Out of the Park Baseball 16
System: PC (also on Mac/Linux)
Genre: Baseball Simulator
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: March 23, 2015
When it comes to baseball gaming, there are essentially two options: 1) MLB The Show, for those who want to play the games on the field, and 2) Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP), for those who want a pure text-based simulator and are more interested in the analytical side of the sport. While both have their merits, I end up spending a lot more time developing and obsessing over my own in-game worlds within OOTP. This year’s version, Out of the Park Baseball 16, is easily the best one yet.
While there are many new features, the biggest and arguably most important one is the addition of the official MLB license. Now, for the first time ever, the game comes pre-loaded with official team logos and jerseys, including every single minor league team (over 150 in total). It cannot be understated how cool it is to finally have all of these logos locked and loaded without having to find a custom-built set online. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to get these added, but always better late than never!
One of the more intriguing new options this year is the ability to choose whether you want to play as the General Manager, Manager or both. While Manager mode just wasn’t for me (I like to have total control), it’s still nice to have the option to focus on in-game strategy without having to worry about handling roster transactions. Of course, that means having to put your faith into an AI GM who may or may not have the same ideology as you, the manager. It certainly adds an interesting new dynamic to the way you can play OOTP.
For those that prefer to go the more conventional GM route, this mode has been enhanced via brand new goals from the team’s owner. Rather than just providing vague “give me a winning season” directives, the owners now give you a checklist of things they expect you to take care of. These change depending on the situation, but they can include tasks such as signing a big name player, getting a fan favorite to sign an extension, or trading for an all-star. This is a small feature, but it’s inclusion is much-welcomed.
Perhaps my favorite addition is something so simple I’m shocked it hasn’t been used before — rainouts! Just like in real life, games can be rained out and rescheduled into doubleheaders at a later date. I’m a sucker for doubleheaders — nothing beats a full day of baseball — so I was especially excited to see these pop up during my season.
Other new features in OOTP 16 include even more international and independent leagues (such as the Australian Baseball League, which I did not know existed), a revamped team financing system, a redesigned coaching model (managers and coaches now have their own personalities), manual All-Star voting, and a more realistic Hall of Fame selection process.
As I do every year, I took the liberty to simulate the entire 2015 MLB season with the correct Opening Day rosters. Here are some of the more interesting things that happened:
– The Los Angeles Angels beat the Washington Nationals in five games to win the World Series. Series MVP was C.J. Cron, who hit .292 with 3 HR and 8 RBIs.
– Other playoff teams: Tampa Bay, Oakland, Boston, Cleveland, Arizona, Chicago Cubs (!), San Diego, Cincinnati.
– Tampa Bay somehow managed to have the best record in baseball at 99-63, but they were swept by Boston in the divisional round. Arizona shockingly led the NL with a 92-70 record.
– The biggest disappointment was Detroit, as they were ravaged by injuries and finished with a losing record: 76-86.
– Houston had the worst record by far: 62-100.
– The Tigers’ woes didn’t stop Miguel Cabrera from absolutely mashing this year. He was awarded the MVP thanks to his league-leading .335 avg and 6.6 WAR. These made up for his lower than usual HR and RBI totals of 27 and 84, respectively.
– Andrew McCutcheon won NL MVP after hitting .299 with 26 HR and 89 RBI (8.1 WAR).
– Billy Hamilton swiped 95 bases! I bet he hits the century mark next year.
– Jose Bautista (42 HR) and Giancarlo Stanton (39 HR) led the league in home runs.
– Koji Uehara (6-1, 1.09 ERA, 31 saves) and Stephen Strasburg (17-9, 2.86 ERA) won the Cy Young Awards.
– Steven Souza (.281, 25 HR, 85 RBI) and Kris Bryant (.249, 29 HR, 79 RBI) won Rookie of the Year.
– There were a ton of unfortunate injuries. Most noteworthy were Victor Martinez having to end his career due to a fractured skull, and David Price and Albert Pujols missing most of the year to serious injuries.
As always, the game’s settings can be tweaked as you see fit (for example, I turned the AI trade setting to Very Low — otherwise it went nuts with at least one trade happening per day). The sheer amount of customization options is still what OOTP does best. Every type of statistic — advanced or otherwise — is available to be sifted through, and you can have as much or as little control over things as you like.
For new players, there is a bit of a steep learning curve at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s near impossible not to get hooked. With a seemingly infinite amount of ways to play, Out of the Park Baseball 16 once again proves to be the best baseball simulator on the market.
(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)