Baseball. America’s Pastime. It’s a game that’s been around for ages, with a professional league that spans back to 1876. It’s knows for it’s serenity along with a mental aspect that likens it to chess. It’s well known that stats don’t lie in this game, yet there is a gut reaction that supersedes all – sometimes seemingly against all mathematical logic that the game contains.
For ages, gamers have looked for ways to bring our National Pastime to their favorite systems, with some that are Hall of Fame worthy, and some that couldn’t even crack the Independent Leagues looking for one last shot at glory. There have been games played on table tops with dice or action cards, the ever present Fantasy Baseball, games on video game consoles dating back to the Atari Generation, and tons of games on PC dating back 30 years or so. In the realm of baseball gaming on PC, there’s one king of the Diamond – Out Of The Park Baseball. 2017 brings the 18th revision of this great game…will it continue to rule the ballpark?
First off, a reminder: Out of the Park 18 (from here referred to as OOTP 18) is a text driven sim. If you’re looking for video game baseball, then you’re looking for a game like MLB The Show 17. OOTP 18 is for those that want to simulate the management and front office aspects of the game. If you’ve played tabletop baseball games, or you’re a veteran of games like MicroLeague or APBA on PC, then this is the type of game you’re looking for. And if you’re new to management sims, this is the best one to cut your teeth on, because it’s very intuitive for even a novice to simulations.
So let’s talk about what makes OOTP great. First and foremost, accuracy. Are you looking to take 2017 Cleveland and finish what they started in the World Series last year? Would you like to see what would have happened to the Red Sox if they hadn’t traded Babe Ruth? Or maybe you’d like to simulate a whole different league, like Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan? Well, that’s all here and more with accurate rosters, including minor leagues where possible. Everything is there for you to simulate however, and whatever, you please.
Once in the game, you start with your manager screen. This is where your goals are defined for the coming season from either your GM or owner, depending on what level you started. Oh, and did I mention that not reaching your goals could lead to you being fired? That’s right…if you wanted to know what just about everyone who worked for George “The Boss” Steinbrenner lived through day to day, that’s all in the game as well.
If you’re in manager mode, you get to set lineups, pitching rotations, and strategy for the games if you choose to simulate them. As a GM, you can set full rosters, send players up and down the various levels of the minor leagues – and they’re all here, from rookie instructional to AAA with full rosters. With a full MLBPA license on top of the MLB license, you get access to the greats of the past, present, and future for baseball. Make trades, sign free agents, draft the next generation of champions, and make international deals – because even the CBA changes for 2017 are in this game. You are in full control – at least until your owner decides to go another direction.
But this would all be window dressing without a good backbone, and that backbone is the simulation engine. OOTP 18 can get so realistic, that it’s almost scary to see scenarios unfold similar to how they are in real life. Players go through streaks and slumps, get injured, and sometimes are away from the team for non baseball reasons. You negotiate with players for extensions, and if they go wrong, you may see it play out on the field depending on the personality of the player. Improvements to the AI and chemistry/morale system adds to the realism if your star player decides to dog it for a stretch because negotiations aren’t going well. Player demands on contracts will change throughout the season depending on morale and performance, so you need to keep a close eye on the team to know when to make a move. Changes to the development system add more realism in watching that hot prospect in low A ball become a rookie of the year candidate.
And with that engine comes the 3D presentation of the game. Games are won and lost by managerial decisions, and you can make them all in OOTP 18. Set your lineup, rotation, and decide in each at bat what your team will do, and you can watch it all play out on the field with one of the best play by play mechanisms out there. Each decision has an impact on the game, just like in the MLB, and no two games play out the same way twice. The presentation changes that OOTP has made over the past few years even push this title to the level of all time greats like APBA in terms of game presentation. And like in actual baseball, you can have the complete statistical advantage, but the manager with the better gut feeling will push his team over the top. Cap it off with in depth recaps, and the full feeling of our national pastime is complete.
OOTP has been the reigning king of baseball simulations for years now, but they haven’t rested on those laurels. With improvements in the simulation engine and in game AI, the most in depth rosters in the history of the game for past and present teams, and gameplay that even simulation novices can get the hang of – OOTP 18 just keeps on slugging its way to first ballot hall of famer status in Cooperstown. If you’re a fan of the MLB, your area independent league, or just baseball in general, do yourself a favor and get a copy of this game!