I first heard about Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) last season on one of the many High Heat discussion boards. Everyone raved about what a great series it is and how great of a simulation it is. Having not played a text-based simulation of any kind in over, jeez, twenty-something years I was a bit skeptical. I decided to download the demo and was hooked. I immediately downloaded the full version, a number of user created rosters and add-ons and played about 10 seasons over a period of eight months. I was very excited when OOTP4 was released and I was chosen to write up a review as my first assignment.
Presentation/Interface/Options : 95
This version of OOTP has a much cleaner interface than the previous versions. While the general structure has remained the same, they have been streamlined and cleaned up making it easier to navigate through them. The player information screens have remained much the same as last season, which is a good thing. The depth of information provided about each player is incredibly deep. From the superstar player to the low level minor-leaguer who will never make it past AA, there is so much information provided that it gave me a feeling that each player was real and allowed me to make the proper management decisions. The standing screens, trade screens, statistic screens are all well designed. One new feature I really enjoyed was a league leader sidebar that is displayed during while the game is being simulated. I tend to simulate a good portion of the season and being able to see the league leaders being updated during while I simulate a number of games is a great addition and really made me feel a part of the game. When I simulated while playing OOTP3 I would go make a sandwich, pet the cat and then come back and see what was going on. Now, I watch the leader board to see what is happening and see if any of my players are challenging for the league lead.
The amounts of options in OOTP4 are way too numerous to list. Want to set up your own league? You can. Want to go back to the dead ball era? You can. Want to build your own park? You can. Want to create your own historical rosters? You can. There is so much more and all of them can be done easily. The only real complaint is that I really had to work a bit to figure out how to do some things. I had to dig a bit to figure out how to change some options, but it wasn't too difficult.
Gameplay : 92
It is kind of different discussing a text-based simulation's gameplay to a graphic oriented game's gameplay, but the bottom line is the same. It all depends upon how well the game can pull you into the game and make you feel apart of what is happening. OOTP4 does a very good job of doing that. It is one of those rare games that you go to bed thinking of what sort of roster moves you'll need to make in order to get past the Yankees in your upcoming schedule. The gameplay basically breaks down into 2 parts: the team management and the game simulation. The team management is very, very in-depth. If you really enjoy the simulation aspect of video games then you really need to check OOTP4 out. Your team's market size has a huge impact on the budget you have to sign players. Just like in real life, if you play in a small market city you can cross off signing one of the upper echelon players. Along with setting ticket prices you can set a large number of other options as well as quite a few team promotion days such as bobble head day and hat day. Even these are customizable. Want to have a Marty Barrett poster day? You can. The key to a good franchise is having a good farm system. The farm system management is easy and very intuitive. The game lets you know what level certain players need to be playing in order to adequately develop the players. Setting the line-up is easy as well. If you want you have the option to go with a 4-man rotation. For those of you who don't play each game, or even those of you who like to simulate a few games in a row, the line-up screen lets you set the percentage of games that the bench players will start.
The gameplay portion of OOTP4 drew me in just as much as a typical graphics-based game. You control all of the action of your players. All of the player's statistics and ratings are displayed on the screen in order for you to make an informed decision. Putting on a hit and run, pitching out and making substitutions are all simple to do. The players do play like their statistics dictate, but just as in real-life, players suffer through slumps and choke in the clutch. The gameplay section is great, but I found myself being more of a general manager and simming a few games at a time and then making roster changes as needed or tweaking the line-up though a trade. Don't think about stealing players from the Computer managers. You'll have to offer up decent players in order to bring in a major player to help your team.
Replay Value : 95
OOTP4 is one of those rare games that keep you interested for months. The amount of off the field tweaking and decisions that you need to make in order to be competitive really allow you to become involved in the game. The simple things such as promotion days really make you feel like the franchise is real. I found myself just working on getting my farm system in order and tweaking my roster and franchise finances for 3 days before I ever took the field.
Overall : 95
I really enjoyed OOTP4. It is one of those rare games that you really have to dig to find problems. While the game does not have an MLB license you can easily download a user created roster and logos at a number of websites. I found it a bit difficult to get into the game using the default fictional roster. Overall, I found OOTP4 to provide a refreshing break from typical graphics-oriented games.
Official website for Out of the Park Baseball 4