Out of the Park Baseball 1824th March, 2017
Yearly sports titles have always found themselves suffering from time constraints. From other management titles like Football Manager, to more active titles like FIFA or WWE, they all have that issue. It’s finding the balance of larger and smaller improvements in varying editions. I’m coming into Out of the Park Baseball 18 fresh out of the blocks so I can’t say much about that. What I can say, though, is that I’m impressed.
I’m also fairly overwhelmed. Baseball isn’t really my game. Coming in, I knew so little about the rules, team or league structures. I didn’t even know that the leagues don’t have a promotion and relegation system in place. I wasn’t certain about how player transfers happened. All I knew is that they played a large number of games and they hit a ball with a bat. There’s one thing, the game’s a good teacher.
If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s how baseball’s actually played. How each team takes turns per… inning? I know that’s what they’re called in Cricket, but is it Baseball too? Nevermind, I understand the sport that little bit more than I did and it’s all thanks to Out of the Park Baseball 18. How? The game is extremely detailed, complex and intriguing in the same way as other top sports management titles. It’s a game that will suck you in.
What’s certainly impressive is the wealth and depth of features Out of the Park Baseball 18 has. Ranging from Historical mode, where you can play a single season, or start a career in any year from 1871 onwards. I can’t attest to the complete historical accuracy of this, but a perusal of the internet shows corresponding information. The Kansas City Monarchs did have a player called George ‘Tank’ Carr in 1920. This is the sort of depth I’d love to see in Football Manager. It’s certainly impressive to see it here.
Adding onto this is the option to create your own league. Do you want to buck the trend of the US and create leagues where promotion and relegation can happen? Go ahead, feel free. Manage the breadth and depth of your leagues, creating a complete table and play through to your heart’s content.
Of course, games like this come with their issues. The primary one is the incredibly steep learning curve. Not only do you need to know, or learn, the rules of baseball. You also need to ingratiate yourself with the masses of screens and the labyrinthine menu system. This is probably my largest complaint with the title. Why it takes a large number of clicks to get to any particular screen is beyond me. It could be so much sleeker and more efficient. It could also do with explaining just a little more.
How you’re meant to manage your team’s finances is beyond me. Trading in a player who’s on a $12m contract that year, only to find out the next three his contract jumps up to $25m per year. This means you’ve now got next to no funds for contract negotiations or extensions of your own. I don’t know if this is true of real baseball, but not actually negotiating contracts with incoming players seems strange to me. Even if this is the case, surely you should be able to see the players upcoming guarantees? Maybe you can, but in a little over 18 hours I’ve been unable to find the information.
My other complaint, and possibly the only other one I have, comes from the matches themselves. Aesthetically I’ve got no issues. You’re able to swap between three views: 3D, webcast, or the ability to control the positioning of your players when pitching, actually how you pitch as well. It’s extensive and offers a level of strategy. At least that’s the idea.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the ability levels of players make a large impact. However, when you actually play the matches I simply don’t see any consistency, or at least correlation between a good batter and actually hitting the ball. For the most part my 4 or 5 star batter will continuously tap the ball like he’s afraid to hurt it. A different player, however, will smack it with such authority that the ball literally decides it’s had enough, flies out of the park and gets me a home run. This is only when I control the games though. Actually simulating matches results in a more consistent approach by my team. However, it’s fairly possible it was my fault.
One thing that is certain is just how much Out of the Park Baseball 18 draws you into its world. Despite any complaints I have on the match engine seemingly not having any links to the stats of your players, it’s exciting to watch. The feeling of hitting that double or home run that has you coming from behind to win the match. Actually watching the ball fly into the crowd. It’s just as exhilarating as a late winner on Football Manager. Working with this is a play-by-play commentary that follows the match extremely well, giving you good stats for any pitcher or batter that steps up. It all just adds to that feeling of a living, breathing world of baseball. Particularly so when live updates from the rest of the world are just at the touch of your fingertips.
Outside of matches you also get constant updates through emails on how happy the fans are. Marquee signings will bring more fans to the matches. Start seeing some success and you can raise ticket prices. Suddenly the big names don’t seem that difficult to sign. Of course if you’re like me and intentionally pick a smaller side then the really big names, who always seem to have a clause where they can opt out of a trade, will exercise that right.
Trades also seem to work incredibly well and goes to highlight the great AI. Far from the only thing that does, from the consistency of the rest of Out of the Park Baseball 18 when I don’t get involved and the reactions of players, fans and media too and real developments. Trades, however, work on a completely different level. Prying away that potential superstar from a club can be an incredible challenge. Altering deals, adding and removing players, throwing in a pile of cash. It can be surprisingly complicated but the game never leaves you not knowing through having a simple one-liner from the other party that expresses their thoughts on the deal.
Worst case scenario, should you want a little freedom to enjoy baseball your way, there’s commissioner mode. This gives you the ability to swap to and control any team you like, force through trades and much more. Think of it as god mode. Using this on one of your own created leagues offers the most freedom. You can set yourself up to be a dominating force or, should you like, set an AI-led team up to be a huge challenge to surpass.
If you’re a fan of sports simulators, particularly the management ones, then you can’t do much better than Out of the Park Baseball 18. Improvements to the UI are sorely needed, particularly to improve navigation. Tutorials are also required. The game links you to a page which should have video tutorials on but it appears to be missing at the time of writing. However, the game offers an incredibly detailed and complete simulation of a major sport. Just how much it packs in, especially as it goes back over a century, is impressive to say the least.
It possibly boils back down to me not fully understanding baseball, yet, that creates a slight dissonance between me and Out of the Park Baseball 18. I’m slowly but surely understanding both baseball and the game more as time goes on. All this does is shine a light on just how compelling the game is.
Review code provided by the publisher. You can buy the game digitally via Amazon.
Out of the Park Baseball 18 is one of the best sport-simulation games on the market. Lagging slightly behind its football rival primarily due to a terrible interface. Once you get sucked in, though, it's extremely compelling and a great learning aid if you know little about baseball.
- Extremely detailed simulation of the sport ranging over one hundred years
- Brilliant match engine with all the information you could require as well as a commentry that actually follows the match
- Excellent customisation options for creating your own leagues, tournaments or more
- Lacks a tutorial for anybody unsure of the sport or the game itself
- Extremely user-unfriendly interface that makes finding some information a pain at best