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February 2019

R.B.I. Baseball 18

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: Sports
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media
Developer: MLB Advanced Media
Release Date: March 20, 2018


PS4 Review - 'R.B.I. Baseball 18'

by Cody Medellin on June 18, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

R.B.I. Baseball 18 returns with fun, high-octane baseball action, featuring a suite of new game enhancements including Franchise and Home Run Derby modes, as well as historic players.

The R.B.I. Baseball series on the NES is considered to be one of the classic takes on the sport. It may not have featured the technical depth of Baseball Stars or had different camera angles like Bases Loaded, but as an arcade take on the game with licensed MLBPA stars, it was well loved among fans. The current versions of the series, however, have been poor representations of the sport. No other licensed MLB games are present on the other systems, and it gets even less love on the PS4 since the excellent MLB: The Show series exists there. Every year, R.B.I. Baseball tries to improve, and every year, those efforts fall flat. This iteration is no different.

The game modes are pretty decent for a game that aims for arcade-style gameplay instead of a more simulation-themed route. Quick play is here as well as a versus mode for both offline and online play. For the latter, it's safe to pretend it doesn't exist because no one is there to play against you. You can go through a season mode or straight to the playoffs. Franchise mode lets you control the destiny of a team for 10 years with a fairly generous trading system in place. Finally, there's the Home Run Derby mode, which lets you participate in the famous All-Star Game pastime but with the new timer system and bonus time rule in place.

That last mode seems like it would be the highlight of any arcade-themed baseball game, but there are two major flaws that rob it of any intrigue. The first is that the game seems to have spots on the plate where a home run is pretty much guaranteed. Get close to the plate and occupy the upper left side of the box, and you'll put up dingers almost consistently if you get the cadence right. Second, the game chooses to only show the end result of your opponent's performance instead of giving you the chance to see the run for yourself. As a result, you don't get a sense of accomplishment if you win or defeat if you lose, since it all feels like random numbers thrown up on the board.

The arcade stance means that the gameplay mechanics are more simplified than any other modern baseball title, which will please those who honed their skills on the 8- and 16-bit eras of the sport. There's no aiming cursor for pitching, but you can use the directions to influence whether you're throwing a curveball, fastball or slider. There's no aiming cursor for the batter, so you only have to worry about making contact at the right time or deciding to bunt. The face buttons give you better control of which base you want to throw to, but that's the extent of the advanced controls.

If the idea of simplified pitching and batting sounds appealing, then R.B.I. Baseball 18 would've been just fine for those who don't want to deal with the minutiae of pinch-hitting and want a full game condensed into 30-minute sessions. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong. The AI can be braindead most of the time. There are moments when they'll be at the right spot to catch the ball for an out, but most of the time, they're delayed in their throws or simply refuse to throw at all, giving the runners a free opportunity for advancement. Then again, the runners seem to only listen to the first command they're given, and if the AI wakes up and decides to throw to a base, you'll have a hard time trying to call back those runners. The action of running is slow, and outfielders are sometimes oblivious and ignore a ball that passes by them instead of running for it.

Aside from these flubs in the field, the performance is less than lackluster. The frame rate is all over the place, and there's rarely a moment when the game looks like it's performing correctly. Inning changes are plagued with long load times, and the same goes for home runs, which have unskippable cut scenes. When you consider how many home runs can be racked up in a typical game, those loads start to drag the game time into simulation territory. Then there's the fact that there are pauses during gameplay, which is extremely bad when pitches freeze mid-air and then disappear for a while before sailing over the plate. At this point, with that particular bug happening often, the game begins to fall into unplayable territory.

As far as presentation goes, this title is far from being indicative of what this generation of platforms can do. The players might have the right faces attached to them, but their dead eyes are reminiscent of early PS2 games. The animations for the ball being thrown look completely unnatural to the point where you think the ball has a mind of its own. Stadiums look decent, but the roar of the crowd is muffled, as is the crack of the bat when it makes contact. The lack of an announcer also means that big plays are met with silence, and the big homers are met with indifference from the few available voice clips.

After five iterations in the modern era, R.B.I. Baseball 18 remains a terrible series for any type of baseball fan. The modes may be serviceable, but everything from the AI to the presentation and the overall performance is severely lacking in quality. PS4 owners have a choice, so if you need your baseball fix, opt for Sony's offering once more with a tiny bit of hope that MLBAM will finally get something going next year.

Score: 2.5/10

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