Last year I had the opportunity to review Out of the Park ’12 and while I love baseball, I’m terrible at sports games and I’m even worse at sports simulator or management games. Case and point, last year I chose to manage the Cincinnati Reds and hardly got the team off the ground. Still, that didn’t stop Out of the Park ’12 from being a great simulation. This year I’m going to take another shot at running a professional baseball team while seeing if Out of the Park ’13 is any better than its predecessor.
Right off, the options from the start screen are the same as they were in OOTP12. You can load or continue a saved game, start a new season, relive a historical season or time period, create your own league with your own settings, or find and join an online league. Last year I started a standard season with the default MLB teams and settings, and I nearly crashed and burned with the Reds. This year though I decided to be a little more ambitious and create my own league, and I must say that this is actually one of my favorite parts of the game, if not my overall favorite and I really regret not getting more into this last year. There are so many different things you can do here to create your own league.
First off, you can actually choose from a pro or historical league as a template, or you can create a league from scratch, which is what I chose, so the next few steps may differ if you choose either pro or historical. Next you can decide whether you want one or two sub-leagues, how many divisions you want, and how many teams are in each division. I kept it simple with one sub-league, two divisions, and four teams in each division. After that you can name your league and team, and even chose their nationality. Following that you can chose whether you wish to use any minor leagues (I chose AAA), then chose some general settings such as whether to hold a draft, how long your season is, how many games each team plays, and so on. Finally, you’ll manage your manager profile and once that’s done, it’s time to get to managing a team.
Here’s where my review for OOTP13 gets a little…well, repetitive. I went back and took a look at my review for the 2012 game, and most of what was there mirrors my thoughts on this year’s version, so I apologize now if this seems similar to last year’s review as it’s pretty much the same thing. As you begin the season, you start on January 1st of whatever year you’re playing (most likely 2012 unless you’re playing a historical season) and you see a news report from BNN (Baseball News Network) that announces you as the new manager of insert-team-here (in my case, the Columbus Dragons…yes, I named my team the Columbus Dragons). You then receive an email from the team owner that talks about the current situation with the team. In the case of the Dragons, I was told that there was some weakness at first and third base, short stop, right field, the bullpen, and the rotation. So just like last year, half my team needs work.
Thankfully, you have plenty of time until Spring Training to fine tune your team during the off-season. Much like last year you can manage your roster, check out your current financial situation, attempt to sign free-agents or request trades, and check out the current reports on how your team is doing. In fact, this is also what you’ll be doing between games once the season gets going, and this, like last year, is the majority of the game. After all, it is a baseball management simulator. You can check out the current articles in the league newspaper (apparently I didn’t visit a children’s hospital this year), check stats around the leagues, and pretty much anything you want to do. As you progress day by day once the pre-season starts, you’ll get emails about any injuries and breaking news around the league. I actually had a funny scenario come up where a player on another team (the Carson City Galaxy) had to permanently retire due to a major injury. However, at the bottom of the email he’s listed as a free agent and I can offer him a contract. Thankfully they got a little smart here and if you click the button, they won’t actually let you offer a contract to him. Too bad you couldn’t offer a coaching-type contract, like a pitching coach or something. You can also actually post these emails to your Facebook or Twitter feeds…yes, your real life Facebook or Twitter feeds. Not a bad though, but still kind of head scratching unless you and your friends start your own league or something.
Once everything’s good to go, it’s time to actually play the game, and this hasn’t changed at all since last year. Everything is still simulated. Again, I get that it’s a baseball management simulator, but just picking what kind of pitch to throw or what to do at bat doesn’t really intrigue me. Even though it’s not my style, it’s still pretty thorough. You can simulate the game inning by inning, or simulate the game in its entirety. If you don’t want to do that, you can even simulate the season up to a certain date or time frame. In my case, I decided to simulate the entire pre-season and didn’t do too bad, finishing up at 10-14. Yeah, .417 might wind me up at the bottom of the division, but a couple teams in the other division did worse, so I don’t feel too bad. The owner’s prediction for the Dragons was to end up at around .500 for the season. Not as good as last year when it was predicted I’d get the Reds to the playoffs, but probably a more likely scenario knowing my management skills.
That’s really all there is. Navigating the screens can take a bit of getting used to, especially exiting (it seems like unless you choose Game -> Starting Screen first, hitting Exit Game won’t actually exit the game…or do anything). Besides that, with the exception of the rosters (which I’m guessing are updated for the 2012 season) and the physical design of the game, it’s virtually (pun slightly intended) the same as last year’s installment. For the most part, that’s fine. There are a few improvements they’ve made since the 2012 game outside of the look of the game. For instance, you can actually simulate games in real time. I checked it out, and I could actually “watch” another game taking place in “real time”. Not a bad concept, but not one that I’d see getting a lot of use. They’ve also listed improved online league play and improved playoffs, but I haven’t nearly gotten that far. Overall, if you don’t have a prior version of the game (or at least 2012, because I’m not sure how the versions before that are), $39.99 isn’t too bad of a price for a baseball management simulator this robust. However, if you do have Out of the Park ’12, you might not want to upgrade to 2013 if the improvements don’t seem like they’re worth the $40.