Game Name: Out of the Park Baseball 14
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
Platform: PC, Mac and Linux
Players: Solo (with online leagues)
Retail Price: $39.99
Category: In depth baseball simulation
As I’ve noted before, baseball is my favorite sport. While I follow all the major sports, and even watch international soccer from time to time, for me no other pastime better encompasses all things American (both good and ill) better than baseball. I’ll avoid waxing poetic about the sport, seeing this is a game review, but I can think of very few things I’d rather do on a lazy summer afternoon than kick back at the old ballpark. This said, one of my yearly gaming purchases over the last decade or so has been Out of the Park Baseball.
Let’s begin by explaining what Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 14 is and what it’s not. It’s important to note OOTP isn’t filled with dazzling graphics nor is it an experiment for gamers’ twitchy fast reflexes; those who want to debate how accurately Miguel Cabrera or Stephen Strasburg are portrayed visually will be sorely disappointed by OOTP 14 as well. On the other hand, the rest of us who first and foremost look for a solid baseball engine within our baseball games tend to be dazzled by strong gameplay and realistic scores and stats; nothing’s worse than playing a baseball game where every tilt winds up with scores approaching the realm of Sunday pigskin matchups.
Regardless if you’re a hardcore baseball fanatic or simply a casual fan there’s plenty to love about OOTP.
OOTP 14 is a text-based simulation and the core of your experience will be taking the reins of a baseball team and guiding it through the ups and downs year after year. The options available to you are simply staggering! If you love the history of the great American pastime you can simulate any year from 1871 through the present or jump in at any season (A Mickey Mantle fan might choose 1951 for example) and go forward from there. Or you can start off with the 2013 season with up to date Opening Day rosters for both the majors and minors to gaze into the future of the current year and beyond. Maybe you’d like to run a team from somewhere other than the U.S. and that’s here as well. You can even scrap all the historical data and create your own fictional leagues as quite a few fans of OOTP do – including potential Hall of Fame pitcher Curt Schilling!
All the options in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if the engine under the hood didn’t provide for a realistic baseball experience. Have no fear as OOTP 14 delivers on this as well! You can normally expect a game matching two aces going head to head turn out to be a squeaker more times than not while a starter barely hanging on the fifth spot in the rotation is likely to get rocked nearly every time out. This doesn’t mean everything is cut and dried as players can have better (or worse) years than they did historically yet you’ll rarely see any completely crazy stat lines.
OOTP 14 delivers a unique experience based on the amount of control you wish to have over your team and organization. If you want to dive into the nitty gritty while calling the shots on every move it’s here. Casual fans who simply want to manage the team game in and game out while signing off on trades and call ups can do that as well without feeling as if they’ve missed anything since the AI does a tremendous job of handling practically everything you throw at it. I will mention even the casual gamer running a major league team may want to control their minor league teams as sometimes the AI doesn’t seem to correctly judge talent so if you’re not careful you might find one of your up and comers suddenly plying their trade for another team. This isn’t something which happens a lot but it does happen, although that might be addressed in an upcoming patch.
There are a few small knocks against OOTP 14 and the reality is these minor complaints have been around for a while. First is the lack of the MLB license so player photos and the team logos, uniforms and ballparks aren’t included. This isn’t a huge deal since there’s a friendly and dedicated OOTP modding community so all of these items are just a few installs away. I do understand the MLB license is cost prohibitive so not seeing it as part of the package keeps the game very affordable yet some of the tweaks and modifications needed to import the mods may be confusing for those who aren’t the most computer savvy.
I have to say my second minor gripe stems more from my appreciation of how immersive the soccer sim Football Manager has become over the past few years. In FM you take part in pre and post-game interviews, deal with player personalities, coddle the fan base and really get the feeling you’re taking part in a living world – or at least a world which revolves around soccer. While OOTP provides a great narrative of a baseball season unfolding, with plenty of news and such, it still lacks that extra something to really draw you completely in. Still, this doesn’t make OOTP anything less than the best baseball sim on the market. The included Face Gen technology is nice for fictional leagues as the players aging process is seen in their images as their careers progress but the faces you can download for historical players are pretty hit or miss..
My last critique is the fact not much has truly changed with the interface of OOTP over the last two or three years and it still comes across as a bit clunky. Plus newcomers to the game might find all of the options a bit daunting especially if they’re looking to only sim seasons or play 2013 and they’re suddenly confronted with international scouting and the Rule Five Draft. For long time fans of the series all of these choices are part of what draws us to the game but first timers may feel a bit overwhelmed.
Regardless of the very minor complaints I have, the end result is still obviously the finest baseball gaming engine you can get your mitts on; OOTP 14 will provide you with the custom baseball experience you want whether you’re 18 or 80. I especially love the historical gameplay and doing anything in my power to take a mid-1950s Chicago Cubs team and craft them over the decades into more than lovable losers. Every once in a while the sim tosses you a curve with a star player not developing as they did in real life or a Hall of Fame player’ career being cut short by injury.
It matters not if you’re the staunchest baseball fan in your neighborhood or someone with a touch more than a passing interest in the old ball game, if you like baseball Out of the Park 14 is a must in your gaming collection!