Disclaimer:I’ve never written a game review in my life so be kind. haha.

ALSO AT THE END OF THE REVIEW IS A LINK TO A PODCAST WITH BRAD COOK FROM OOTP DEVELOPMENTS.

When I first read the book Moneyball I was a bit skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I love the underdog and numbers just as much as anyone but a book about it seemed kind of dull. Surprise, surprise however, I read the book and loved it. After years of playing MLB The Show I wasn’t quite sure if a game like Out Of The Park Baseball(OOTP) was going to do it for me, but four years later I’m still playing and still loving every minute of it. The game filled a gap for me that was missing from a game like MLB The Show. I love playing franchises and while The Show has a fine franchise it isn’t nearly deep enough for me. I want that numbers experience that requires me to know the ins and outs of collective bargaining, the risks of picking a guy based on tools and not numbers, and the fun of organizing contracts to avoid future budget constraints. OOTP gave me that and every year it gets better.

Let me start by saying I can’t begin to explain to you how deep OOTP 13 is or even how much you can customize and control everything about your league and experience in the game. Do you want a 30 man roster? You got it. Do you want to mimic 1930’s financials in 2012? Go for it. Maybe you want to put certain guys into the Hall of Fame who didn’t get in? You can do that too. I could  spend all day just talking about the things you can do in the game to truly make it yours.

To begin with there are three main modes in OOTP baseball as well as a quickstart option and online for those who want to share the love. The first of the is Major League Game which sets you up with a basic MLB set up complete with players, salary fixtures, and minor league teams. One of the first things you’ll notice when you start speaks to some of the freedom you’ll have in this game. You can choose to be commissioner of your league which means you can change rules, adjust player ratings, force trades, set computer rosters, manage computer teams, and generally have run of the league. You can set it where you can’t be fired, you can as of the last update play solely as the GM, and you can even choose to start your career as a minor league manager for that extra challenge.

Once you finally enter the game you’ll notice is the logos aren’t MLB logos. This has to do with licence issues and such but one quick stop to forum and you’ll learn this is easy to mod and all the hard work in that direction has been done for you.  The games features crisp and smart menu design which is nice considering you have a world of information at your disposal. Up top you have to main widgets to click for drop down menus and on the side you have buttons that take you to some of the most frequently used screens. There is a ton of information to be had in this game but it never feels daunting. I think that is in large part because of the menu set up. Of course within these menus you’ll find your standard options like like stats and leaders, trade, roster overview, and such but you’ll also fine a prospect ranking, salary obligations. and shop a player. These are some useful items not found in every game that helps OOTP 13 stand out a bit.

Trading: I actually love trading in this game. I’ll admit you can work over the AI and sometimes I wonder if the AI has any real plan moving forward past the season you’re in and the next but I still find some trades really rewarding. If you have draft picks trading on trading gets a bit easier in some ways but very interesting on the whole. With  it off(the default) its tougher but so fulfilling. Just today I was trying to get Strasburg from the Nats and failed but felt good about my failure cause it made sense and felt real. Shop A Player is big for me. You select a player from your team it shows you   instantly players a team would trade you in a one for one deal. You can only shop three players per day but this has often been the beginning of major deals for me. If nothing else it is a good barometer for a players perceived value around the league.

Free Agency: All the rules are here. Compensation rights, A and B free agents(if you turn off the new CBA rules), the new draft compensation rules, and arbitration. This year there is an off-season section that shows you estimated free agent demands, teams interested in a player, and a ranking of how a team’s off-season is going using WAR(wins above replacement.).  Free agents have demands on how much they think they should be offered and in what structure but you can adjust it to fit your needs before making an offer. Me myself I prefer a decreasing contract(makes it easier to trade later). Free agents will think about the deal and get back to you in email about they like your offer or not. The game is smart enough to have players leverage other teams offers against your for more money. I personally find it frustrating to not know what each team is offering at any given time but it is realistic and when i get out bid at the last second i smile because its still fun. One thing that does bug me is contract demands can get pretty crazy. As the off-season goes on they usually go down but its still kind of bothersome. It often leads to really big names being free agents into spring training.

Managing Games: I’m not much of a game manager myself but when I do I enjoy myself. You set the lineup just before the game. Taking into account the pitcher handedness, playtime, perhaps match up stats, and whatever is important to you. Once actually in the game you can play pitch to pitch or at bat to at bat. There are plenty of options for telling you batter or pitcher how to approach any given situation in the game. For instance i pitch around power or high contact guys, I do a lot of hit and runs, and I steal bases. You can make mound visits which the pitcher may or may not appreciate, you can double switch, sacrifice squeeze, or do any of those other nifty things that managers do. Almost everything you need to know to move forward in a game such as pitch count is easy to see or find. If at any point you want to skip ahead you can quickly do so.

Stats: There are stats everywhere and its great. The box scores for games have various options of the amount of time they kept and along with that you can control the level of detail career stats and historical stats will be kept in your league moving forward. All you classic like homeruns, ERA, and Walks are kept and ranked. Each Player also has saber metric stats like runs created, WHIP, and VORP recorded. Minor league stats, Major League stats, and college feeder league stats are all available. I suggest to get a full grasp player around with the menus and check it all out.

Rosters: The rosters for the Major and Minor leagues are easy to view and have many filtering options. Sometimes changing filters takes a bit more time than I’d like but I’m nit picking. Players actual and potential rating can be tracked and displayed in various ways and customized just to fit your style. Almost every menu shows these rating by default when looking at rosters. Moving players between minor and major leagues is pretty simple to do on the menus and there are screens that even advice you on the process. Of course you could turn that control to your minor league managers.

Scouting and Financials: The scouting in this game is still kind of a mystery to me. I don’t know how they do it. You scout can favor ability(stats today and the natural evolution of someone that age) or tools(favors potential over stats). Not all scouts are created equally. Keeping this in mind may help you find some diamonds in the rough. The financials are pretty brilliant. The Salary Obligations screen is very useful. Attendance ratings and such are readily available information. I feel the AI in the league is often smarter than real baseball which is good and bad. The is a lack of sentimental valuer on the AI’s part which cause moments like the Yankees to trade or release Jeter before he retires which would never happen in real life. They also give you good info on the trade screen about the money ramifications for each team although in my custom leagues this always gets out of whack after about ten years.

Everything else: There are newspapers which report on everything from trade and trade rumors to a one of you players opening up a BBQ restaurant in the city. The latter of which is apart of the new interactive storylines implemented in OOTP 13. Lots of times this will lead to choices. Like a hitter complaining about playing time which forces you to make a decision to comment on it or not which in turn affects player morale and such. I love the sound of this but admittedly never seen it in action, possibly because of the way i manage my teams and the success we have. A brand new real-time simulation modes let you watch games play-off  side by side which makes for excellent drama near the end of a season. Playoff races have never felt more real in the game than they do now. When you get to watch updates from games and se and feel teams play-off chances rising or slipping away.

Historical mode allows you to do all you can in the Major League except all throughout the history of baseball. Miss the Steroid Era? Then jump back in the nineties and play as the the Cardinals. Want to down Murderers Row jump back and play the Red Sox. By default teams move and change names at all the proper times in history, and player develop on a similar trajectory. All of this can be customized to high degree which aids you if you really want to change the tide of history.

Custom Leagues allow you to create whole leagues from scratch. You can you use preset templates and even start with preset leagues from counties like Japan and Taiwan. This year it is easier than ever to create a Euro or world league with the option to pick regions for your league not just countries. I love making a Euro League based in multiple countries.

All in all this is a great game. The best part about it though is the community. There is a highly active forum that you can learn so much from just by checking it out. The developers seem pretty responsive and way more active than you’ll see from EA or Take 2.

To close out: I recommend this really anyone who loves the financials of sports. I also recommend to people looking for something different. Its a great game that gets better and better every year. Sure there’s not fancy graphics or complete player control but for anyone who thinks they can run day to day operation of there team better then the guys in charge now this is ultimately rewarding as it gets. You can do almost anything your mind can dream of for the game.

Podcast (right click the button and save link as)

Twitter: @ootpdevelopments

website:OOTP Website

The show’s Twitter: @occupy_thegame
T
he host’s twitter: @ingrammi6

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