Out of the Park Baseball 16 Review (PC)
For those of us who understand the brilliance of Out of the Park Baseball, the annual question isn’t “Should I buy the new version?”, but more so “What new stuff do I get this year?” For me, last year was a bit of a down year. OOTP 15 was a great game, but beyond 3D graphics, the developers didn’t bring a ton of innovation to the series. For some reason, I ended up playing OOTP 15 a lot less than previous years.
After a few weeks with OOTP 16, I will say the new stuff this year certainly warrants a purchase. In fact, though it seems to be said every year, this may be the best Out of the Park game yet.
For the uninitiated, I’ll save you (and I) some time by recycling a quote from last year’s review:
"The best way of describing Out of the Park is not as a singular game, but rather a baseball gaming platform. You want to simulate any past MLB season? Here you go. GM Simulator? Yup. Want to manage a team on the field? OOTP is good for that, too. Create your own world and populate it with fictional teams and fictional players. Start an online league. Expand the current MLB. The options are nearly limitless.”
All of this holds true in 2015, and is even better thanks to some important gameplay improvements.
First, a more realistic set of owner goals drive the action as a GM. In my experience, the goals I received this year were more dynamic and relevant to the team than in the past. For example, my owner wanted me to trade for a power hitter. After doing so, the owner asked me to resign the newly acquired -- and red hot -- player to a long-term deal. These goals, both short- and long-term, provide a nice framework to an otherwise wide-open game.
If you don’t want to play as the GM, a new manager only mode simplifies what many of us have done manually for years: deal only with the day-to-day strategy and results. Of course, GM mode returns, as does the ability to play as both a GM and manager.
A bevy of smaller improvements add increased depth and realism to the entire game. Refinements to how coaches are rated allows you tailor leadership to your personal style (statistician, traditionalist, etc). Of course, their attitude may allow for more or less GM meddling. Changes to All-Star voting, playoffs, and Hall of Fame inductions make these events more engaging. More independent leagues offer a wider array of players to scout and sign. And the financial aspect of the game is easier to follow; hopefully, it will be harder to drive your team into the red.
As has been the case for years, most of the changes to OOTP 16 are small, and easily missed at first glance. But when viewed as an entire “package,” this year’s version is both more realistic and accessible.
Last year, in-game 3D was a big feature, but one that didn’t work well out of the box. I can say that not only is 3D back, the ball angles and animations look great. I do wish they were a little more accurate: a ball animated to one-hop the fence may actually simulate as a fly out. Of course, with no animated players, that’s a little hard to represent perfectly. As it is, OOTP feels a bit stuck in the middle, in regards to the 3D animation. I hope some kind of player animation is included in the future. In the meantime, I will admit the real life 3D stadiums are a nice addition.
Beyond the 3D, everything on the user interface side of things looks and works better. There were some stylistic changes implemented last year; they return, along with greater screen customization and utility. My favorite new UI feature is the ability to hover over a name and get a small pop-up with crucial information.
Improvements to player profiles and trading screens use icons to represent different things, such as team positional strengths and earned awards. These are clear, for the most part, and add some color and quick information.
One of the biggest, or at least most hyped, additions is the inclusion of the MLB license. I imagine this is primarily a way to get OOTP to a more casual audience; long-time users have been able to quickly import logos and uniforms for a long time. That said, it is nice to have all of that stuff be “official” and available at launch.
I think OOTP 16’s additions, while seemingly minute, really add up to a much better title thatn OOTP 15. The owner goals, changes to seasonal events (All-Star, Playoffs, etc.), and user interface changes really make for one slick package.
In terms of year-to-year changes, you can probably find a version of OOTP that represented a bigger jump than OOTP 16 does. But, if you look at the game as a whole, I think this version may be the most refined, deep, and streamlined yet.
Again, those interested probably have already purchased this great game. If you are on the fence, or haven’t played OOTP in a while, this is a perfect time to get on board.
Score: 9 (All-Time Classic)