It’s time once again for baseball season, and that means PlayStation owners can pick up MLB The Show and everyone else is stuck with RBI Baseball for their MLB gaming fix. Of course RBI Baseball is on PS4 as well, and that’s the version this review is based on.
I’ve reviewed every single one of these games. Last year was the shortest game review I ever wrote; it was essentially the exact same game as the 2016 version. Here’s what I said about the game last year:
“If you’ve ever played an RBI Baseball game, then I’d suggest skipping this one. There’s literally no reason to “upgrade” to this year’s version unless you just want to spend $20 on a roster update. If you’re on PS4, skip it completely and just get The Show. The Retro Mode there will more than satisfy the old days experience, even without the ability to play a season.”
There’s good news here. RBI Baseball ’18 isn’t simply the same game with a roster update. There was actual effort put into the game this year and the end result is a game that is all around better for it.
RBI ’18 has new modes, including a 10 season franchise mode complete with free agency (including MLB legends) and trading. There’s online multiplayer here allowing you to play against friends and ranked play against similarly ranked players. There’s also a Home Run Derby mode that features a leaderboard that tracks the amount of Derby wins you have, the total distance of your home runs, and the amount of home run’s you’ve hit. You get to these modes via a slick new modern menu screen that looks nice.
This year marked the first year that a dedicated internal team at MLB Advanced Media developed the franchise, and kudos to that team because it is the best in the series. The fields are all in high fidelity, there are new player models, and there’s said to be hundreds of new animations within the game. It certainly looks good, and without a doubt much better than the prior entries.
The gameplay is still largely the same. It’s meant to be a fast paced, pick-up and play style. Like an old school baseball game on the NES and not a simulation. Fielding can be clunky, and I have no problem admitting that I just turn on assisted fielding to let the CPU do it. I handle the pitching and the batting, and without assisted fielding I feel like the game puts you at a disadvantage because you get a slower start on moving towards the ball than the CPU does.
Seeing the baseball while batting can still be a little tricky, but it seems better this year. That’s been an issue I’ve had with the series since the 2015 version, and this year I’ve been getting hits more consistently early on… or maybe I’ve just been getting lucky because I swing at everything. Seriously, batting is improved and even playing the slow pitch Home Run Derby mode will help get better at your timing while playing an actual game.
For the first time since the 2015 version, it finally feels like real steps are being taken with this franchise. The first one in 2014 created a solid foundation for an old school baseball game stripped of the complexities of a sim like The Show. All the ones since then have done little to nothing to build on it.
Of course these improvements and new modes have come with a slightly steeper price. RBI Baseball ’18 is priced at $30 instead of the $20 it has been for the previous years. Considering the rep the series has garnered, that’s going to be an immediate turn off to some gamers even though it is still a budget title.
If you have enjoyed any of the prior versions, then I’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 2018 version. It’s a better game in every aspect and for the first time in years isn’t just a roster update. It’s the first truly good game in the series to date, and that’s really all you can ask for. Is it the best baseball game around?
No (well unless you’re on Xbox or coming later this Spring to Switch, in which case it’s your only option for MLB gaming), but it is a fun and accessible game for when you just want to play a game or two of baseball in 30 minutes or less.
RBI Baseball ’18 gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A PSN code for this game was provided by the publisher for review.