PLOT Batter up! Baseball season has begun.
RATED E for Everyone
DETAILS $29.99; Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
BOTTOM LINE It doesn't put much of a spin on the ball.
Baseball season is on the verge of throwing out the first pitch. And that means the video game incarnations of America's pastime are getting ready to take the field, including R.B.I. Baseball 19.
Unlike some of its competitors, RBI Baseball 19 is where one goes for no-frills baseball. Don't look for any creative game modes or twists on the Major League product. The only game modes available are Exhibition, Franchise (which runs for 10 seasons), Postseason and Home Run Derby. There is online play, but only for Exhibition games with no custom rule sets. Those looking for anything special won't find it here.
The on-field product isn't anything special either. Pitching is a throwback to vintage baseball games of previous generations. The only options in place are fastball, changeup and curving a pitch based on tilting the analog stick. Batting feels similarly dated, with the only options being to bunt or to control a swing's angle with the analog stick. It feels brainless and boring, not helped by a lack of on-the-field commentary or any attempt to replicate an actual Major League broadcast.
Fielding doesn't look terrible at first glance, but prolonged play starts to make the flaws more apparent. Those flaws mainly revolve around the game's AI. The CPU teams will often keep the ball on the ground, but in many instances the AI will select a player that's not closest to the ball. Did the CPU player hit one to the warning track? Why should the nearby left fielder pick it up when my centerfielder can run across the field from a much longer distance, only to see the ball hit the wall? Some of the AI choices are just baffling.
One area where R.B.I. Baseball 19 does succeed is with its art assets. Player models look better than they were in previous versions of the game. Stadiums look crisp, accurate and beautifully detailed. But it's in the animations where things start to fall apart. Players look stilted in almost every aspect, from moving on the mound to moving on the field. Batters are almost static in the batter's box, sliding around without actually stepping around.
The best thing to say about R.B.I. Baseball 19 is that it's simple baseball on a relative budget. Those looking to jump right in with no bells and whistles will be served well enough here. Getting a game going with friends is a simple process. Nothing here is offensively bad.
Those looking for a deeper, more immersive baseball experience can do so much better than R.B.I. Baseball 19. And those hoping that this series can eventually get to the Major League level may not want to hold their breath. After six years, it feels like this series is what it is, doomed to dwell in the minor leagues with no call-up in sight.