Out of the Park Baseball 12 Review (PC)
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OotP 12 is a text sim, which means you won’t be taking the field and controlling players on a one-to-one basis. Instead, you have the opportunity to handle the decision making, from roster moves to in-game substitutions, typically through menus, stat sheets and interactive text.
While many might jump in as the GM of their favorite professional team, the heart of OotP is the ability to set up the game the way you’d like. For instance, I’ve already experimented with managing a fictional 2011 expansion team. I’ve played around with managing the lineups myself, as well as giving my manager (AI) control of the day-to-day baseball operations.
You could also become a manager yourself, starting in the lowest of minor-league levels and working your way to big leagues. Past options exist, such as creating an entire fictional universe or replaying a season from baseball's past -- the historical options have been beefed up should you go that way. Specifically, the new historical transactions and real lineups are welcomed additions for players looking to re-create a specific season.
All of this is just a simple way to say that there is infinite replayability in OotP, and the best part is that it’s backed by a solid simulation engine that produces realistic, and sometimes surprising, results. The DH was eliminated in the third season with my expansion team; I’ve seen personnel unexpectedly retire or even pass away.
And, if you don’t like something, it’s probably tweakable. For example, I think injuries on the "realistic" setting seem too frequent and severe; however, the fix is usually only a couple of clicks away.
If I have one large(r) complaint, it’s that OotP is still firmly grounded in its role as a text sim. While I’ve become used to the way the game is organized, it is no doubt extremely daunting for a new player. Games like NFL Head Coach -- in the small sub-genre of console text sims -- have demonstrated that these games can be streamlined and accessible. I would not want OotP to become watered down, but a friendlier and more visually interesting interface would be nice. Plus, I haven't found a "home" screen that contains all I'm looking for, so a fully tweakable "control center" would be nice.
That’s not to say OotP has a poor interface. It is easy to navigate to just about any page from any other page, and information and stats are always sortable and present. Some new screens like your organizational depth chart and league newspaper help to distill the tidal wave of information that you need to deal with on a regular basis.
I'd also welcome the addition of an animated in-game screen. MLB Manager Online has pretty simple but effective flash animation; a similar module would work for OotP as well. As it is, it's the same ball animation that we've seen in the past. It hasn't changed, but, to be honest, it still works. I just think the same information could be relayed in a more interesting way.
OotP 12 has incorporated the always-popular online leagues into the game, so now it’s easier than ever to join and update a league with other players. This is probably one of my favorite ways to play because swindling another human in a trade is infinitely more fun than trying to scam the AI out of its touted prospect.
It’s also nice that OotP continues to support the modding community, and it’s easy to apply some of the tweaks using the in-game Add-On Central.
Other new additions to OotP 12 include slight tweaks to in-game functions like sound and play-by-play. Coaches screens are now as detailed as the player screens, including their career history. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has been added as a stat, no doubt pleasing the sabermetrics fans out there. The new league newspaper is okay, but it really just makes me reminisce about reading stories in Baseball Mogul Online.
Contract options have also been greatly improved, and they now include the ability to assign performance bonuses and vesting options. These new additions make negotiating a little more flexible and immersive, but I still think the free-agent process could be a little more fluid and exciting.
There are numerous other tweaks and additions, but they have been so well implemented in the game that you may wonder if they are new or if you just overlooked them in past versions of the game. OotP continues to be a game with so many options that if you think “I wish it could do this,” a little clicking and menu searching may prove that you can do it after all.
While I think the overall interface could use a bit of polish and reorganization, the amount of options and depth of gameplay makes OotP 12 another must-own game for fans of baseball. There isn’t much higher praise I can give a PC game than this: OotP 12 is one of those games that will keep you saying "just one more turn" long into the early hours of the morning.
Learning Curve: This game may be intimidating for first-timers because of its wealth of options and pages and pages of data. Patient users willing to read the online manual or visit forums will mine this game for all its worth.
Control Scheme: The interface has room for improvement, both visually and organizationally, but it’s usually not hard to find what you are looking for. I love that player names continue to be links to transactions, stats, etc.
Visuals: Not important for this type of game; I will hype the great generated player faces (that change uniforms, etc.) available in the Add-on Central module.
Audio: Also not necessarily important, but the in-game audio adds great ambiance.
Lasting Appeal: More than any other sports game, OotP gives you a ton of ways to play. You can even import a league from last year.
Realism: I haven’t found anything too crazy, other than a few questionable trades. Again, because the game is highly modifiable, you usually can solve your own problems.
Score: 9.5 (All-Time Classic)