R.B.I. Baseball 19 review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, Switch
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media
Developer: MLB Advanced Media
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cart
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

We?re now in year six of RBI Baseball?s rebirth, and, to be blunt, the results haven?t been pretty. Last year was probably the best of the bunch, and calling it mediocre would be generous.

So you can imagine how surprised I am to tell you that R.B.I. Baseball 19 is actually a decent baseball game.

I mean, maybe we?re at a point where Stockholm Syndrome is setting in, and the series has worn me down to the point where I like it even though it?s objectively terrible. And even though I haven?t played it yet, I think it?s safe to assume that when MLB The Show 19 comes out in a few weeks, R.B.I. Baseball 19 will remain firmly in second place for the year (third if you want to count Out of the Park Baseball). But even with those provisos, I have to admit: I actually enjoyed this game, to the point that I?m probably going to pick it up on the Switch so that I can get my baseball fix on the go.

Don?t get me wrong, R.B.I. Baseball 19 still has its flaws. But unlike in years past, the flaws this time out aren?t fatal. Whereas in previous years the game was plagued by insane ball physics and braindead AI and all kinds of other game-breaking issues, this time out I feel like I?m nitpicking. Like, players still throw the ball on the run in a really weird way, throwing sidearm across their bodies as they move in a way that would surely lead to blown-out elbows if anyone ever tried to do it regularly. And you still occasionally see some players spinning in place, rather than turning around like a normal person.

But those moments stand out more this year than in past years because, on the whole, R.B.I. Baseball 19 mostly gets things right. I saw one player slam his glove down in frustration as a ball flew over his head into the stands for a home run. Another time, a first baseman fielded a ground ball with a runner on third base, and you could actually see him watch the runner back to third while he ran over to make the play at first. These are small things, but they show that, after several years of making a baseball game that felt like it had been made by someone who had only a vague idea of what baseball was, R.B.I. Baseball is finally, at long last, figuring out what it wants to be.

And what is that? A solid arcade game — and the arcade part can?t be emphasized enough. R.B.I. Baseball 19 is definitely not meant for anyone looking for depth. There are only a couple of modes — exhibition, Home Run Derby, and Franchise — and they?re pretty barebones. However, setting aside the exhibition mode (which I didn?t touch at all), both of the latter two showed definite signs of improvement. You can now set up your own Derby with your chosen players in your preferred park, which wasn?t something you could do last year. It?s also worth mentioning that you notice the improved physics here the most, since the game developers seem to have finally realized that a home run to centre travels further than one down the line. Likewise, in Franchise mode you can play around with your rosters a little by signing free agents and bringing in other players via trade (with different levels of difficulty for said trades). You can?t dig in anywhere near as deeply as you can in MLB The Show, of course, but the game has made enough strides that the Franchise mode no longer feels like a total afterthought.

In fact, that could be said about the entire game. R.B.I. Baseball 19 is probably never going to match the polish of one of PlayStation?s flagship franchises. But, for the first time ever, it?s solid enough that baseball fans who just have an Xbox or a Switch don?t have to feel totally left out for yet another year. It may not be the greatest game ever, but neither is it anywhere close to being the worst — and seeing as some of its predecessors actually have a legitimate claim at that worst title, R.B.I. Baseball 19 represents an enjoyable and welcome step forward.

MLB Advanced Media provided us with an R.B.I. Baseball 19 Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B+