Out of the Park Baseball 4 Review (PC)
Spring Training is here and it is time for the next edition of the world famous Out Of The Park Series. None of the games coming out this year have the cult following of the Out of the Park 4 produced by Markus Heinsohn. Out of the Park 4 is a text-based baseball game that puts the user in the role of general manager. The game lets the user have control over pretty much all the team’s business from signing players to setting the ticket prices for the team. The user can also be the team’s manager on the field, making decision throughout the game and setting lineups and starting rotations. With OOTP 4 set-up pretty much the same way as OOTP 3, let’s look and some of the new things that Mr. Heinsohn is introducing to this edition.
The first thing you will notice is the running “leaders” column on the far left of the interface when viewing the standings. The column shows the top three leaders in such categories as batting average, homeruns, wins, and saves. When, you go to your team’s page, this column switches the particular team’s leaders. This is a great touch as the column runs in real-time when simulating a season.
When on your team’s page you will notice an envelope at the bottom right of the page. Well, this is the new message system. During the course of the season, you will get messages from other owners offering you trades and messages from your coaches telling how some of the minor league players are doing. Players will also demand more playing time and ask for an extension if they want to stay with your team. While the feature isn’t mind-blowing, it makes for some great realism. The system can also be used for online leagues to cut down on the amount of time people have to spend finding the other’s team’s e-mail.
The team control is very in depth. The user can set his rotation, lineup against left-handed and right-handed pitchers, and also set depth charts with defensive replacements and utility players. New to this year’s game is the ability to set your rotation and lineups for each level of the minor leagues. Also, the ability to control ticket prices and promotion days help control how many people are in the ballpark for the games and help generate that revenue to pay the big time players.
The online leagues are part of the cult following of this series. I belong to the best on the web (Computer Baseball League headed by Eric Wedge). The way these leagues work is that you communicate trades by a message board somewhere on the web and you export a lineup file to the commish of your league and he simulates the games on his computer. Well, OOTP4 has a feature where you save your lineup on your computer and upload it to the FTP server yourself. The commish then comes along right before the sim and presses one button to import everyone’s new lineup. The messaging system is also great in that owners can send a message using the messaging system to other owners in the league and they can respond. The only problem I see with that is that owners would have to download the league file every day, but I could be wrong on that one. The transactions page on each team has a trading block column next to the disabled list column. This way other owners can just view each team’s page and see who is on the trading block. I know that my mailbox is always full of “Daytona Players on the Block” e-mails. Again, OOTP4 is trying to make it simple.
Out Of The Park 4 is also able to let you recreate history. On the Internet, there are many people who have made player databases that let the user start his game in a certain year. I like to start my game in 1980 and use Dawson, Murphy, and Ryan and try to get them on my teams. As you progress through the years, the game pulls the year’s rookies from the database. So, the 1982 draft would contain Tony Gwynn and Cal Jr. The databases usually contain from 1902 to the present, so any year would be able to be simulated.
The user is also able to create his own league. Did you like when there were only two divisions? Well, you are free to take us back before the wild card. The user can also set a salary cap and control what era the game should be played in. If you use the era around 1900, 3 man rotations are used and homeruns are hard to come by. The user can also edit the stats to make himself or a team of all his friends. Entering that player’s stats into the game does the ratings. It will then generate his ratings against different handed pitchers and overall.
A major complain I heard about OOTP3 was the financial system. Teams would run out of money quickly because players demands in salary went higher and higher. I have simmed 10 seasons now on OOTP4 and I find myself still able to sign good talent and I haven’t run out of money. I don’t have tons of all-stars on my team, but I can still compete financially and have a winning record. OOTP4 now has a fan rating that is based on your past and recent performances and shows the community’s interest in your team. Also, there is a graph that shows your attendance figures over the year and the projected attendance, a nice touch. OOTP4 also lets you introduce a salary cap into your league if that is what you desire.
The last feature I will talk about is the new Free Agent signing period. The game has designed this session to be more like an auction. The user will offer the player a contract and will receive feedback from that player via the messaging system. For example, I offer a stud a nice contract and I get the message, “Your offer is the best I have had so far, I am leaning toward your team.” 3 days later, I get a message that says, “Atlanta has offer me a contract that is beyond YOUR wildest dreams.” I made a counter offer and I get a message the next day that says, “I have decided to sign with Atlanta, good luck next season!” I really like this new system and it makes the signing period pretty fun.
On a side note, after the release of this game on March 1 there were several noted bugs in the game. Marcus released a patch for the game on March 3, only two days after the release! I believe that customer service when it comes to this game is the greatest of any customer and has had me coming back each year. If only other developers would take Marcus’s lead in this area.