I played a previous incarnation of the Out of the Park series a few years ago and, frankly, I wasn’t hooked. The depth of data was impressive but the game was a diversion rather than something to fully engrossing you for hours at a time. Even while allowing for my missing a number of updates, this year’s installment is a significant leap forward from my last experience with the franchise.
For anyone that’s played the Football Manager (nee Championship Manager) series of soccer games, this is the nearest to a baseball equivalent it would seem possible to get*, you can just click and go with a new season or you can spend hours customizing every aspect of your league with historical players, game tendencies and finances. Want to see Babe Ruth in Coors Field for the 1998 season? It can happen here. I’ve been playing around with the game for around a week and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface as new options and tweaks regularly seem to spring from nowhere and demand that you play around with them and see what happens.
*For those unfamiliar, just Google some Football Manager fan sites to see how committed people get to mastering every fine detail of that series
Once you’re actually into a game and running a team as their GM (or GM / Manager if you prefer and have the spare time to micro-manage every game) the options available are no less impressive. My biggest quibble with the previous version I played, which like I said was a good couple of years ago now, was that player’s attributes were all rated on the 20-80 scouting scale. This would have been fine for prospects but at the big league level it just didn’t leave enough room for the sort of nuance the game needed with too many players sharing the same attribute ratings it became a bit of a lottery trying to upgrade your roster. Fortunately the game now uses a 1-20 scale and all players have far more component attributes featured, allowing you a much greater impact on changing the roster via trades and free agency.
The impact of budgets, the new CBA and prospect status are all felt through every decision you make in the game and trades take a good amount of thought and tweaking before you have something that works for both sides. This is not the trade engine of MLB The Show.
Aside from a few minor complaints (it would be nice if the season started in Spring Training rather than the day before Opening Day to give you some time to make adjustments) and the odd eyebrow raiser (I’m not sure catcher Dusty Ryan is quite the ‘must sign’ free agent he is presented as at the start of the 2012 season) this is stunningly detailed and absorbing game. Anyone who plays in one of the main extremely deep and detailed fantasy leagues around today will be instantly at home with OOTP 13 and the strides they have made in the few years since I last played the series are quite incredible.