are up to a month, and up to the entire season respectively. Next we need to look at trades, and this is where I noticed some possible issues. Or maybe not, considering how one might feel. The settings are unrestricted, loose and strict. With loose, the GM will accept most trade offers, and with strict the other team will only accept if it seems fair.
I decided to test these out and I was able to trade Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor for Bryce Harper on both loose and strict. I don’t think that would happen even if Harper didn’t have a no-trade clause. Testing this a step further, I was able to trade Trevor Bauer, Greg Allen and Carlos Carrasco on both loose and strict for Mike Trout. Again, probably would never happen. The funny thing is, I tried to do the trade in reverse and the Angels declined. Something smelled a little fishy there.
Another important aspect to note when playing franchise mode is there is no minor league system to speak of here. All you have is a list of reserves. This consists of around 12 players. Free agency is just pick a guy and sign him. That’s it. No contracts or negotiations.
While there isn’t really much to do outside of just playing the games, franchise mode this year is probably not going to impress anyone too much. Speaking for the other modes, Home Run Derby is just that. You do get distance, launch angle and velocity on hits, which is a nice touch. I always welcome a standalone postseason mode, and as far as online multiplayer it ran just fine for me.
Now with an overview of what’s available out of the way, let’s get into some more specific positives and negatives for R.B.I. Baseball 19.
What I Like
As I said, right off the bat you will notice this game is the best in the series. While batting and pitching have largely remained unchanged, the fielding is better due to better and more animations. And the ball physics are also somewhat improved. But when I say more animations, that doesn’t mean there are anywhere near enough, or the new ones are all that good. But the effort is appreciated and do make the game easier on the eyes. Players move better, make better plays with the glove, both on grounders and fly balls. I also noticed the AI isn’t too bad at all. There were some occasions where it impressed me by making the correct plays in certain situations. I had bases loaded with one out and my batter hit a dribbler to the pitcher, and he made a quick break on the ball, fielded it and threw home to get the force before the catcher threw to first for the double play. Yes, it’s a basic play, but I’ve seen worse decisions in baseball games. In a vacuum, the gameplay is much better. However, for a baseball game in 2019 I still feel the gameplay is lacking.
On the presentation front, the menus are clean and slick. I like the tile style of menus most sports games seem to be moving to, and this is no exception. Once you get inside all the modes the UI still looks great. Everything is easy to access and you don’t have to go looking for things. This of course is in large part due to there not being much to speak of in the number of modes, or the depth, but it still looks good. Commentary is still missing from the game, but this is more of an arcade game at heart, so maybe in this case, less is more.
Improved Player Models And Stadiums
It might not be a giant leap, but there are noticeable improvements to the visual aspect of the game. The stadiums look better and are more accurately rendered, and the player models are acceptable, I’ve noticed a lot of accurate batting stances and pitching motions. The graphics in general are good. Colors pop, and they are accurate to real life. The field itself looks great, including the grass and the dirt.
What I Don’t Like
Yes, I said one of the things I liked was the gameplay improvement, but overall the gameplay isn’t all that great. MLBAM has been making this game for six years now. The gameplay has only slightly improved over those years. I expect better from a game in 2019, and especially one that’s in its sixth iteration. Yes, this is the best one in the series, but it should be. And it should be better. Unfortunately, it seems to be stuck in limbo and seems like it will never be the game fans what it to be. But for what it is, it’s not terrible. You can see that with more animations, better ball physics and more fleshed out modes it could be a solid game of baseball.
Basic is the best way to describe franchise mode in this game. There really is not much to do other than play the games. As mentioned, you have a few options for injuries and trades. And trading seems to be pretty unrealistic anyway. Having no real minor league system gives you nothing to do as far as player development, and being able to just simply sign any free agent you want is just boring. There were also some questionable simulation stats, to say the least. Some quick stats: Manny Machado lead the league with 65 homers and 131 RBI. Jose Ramirez lead in batting average at .318, and Trevor Story lead in OPS with .918. Some of this is not too far out of the realm of possibility, but pitching stats, well…It starts fine with Kluber at 19 wins, but then Ryan Borucki lead with 247 strikeouts, and Sammy Solis lead the league with a 2.89 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. So, um, that’s a little strange to say the least.
Lack Of Depth
There’s just not much to do. I’ve spoken about the minimal franchise mode, but there is nothing else to bring you in and hold your attention. An exhibition game with a buddy might be fun, but the game will get stale sooner rather than later. I know it’s polarizing, but a mode similar to Diamond Dynasty could breathe some life into the game.
Overall, the game is still very basic. Nothing really stands out about it except for maybe the fact that you have 165 legends at your disposal. But even that isn’t enough to save this game from itself. This isn’t to say there is no fun to be had because, at its core, it can be a fun game. If the game continues to make jumps like it did this year, it could potentially be a very solid game of baseball in the near future. However, I just have my doubts it will ever get that support.
If you only have a Xbox One and need a baseball game with the MLB license, I would say rent it first to see if you like it. But if you are PS4 owner, I cannot recommend it over The Show or even over Super Mega Baseball 2 on either system.