Once again, the new edition of Out of the Park Baseball has been released, and the 2012 edition has taken a leap forward from previous versions in terms of interface and features.
Perhaps the most obvious is the new interface, which takes a lot of getting used to for veterans, and may seem overwhelming to new players. However, the game attempts to make the interface more graphic, rather than a jumble of numbers to assault the eyes.
For example, the team home screen shows all of the relevant data on a single screen; in OOTP12, the player had to scroll down to see information like the vs. L and vs. R lineups that had been set up. The minor league screen shows who is ready to be promoted and what areas they improved in in a more visual way. In OOTP12, one had to hunt through menus to get that data.
Even something so innocuous like the Player History tab has been revamped to make clear what the player accomplished and when that player was on the leaderboards. A frustrating bug loses all of a player’s transactions before that date, however, if you imported the game from OOTP12.
The other major change was the implementation of real-time simulation, where other games would be simmed as you manage a game, lending a realistic feel to it as you see real-time updates of other games in progress. It’s even possible to have games simming while not managing, instead having it run while checking stats, updating rosters, negotiating trades, and so on.
The game also takes a page from Championship Manager and tries to add a more roleplaying aspect by having your GM deal with player personalities in the Storyline Mode. Unfortunately, the additional layer to the game just adds frustration where players in the prime of their career will threaten to retire if you don’t trade them. Player and team slumps had already naturally been a part of the regular game as well. It’s an interesting attempt, but half-baked at this time. Fortunately, the Storyline Mode can be turned off as a feature.
More useful is the ability to mold a player in the minor leagues, in which very young players have ratings and a suggested position, but can be instructed to focus on developing into a more specific kind of player. For example, a player might be developed into a starting pitcher or a defensive centerfielder, though that kind of radical decision is far more rare than just deciding whether you want that pitcher to develop into a starter or a closer.
The rest of the major improvements are under the hood. For example, player career arcs and simulation are a little more realistic where you won’t have blatantly bizarre results such as a .340/50 HR hitter who strikes out 200 times, or a player who hits .220 but has 40 doubles out of 80 hits. The game also fixes the Rule V bug where players didn’t revert to their original teams when dropped by their new team.
As for the AI, it is still a mixed bag. While trading seems to be improved, it’s still possible to “game” the system and get some unrealistic concessions. Players, on the other hand, are a little less gullible in contract signing.
As far as online play, OOTP13 is trying to make it easier to join online leagues by adding a simple league browser. There are disappointingly few leagues (seven as of this writing, four of which are open), but it’s a heartening concession. It would be nice to be able to run live drafts, thought the game does now allow importing/exporting for drafts, a minor concession.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, yes, there is now the option for the second wild card team, as was implemented in the majors this year. The game still allows players to run historical leagues from 1871 through to 2012 as well, with the appropriate rules and conventions of each age. Fictional leagues are also still available, modifiable from top to bottom from number of divisions and leagues to which foreign leagues to either have as external simmed leagues or actually play in as the main league.
Overall, Out of the Park Baseball 13 is the best version of this evolving baseball management sim series, with a supportive community that constantly develops utilities for the game (which is encouraged by OOTP Developments.) Check it out.
Jonah Falcon is a blogger for TMRzoo and GameStooge.com and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Jonah provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.