The Out Of The Park (hereafter referred to as OOTP) franchise is not new to baseball fans who own a PC. The series has been around in some form since 1998, and has managed to improve incrementally every year. This is difficult for a sports game that has committed to a new iteration every season: there would be a temptation for the developer to update the rosters, maybe tweak the graphics a little, and call it good. Part of the reason OOTP has been so successful is the sheer volume and depth of the game itself. I’ve been a long-time devotee of the series, and every year I find something new that they’ve added, or that I didn’t know before.
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, OOTP is a baseball management simulator. You don’t get to swing the bat and throw the ball as you would in a traditional baseball game: you tell your players what to do. Want to be John Gibbons and manage the games? Go for it. In-game, you can manage at-bats, shifts, when to warm someone up, when your pitchers go in and out, and so much more. You can pick your lineups, your starting rotations, and manage roles of your bench players and bullpens down to the tiniest detail. You could sit Russell Martin every five games, or run the starters out there until they’re exhausted.
If you want to run the franchise, you can do that too. Drafts, trades, promotions, budgeting, there’s so much you can do to chart the course of your franchise. If your players aren’t happy, they’ll tell you. Their performance might drop, and you might have to trade them. But if you gut the team, your fans will turn on you, and suddenly you’ll have less money to make your team in your image. There’s a chance you might get fired.
For someone new coming into OOTP 18, the sheer volume of detail and choice might be intimidating. The interface reflects that volume, and finding what you’re looking for can take some time, but it needs that depth to be as all-encompassing as it is. Whether you’re someone who wants to run the nitty-gritty details of every game, or set up your lineups and let them manage themselves, OOTP can accommodate your preferences.
Armed with the new game, I did what any good fan of the Jays would do: I took the 2017 team for a spin, kicking Atkins and Gibby out of their roles and inserting myself.
They’ve attempted to integrate ballpark sounds into the games, but that can sometimes be more distracting than immersive, depending on your taste. Also, the graphics are functional, but that’s really not the game’s purpose. It’s about the details and the experience, not the visuals.
On that front, my experience running the team was excellent; OOTP is fun on both the roster management side and the playing-the-games side. The trading has gotten better every year; sports games often suffer from the “trading a bunch of crap for one star” problem, and OOTP seems to have curbed that well. Other teams evaluate their needs for both present and future, so a need at first base doesn’t mean they’ll take Justin Smoak if they’re rebuilding). With a couple free agents on the pitching side, I explored some trades, but I risked alienating the player or the fans if I did. The Jays (as we’ve discussed) are in an awkward spot trying to compete AND look forward, and I felt that as I went through the months.
The game management was engaging as well. Lineup optimization didn’t do much as my team blew some leads early in the season, and I questioned my constant shifting as hits seemed to find holes. Some players didn’t like the losing, or where I put them in the lineup, but a good stretch in May had the locker room a little more settled. OOTP does a good job making your team seem organic, and have a life of it’s own, which is no small feat given the sometimes dry presentation.
If historical what-ifs are more your thing, OOTP has you covered there as well. The game also has a number of historical leagues, teams and seasons you can take for a spin. If you want to play an series between the 2015 Jays up against the 1992 World Series winning team, you can. You can play a historical season again. How would the 1994 Expos have done? You can find out.
There’s so much more to discover, but we can make our recommendation: OOTP 18 is an excellent baseball management simulator. It’s a worthy successor in an excellent line of games, and an easy recommendation for fans of the series. Newcomers may find it intimidating at first, but the detail and depth means there’s something here for anyone who loves baseball, and the idea of trying their hat at being a manager or GM.
Note: A free code for OOTP 18 was given to the author
Lead Photo via OOTP 18’s Steam Page