Published by Out of the Park
Developed by Out of the Park Developments
I’ve been a fan of sports management simulations ever since I played the original Football Manager game on the Commodore Vic 20 way back in the 1980’s and over the years I’ve played more than I care to remember. Most of these have been football (soccer) management games but I’ve also played basketball, American football, cricket, ice hockey and rugby management games and for the most part the standard of them has been poor. Only a few series have cut the mustard and by far the best have been the games developed by Sports Interactive. In fact for many years I’ve doubted that any other developer could manage to create a sports simulation of the same calibre but I can honestly say that Out of the Park Baseball 13 is as good as any other sports management simulation that I’ve played.
Before I go any further I must make it clear that I’m by no means a baseball connoisseur and my knowledge of the sport is limited but whilst Out of the Park Baseball 13 is a game aimed at the baseball enthusiast, it’s by no means overwhelming to those that aren’t aware of all the sport’s intricacies. What I will say however is that you will initially feel a little giddy with all of the options that you’re faced with when you first load up the game. You may simply want to jump into a Quick start game which allows you to quickly enter a preconfigured game world with the only real choice being whether to start unemployed or to choose a team to manage. There are several more advanced options available to you however. You can start a Major League game and manage what team and at whatever level you desire. Want to create a custom game and manage in Japan? Maybe you fancy creating a fictional winter league in Wales? Well whatever takes your fancy is possible allowing you to tailor a game world to suit your needs. One of the options I find really fascinating is the Historical Game mode which allows you to replay any season from 1871-2011 complete with era specific challenges, finances and strategies. Of course you can also play in online leagues, if you can pull yourself away from the addictive single-player game that is.
There is also another option that I feel deserves special attention as it addresses a problem that I’ve long had with sports management games that are iterated upon on a regular basis. Take the Football Manager series as an example. You invest an ungodly amount of hours into your game, play through a silly amount of seasons and develop an in-depth knowledge of your game world only to abandon it as soon as the latest version of the game is ready for purchase. Over the years I’ve seen many players ask if you can import a saved game into the new game to continue their game and yet take advantage of the new features that the latest version brings. With the Football Manager series this has never been possible so in effect you have a choice of sticking with the older version or going for the new version and abandoning your longstanding saved game. Imagine my surprise then to find on the Out of the Park Baseball 13 main menu that you can import your save from Out of the Park Baseball 12 and continue with it. It may not seem like a major feature but it is something that anyone who is serious about playing a sports management simulation will regard as a godsend.
The games you’ll play in OOTP Baseball 13 can either be simulated (even in real time if you wish) or played from a broadcast or webcast viewpoint. There is no 3D visual representation of the game. You can make choices when you’re batting and when you’re pitching if you want to but you can also simply play through the game skipping through half or full innings until the game has finished. Both the broadcast and webcast screens are awash with statistics that you might initially find overwhelming but you can configure what’s displayed. As you’d expect there are a multitude of strategic options you can set for each player and the team as a whole. Various tasks can simply be handed off to the AI if you prefer and if you’re a newcomer to the game it’s something you may want to do whilst you’re finding your feet.
Assuming you’re controlling a single team, and not simply running the whole league, what you’ll want to do of course is to scout out talent, pick wisely in the drafts and develop a winning side over the course of many seasons. OOTP Baseball 13 makes it not only easy to assess your players through the display of their current and potential abilities; it also injects some personality into the game to help keep those long-term games interesting. Players have their own personalities and develop their own story lines during the course of the game. You’ll get to learn of events that happen to them away from field of play and this helps to make them feel like personalities rather than simply a collection of numerical attributes. All of this ensures that you’ll grow attached not only to your team as a whole but to the individual players.
Customisation is the key word in OOTP Baseball 13 and the extent to which you can customise your game world is astonishing. In addition to being able to create your own baseball world and have baseball leagues in countries which in real life don’t even play the sport, there are many other things you can do. You can customise your team’s colours, uniforms and logos. You can change the FaceGen picture for each of your players choosing their ethnicity, facial hair and hair colour. You can even choose whether the player FaceGen pictures will reflect ageing and weight loss and gain if you want to. Player attributes can be rated out of 5, 8, 10, 20 or 100 essentially allowing you to make subtle alterations of the game’s complexity. Do you want the AI to select its line-ups based on traditional methods or sabermetrics? Various tasks can be handed over to the AI if you don’t want to make all of the decisions. Have a fear of failure? Well you can even choose to remove the ability to be fired if you really want to. There’s also an in-game browser that allows you to download user created content such as logos, custom quick start files and additional modifications. In fact there are so many customisation features in OOTP Baseball 13 that it’s simply impossible to list them here, let alone go into detail, without this review becoming way too long.
The presentation of OOTP Baseball 13 is absolutely fine although some would classify it as a little basic (as indeed they would for pretty much every game in the sports management simulation genre). There are no flashy visuals here and cynics could simply remark that it looks as though you’re using a database program but in fairness this is a comment that’s often made about sports management simulations which is understandable given the wealth of on-screen data you’re dealing with at any one time. There is no 3D representation of the baseball match engine and in some respects it’s something that isn’t necessary anyway. Essentially, the game looks good enough and comes with a choice of three user interface skins which should cover most players’ preferences. All of the information in the game is displayed visually through the use of icons, text and numbers and there are no absolutely no problems at all for deaf or hard of hearing gamers.
Out of the Park Baseball 13 is only the second game I’ve played in the series, so I wouldn’t consider myself as knowing a great deal about the history of the series and I certainly am no expert on the sport of baseball but I can honestly say that the game is the best sports management simulation I’ve had the pleasure of playing. The sheer scope of the game is hugely impressive and the customisation options go far beyond anything I’ve experienced in any other game in the genre. Of course all of that would mean little if the game itself wasn’t a quality experience. Thankfully OOTP Baseball 13 is an extremely addictive experience that baseball connoisseurs can’t help but adore. The sense of depth here is truly astounding but even as a baseball novice I didn’t feel overwhelmed and that has to speak volumes for the design of the game. If you’re a baseball nut, it’s an essential purchase but even if you’re not and you’re a fan of sports management simulations in general, you owe it to yourself to experience the finest game in the genre to date.