The Out of the Park Baseball franchise has become the management sim of choice for the knowing fan. Each edition gets better graphically, becomes easier to play and smoothes out any rough edges. We are now in volume five of this venerable series and things keep getting closer to perfection. |
OOTP 5 keeps the flexible team management of its predecessors. You have complete responsibility over the hiring and firing of coaches and scouts, you are on call for the nit-picking of contract negotiations and even the setting of ticket prices or promotion days to draw the fickle fans to your ball park. The players are all fictional - well, the names are; the stats are all real and it's not too hard to figure out who your power-hitting right-fielder is. If you choose to build a franchise, though, you will have to rely on your scout's eagle-eye for talent.
If being tied to one team is not for you, OOTP 5 has a Career Manager mode in which you take the precarious position of a big league manager. You will be hired and fired based on your performance elsewhere. Though the personal life of the manager is a needlessly silly intrusion ("I met a girl named Irene today..."), this mode is an interesting addition.
If historical baseball is your thing, you can import any team or league since 1900 from a publicly available database and customize the league to reflect the historical style of the time. Or not. How would Mark McGwire have done in the dead ball era? Can Ty Cobb hit .400 in a pitcher's league? Though this doesn't have the attraction of making your own team, it's proven to be a popular part of the OOTP experience.
The major improvements over the years have been in the interface. OOTP 5 is so smooth that you can find almost any piece of information you want in one and half clicks. Names every are hyper-linked, so you can easily call up contract status and career potential no matter where you are. Though this is obviously not a graphic heavy game, everything looks crisper and cleaner. The sounds of the game are appropriate.
There are a few niggling complaints. Without a scouting director, it is impossible to have any idea how your players stack, which seems a bit extreme. I am a professional manager after all. Small-market teams are so squeezed for cash that they may start the season short a coach or two. Player names are sometimes so clearly contrived that they sound like they came from a Damon Runyan novel.
But these are minor issues in what could prove to be the high water mark of baseball management simulations.
Reviewed by: Porcius