For those who don't know me that well, I love baseball. I don't follow it as much as other people (meaning I'm not a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge and stats), but I love watching the games and even go two a couple minor league games now and then for my hometown team, the Columbus Clippers
. While I dreamed of playing in the majors as a kid (despite having almost no athletic ability in me, but what kid didn't dream of playing some sort of major sport), I never dreamed of actually managing a team. With Out of the Park Baseball Baseball 12, I get the chance to do just that, so I took it for a spin. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? Apparently drive a team right into the ground, but that's another story. Let's take a look at this baseball simulator for the PC.
To start with, when you first load up the game, you actually have several options at your disposal. Aside from continuing, loading, or starting a new Major League game with the 2011 rosters, there are a few other things you can do. I'm going to start off though with the main mode I focused my time on, which was managing a team with the 2011 roster. Once I got everything loaded up, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I had an idea of what it takes to manage a baseball team, but this really puts it into perspective. From the get go you can choose to manage any team from so many different leagues, many of which I've never heard of. For me, it boiled down to three choices: the Columbus Clippers, Cleveland Indians, or Cincinnati Reds. I could have even started off without a team, but I like a challenge, so I picked the Reds. I mean, what's the worst that could...oh yeah, I already answered that question. Anyway, after I picked my team, I was presented with so many options, that I think if I were to have a successful season with this thing that I really could manage an actual team. While that's nowhere near a reality for me, this is going to be a massive undertaking for me as I usually just sit back and watch the game in the leisure my own home.
The first thing I did was check my in-game mail which offered some help of how to progress. I also learned that I was lacking in my shortstop and outfield. Great, the season hasn't even begun yet and already I'm "lacking" in almost half of my team. You can also get emails about what's going on around the league as a whole, or even the majors as a whole, as well as scouting reports and emails from the owner. The owner for the Reds said he expects us to get to the playoffs. Um...sure, let's go with that. You can also get emails about trades, injuries, and just about anything pertaining to the league. The only way it'd be better is if you had your own little ESPN-like website to go to and check out. Actually, you sort-of do. You can check out standings and stats with the game's fictional Baseball News Network, or BNN, and even view a fictional newspaper. I even made the front page where a small story featured me taking time out of my busy schedule as the new manager of the Reds to visit a children's hospital.
In the League Options, you can actually create a new league or delete the current one. Yes, you can completely get rid of the entire Major League and put everyone as a free agent. Of course I'm not going to do that...unless my team does completely horrible and I'm about to be fired...but the idea of even creating your own league is a very intriguing aspect that I'd like to play around with more when I get the chance. Want to clear all the rosters? That's entirely possible. How about control every team and every aspect of every team? Yep, that's possible as well. You can even create and add ballparks, recalculate finances, and make player and personal contracts. Essentially, this program is a baseball simulator set on God Mode. Behind the scenes, you can literally do just about anything and everything. My main worry is that I'll screw up something too badly financially speaking.
Once everything is done for the day behind the scenes, you can actually simulate that day's game if there is one, and that takes me to the only misstep I see with this program: the games themselves. Unfortunately, these are also simulated to a degree. Granted, I wasn't expecting anything like MLB The Show, but something a little more in control would have been nice, as opposed to clicking buttons all the time. I do like that you can view the game as a broadcast or a webcast, but it's not as interesting as actually watching a game. Everything I'm going to describe is for the Broadcast view, which is what I've been using. The left half of the screen shows the scoreboard, the lineups, and stats for both pitchers, while the right side shows the field, who's playing what position, and the game controls. On defense, you can choose things like Pitch, Intentional Walk, Hit Batter, and you can even try to pick off runners, and here's where I have my mixed feelings for this part of the game. You can choose to either do things pitch-by-pitch, or one-pitch, which means that you'll pitch the ball somewhere random in the count and the outcome is as if you simulated to that point in the count while doing pitch-by-pitch. Aside from choosing to pitch out or around or to intentionally walk someone, you have no control over the type of pitch or where it goes. You also have no control over fielding, as it's all automatic.
Batting is a bit worse. When starting out, you have three options: Swing Away, Take Pitch, and Bunt for Hit. Swing Away, much like pitching in one-pitch mode, puts you somewhere in the count, has you swing, and the result is pretty random. Half the time I end up striking out. Take Pitch means just that; you take the pitch as either a ball or strike. Bunt...well, you know what bunting is if you've ever seen an actual game. As stated, to me, this is the game's one misstep. You have no control over swinging the bat to an extent, you have no control over what kind of pitches you pitch, and you have no control fielding the ball. I understand that this is a baseball management
simulator, and you can choose what the pitcher or batter should do, but I would have like it if you had more control over the games themselves. For those who feel like I do about that, you can completely simulate the game for the current at bat, half inning, full inning, or to any inning, including the entire game. While writing this review, I had the game up to make sure I had my thoughts straight and I simulated a game instead of choosing the options play-by-play. I think I'll do that more often. My first game was against the Brewers and I played every inning, but I lost 8-1. This game I just simulated it after the top of the first, and I won 7-1. Maybe I won't drive the Reds into the ground after all.
As I stated earlier, there are a few different things you can do besides just manage an existing team for the 2011 season. You can create your own league (as stated earlier), sign up for the Out of the Park Baseball Baseball online league, import your game from Out of the Park Baseball 2011, or even play a historical game. This actually lets you create a historical season during any year from 1871 to 2010. The option the game gave me a default was 1977, so I took it and checked it out. It seems like you can control the season much like the normal game, but I decided to check a couple of options to use that seasons trades and rosters automatically. After getting everything set up to start without a team to manage (and realizing that I can't have myself born in 1982 if it's only 1977), I began the year and had offers from four teams: the Blue Jays, Astros, Royals, and Padres. Once I settled for the Royals, the game got underway and it's pretty much like the normal 2011 season...only about 34 years prior. For now I'll stick to present times, as managing one team to greatness is tough enough.
Overall, Out of the Park Baseball 2012 is an excellent simulator. There are so many options to go with, things to do, and people and finances to manage, that you'll actually get a feel for how to manage a major league team. As stated, my only issue was with how the games themselves are simulated. If you at least had the option of what kind of pitch to make on defense, I could live with that, but otherwise, I'll probably end up simulating all my games and just worrying about the behind the scenes stuff. Still, that doesn't detract me from the game, as it's fun to see if I can lead the Reds to a better season than Dusty Baker. I mean seriously, they made the playoffs last year, yet as of this typing they're not even above .500. That's exactly why in Out of the Park Baseball 2012 I'm making the decisions and not him. Yes, you can let the AI manager make some of the decisions, but if my team is going to fail, it'll be at my own hand.