As I write this review tonight, it marks several firsts for me when it comes to baseball. For starters, for the first time in almost twenty years, this is the first time I didn’t drive up to PNC Park for opening week, and at the time of this writing, the Pirates were the last team to go undefeated before losing to the Twins 7-3 during a heavy snowfall.
Maybe I made the right decision there.
But this is also the first time in recent memory that I did not play an MLB: The Show title. Even going back to the PlayStation 3 and even on the PS Vita, as well as the PS4, I’ve always made MLB: The Show a mandatory purchase, but the poor performance I experienced with last year’s game on the PS4 Pro made me decide to skip a year.
Also, not owning a PS4 Pro anymore contributes to me not playing, but without one, I needed to go another route for my baseball fix. And with that, I am moving on to Major League Baseball’s self-published game, RBI Baseball 18. Now this is not the first time I played an RBI title, as I played the very first MLB published RBI game on my Galaxy S III phone. I enjoyed it in short doses but in the end, I went back to The Show. But now in 2018, and with my first time playing the series on Xbox One X, have things changed?
Since its earlier Namco/Atari based inception, RBI Baseball was best known for its arcade style baseball gameplay, and even now in 2018, it’s still at the heart of the game. At its core it really does feel like a true arcade baseball games. Similar to other arcade classics such as Namco’s Greath Sluggers 94, games are fast with few very pitch counts going high and hits being done on the first or second pitch. Games are usually complete in about 20-30 minutes, but those who like a more realistic aspect to their baseball might be disappointed.
As a simulation nut, I noticed that there were a lot of aspects to RBI Baseball 18 that just baffled me. Let me go over a couple that I experienced.
1. I had runners on second and third base with two outs. I hit a line drive to right center field. Now it is considered fundamental baseball, and something I was taught when in Little League, that on two outs, you run on ANYTHING. But no, those runners just stayed in place. As a result, they squandered a chance to score a run.
2. Another case of fundamentals come into play. There is a 3-2 count with a runner on first and two out. When a pitch is thrown, the runners usually take off. Not here. They stay in place again, which means when the ball is put into play, there is a force out at second.
3. When the ball is in play, sometimes a fielder would go for the more difficult force play rather than deciding to go for the easier fielder’s choice at first. Nine times out of ten during my experience that resulted in all base runners being safe.
4. Some very unnatural movements by some fielders to make cheap outs, almost as if they float directly to the ball. Let’s see someone in the real MLB do that, I would be in shock.
5. And then, there are completely mind-blowing moments that make little sense, like this one I recorded below.
Not only did I encounter issues with AI gameplay but also some elements, such as executing a double switch (a typically NL-based rule replacing a pitcher with a pinch hitter at the pitcher’s batting spot while placing the pitcher at another spot in the lineup to replace another player,) can be difficult to do. They are possible, but it has a huge learning curve compared to The Show.
In addition, while a majority of the game’s controls are simple and responsive, I tended to have trouble with stealing bases, as it requires pressing the X (or square/Y) button and the direction of the destination base at the same time. Either it didn’t respond, or it responded late, usually resulting in a caught stealing situation. I really hope that it gets fixed soon via a patch.
But there are also other elements that I hope get patched soon. Some of the game’s graphics, particularly the batter’s data display, get corrupted as the game goes on, to the point it doesn’t show any data.
Still, this is what baffles me. With all the glitches and issues I’ve had with RBI Baseball 18, one would expect me to rate it as low as I did with both NBA Playgrounds and Bush Hockey League, but unlike those games, I still find the game to be very fun, and I keep going back to it. Ballpark aficionados will be pleased with how detailed all the MLB parks are. And with the added features such as a ten season Franchise Mode and its Home Run Derby, as well as the way that rosters are updated on an almost daily basis, and I see the foundation for a great arcade baseball game should all the issues get worked out.
But at $29.99 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions, I still think the price is a bit too high. If you can find the game for about $20, it would be a better value. There is no price listing yet for the Android version, but if it equals the $5 of previous games, then that version would also be worth looking into.
Pros: Simplistic arcade style baseball. 10 Season Franchise Mode. Rosters are updated constantly. Even with all its glitches and bugs, it can still be fun to play. Optional mercy rule. All the ballparks are quite detailed.
Cons: Graphic and gameplay glitches that can ruin the experience. Mind-boggling defensive and baserunning AI gaffes that violate even the basic fundamentals of baseball. No weather options. Performing a double switch can be confusing. Base stealing controls are very strict.