Sports video games are an interesting beast. People have been fantasizing about being a sports star for as long as professional sports have existed, and have made a game of it for nearly as long. Before the days of video games, kids would play baseball claiming they were Mantle, Ruth, Mize and other famous players. In the 60s, Strat-o-Matic became the first baseball simulation game and kids (and adults) played with it for years before computers and video games even came on the scene. Even with the current generation of sports games, many players spend hours in Madden, MLB The Show, NCAA Football and the 2K sports titles tinkering with rosters, leagues, franchises and sliders all to try to create the best simulation settings they can to play the game (often creating themselves and their friends in the game as well).
Out of the Park Baseball 13 is more a throwback to the days of Strat-o-Matic and the text sims of the 80s and 90s while offering more ability for creatively (and accurately) simulating baseball than any of the major games have been able to showcase thus far. The list of features that OOTP13 is adding to the game looks like a baseball simulator’s dream, including the new rules for free agency, salary arbitration and the Rule 4 draft, Houston’s move to the AL West in 2013, and the second wild card team added in 2013 (which MLB 2K12 has but MLB The Show 12 does not). There’s also a new real-time simulation mode, the ability to associate various baseball leagues and custom-tailor playoffs how you want them, a completely re-coded trade AI, improved online league play and an enhancement to last year’s ability to have interactive storylines. You can be anything from the manager of a small club all the way to the General Manager of the Yankees.
Unlike Sony and 2K’s offerings on consoles, OOTP13 doesn’t have a full MLB license, although it does offer a full MLBPA one. That being said, the game’s data is almost completely mod-able and the forums there (and elsewhere) offer mods for just about everything you can think of, including much more in-depth rosters than come with the game. These are not essential however, as this year’s game has full MLB rosters as well as a large number of the minor leagues filled out, which is definitely an improvement over previous titles.
When you start the game, you’re given the chance to start a new Major League game with 2012 rosters (which aren’t completely up to date, but are fairly accurate), or a new Historical Game, which will allow you to play starting from any year between 1871 and 2011 with or without the pre-existing history. You also have the ability to start with a random team of players from all eras, allowing you to find out what would happen if Roger Clemens pitched routinely to Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, or how Nolan Ryan might do in the 21st century. You can also start from a Quickstart (a pre-configured game world that you or someone else created) and finally a custom game that literally gives you the ability to create anything you want (which is how you would get the most complete simulation of today’s baseball world).
You can then choose to either create a manager profile and play as a coach, with the goal being to lead your team(s) to glory and hopefully eventually become a powerful general manager, or you can opt to play in Commissioner Mode, which allows you to have complete control including the ability to edit players, teams and leagues. Once you’ve created your game, you then can set your management settings as well as going to try to find a job. OOTP13 gives you a tutorial which you can access, and is filled with in-game tips on what everything does for those of us who don’t eat, breathe and sleep baseball.
Ultimately, however, the name of the game is control. You have the ability to control as much or as little of the game as you want. Want to just be the GM of the Yankees and let the AI do everything else? Would you rather take over complete control of the Cubs and their minor league affiliates to break the curse? Or would you rather just get a job with a minor league or foreign team and build your legacy? Any way you go, the decision is yours and OOTP13 gives you the power to go for your personal goal.
There are a few things that have to be mentioned in any review of this title, however. First is the community. OOTP in general has a huge community, some of which have been mainstays on their forums for a decade or more. This community is the source of some of the most complete set of mods seen since the High Heat and MVP days on PC, and can allow a player to recreate a variety of historical leagues, modify or update logos to updating faces after each draft so that the guys who were drafted are who you see in the game. Not only is the community very into modding, they’re also (in general) very friendly and helpful, which can assist new players in learning how to play OOTP13 as well as learning some of the more in-depth tricks of baseball and this game.
Secondly, the developers are very much present in the forums. While the game does have bugs, the developers released a patch the day of launch and have released a second one already, with a roster update due any day now. They are open about what their thoughts are while developing the game, and why certain things (such as international prospects sometimes wanting major league contracts instead of hefty signing bonuses) are in the game as they are. This combination brings me to one conclusion: Out of the Park Baseball 13 is the most complete baseball simulation on the market. Period.
Now, all of this said, the game is very much a niche title, aimed squarely at fans who enjoy baseball almost obsessively. You’re not going to create yourself and control your destiny from the minors to the Hall of Fame. However, you can create yourself and your friends as draft picks and watch how the game develops them. You can do almost anything you want with a baseball league, as some of the forum-based dynasty reports show. You can play multiplayer either locally or with online leagues (of nearly any type). Again, the control is completely in your hands — it’s up to you what you do with it.