Out of the Park Baseball 13
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: April 9, 2012
All hardcore baseball fans, no matter who they root for, have one thing in common: they believe they could run a professional team, sometimes even better than the actual general manager does. Of course, some are more vocal about their beliefs than others, but diehard fans especially love to nitpick every move their favorite team makes. I am guilty of this myself, so I turn to baseball simulators to prove that I can successfully manage a professional team. While there are a few options available, there is one franchise that is a clear cut above the rest, and it is one that I keep coming back to every year: Out of the Park Baseball.
This year’s version, lucky #13, has the same in-depth simulation offerings but is also packed full of upgrades. Immediately, the most noticeable difference is the brand new interface. The traditional menu system and its core buttons have all been switched around, with a shiny new right-side toolbar providing easy access to the most important screens. If you’re familiar at all with previous versions of the game, this graphical overhaul definitely takes some time getting used to. I did enjoy its changes in the long run, however, and I like this particular direction the series is taking.
The biggest, perhaps most impressive, addition to the game is the real-time simulation mode. Basically this means that you can follow each game pitch-by-pitch, adjusting the speeds as necessary, and even jumping in to play the game if you want to. It’s pretty cool to keep an eye on several games at once, especially when you happen to stumble upon a rarity such as a no-hitter in progress. This is especially convenient for those running leagues as the commissioner.
Quite a bit of attention has been given to the core engine as well. Trades are noticeably tougher — a good thing — and teams can be labeled in three stages: Win Now!, Neutral, and Rebuild. This makes it slightly easier to find a trade partner, although it is still difficult to pry away their talent without giving up some big-time players or prospects of your own.
If you were a fan of the newspaper/mail system in previous editions, you will love the improvements in OOTP 13. Several unique storylines have been added, offering a much-welcomed freshness to the articles. One of my personal favorites so far was a story about a veteran on a struggling team taking it upon himself to hold his teammates accountable for their actions. A couple weeks later I was sent an article about this leader holding a kangaroo court about some minor action (I believe a teammate stepped on the team logo) and charging him a $100 fine. Brilliant. Little things like that give OOTP a touch of personality that just cannot be topped. I love this stuff, and would be very pleased if more of it seeped into future updates/versions.
Of course, Out of the Park also comes pre-equipped with all of the latest MLB rosters, and new seasons are built with the recent rule changes in mind (i.e. more wild card teams, and Houston’s move to the AL West in 2013). Player photos are missing initially, but there are countless mods available to fully customize the game any way you see fit. Seriously, if there is any one thing you don’t like about the game’s setup, you can change it. The official forums are a great source of information for the game, with all sorts of awesome expansions and goodies available. The creators of OOTP are also very active in the community and regularly provide patches to fix many of the bugs that users come across. Rest assured, if there is a significant glitch discovered (unlikely), Markus and the guys will be on it ASAP.
There are so many ways to dig into OOTP that everyone will play it differently. I chose to import my association from last year’s game and immediately continued playing as if nothing had changed. It was terrific — my settings were transferred over, and I played through the rest of my season while also getting to enjoy the new features of the game. Of course, if you don’t have an association to import, you can create a new league (real or fictional) starting at any year you desire. You can play the games individually or sim them in bunches — it’s up to you. You can even join an online league with other GMs, which is an absolute blast with a good group of guys.
I have been speaking nothing but praise for the game so far, but there are a couple of minor flaws I feel I should mention. For one, the in-game text is a little difficult to read. I have a 19-inch monitor and occasionally have to squint to accurately read the team lineups and current statistics. While the in-game interface can be switched around, there is no way to increase text size. I have gotten used to it, but it would still be nice to adjust as needed. Also, while the trade engine is certainly improved, I was able to manipulate the system in one area. I noticed that it was a little too easy to sign a free agent to a minor league contract halfway through the season and then flip him to another team for a superior option. It was strange to me that I was able to do this. After all, if a team had any interest in the player I signed, why didn’t they just sign him on their own? Not a huge deal, but it is tempting to take advantage of this.
Again, those are two unbelievably minor flaws in the grand scheme of things, and they do not lower my rating at all. Folks, this is a 10/10 if I have ever seen one. Easily the best baseball simulator I have ever played, and it is one with infinite replay value. For only $40, you will get your money’s worth and then some. If you are into baseball statistics or are a diehard fan of the sport, do yourself a favor and give it a shot.
I will leave you with this warning, however: this gets addictive, FAST.