Reviewed: April 6, 2003
Released: February 28, 2003
The game is called Out of the Park Baseball 5 (OOTP) and the results are amazing. The good folks at .400 Software have created a baseball gem. I have never in my life seen such a deep statistical sports game of any kind. OOTP gives you the full experience of being the General Manager of a professional baseball team. The game is largely text-based and realistic. With OOTP you wonít get any fancy graphics and crazy power-ups. What you will get is a truly realistic baseball simulation game covering every aspect of the game right down to setting the price of tickets for your clubs games. Another great thing is that the game is available by downloading it so you will not have to wait to start enjoying this game.
While playing OOTP I was hard pressed to find anything that was left out. In fact, I found many things that I didnít expect. This game will immerse you in the day to day running of a sports franchise and will allow you to draw out the experience for virtual decades in career mode.
If you are a fan of Americaís Pastime or would love to see what really goes on behind the scenes then give OOTP a try. The gameplay is so customizable and complete that you can choose to play the game with as much interaction as you want so any fan, no matter whether they are casual or fanatic, will enjoy the experience of playing this game. With all of that out of the way, letís get down to the meat and potatoes of this game.
Before I start the Gameplay section of this review I would like to warn you about something. This review will not touch on everything that OOTP has to offer. There is not enough room to cover every feature unless I wrote the review in novel form. Like I have said previously, OOTP is massive. There are so many variations of gameplay and customization that playing this game will be a unique experience for each person. I will relate my experience with the game and try to cover as many features as I can.
The best place to start is with the expansive list of features found in this game:
When you start the game you are immediately presented with a variety of options. For the sake of time I will run through career mode, although you can also play a custom league or a historical league using downloaded stats for practically any year. Career mode is the mode most people will select because this allows you to start your own team and try to build a champion.
After you start career mode you move on to getting a job. Here you can scan the openings for managerís jobs and what they will pay from the 30 fictitious teams that are included in the game. Each team will offer you a different salary and has a different style of owner. All of these minute details are important, as you need to also consider your future financial well-being and job stability. If you end up taking a job from an owner that you donít see eye to eye with then you will end up looking for a different job.
Fan approval, wins and owner satisfaction will all ultimately determine whether or not you have a successful career and in turn a successful personal life. Yes, even the personal life of the coach is a factor in this game. Just finding the right fit for a job is not the end of your managerial duties. After selecting your dream job you must hire a competent staff to help you towards your goal of managing a successful franchise. This can be somewhat time consuming as what you are offering to pay and what prospective coaches feel they are worth donít always mesh and you can get turned down frequently. My advice here is to slightly overpay the coaches you really want or you will be left scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill out your staff. When you hire a staff you must hire everyone from batting and hitting coaches to the skippers of your minor league franchises.
Once your crack staff of baseball gurus is in place you must then begin to select the players that will be the backbone of your team. You can either go through the numerous rounds or have the computer draft your team for you. Seeing that the purchaser of this game is a baseball fanatic I see no reason to let the computer do this for you. While drafting you can see the picks of other teams and curse them as they take the player you had your eye on for the next round. My advice here is to take you time and develop a strategy before entering the draft. Consider your personal coaching strategy and decide whether you want to concentrate on big guns, strong arms or defensive players. These choices will decide your fate so choose carefully.
After the selection process is complete you will move on to the meat and potatoes of OOTPBB. The options allotted to you after this point are staggering. Your team will enter spring training and you can start the process of managing a professional baseball team. Player performance in exhibition games must be evaluated so that you can begin to cement your both your starting lineup and pitching rotation. Let everyone play and pick the best to lead your team throughout the grueling season ahead. Just like in real life, players go through slumps and get injured so here is where your minor league managers will be of help. Have they developed that raw talent into a player that can step up to the bigs in the absence of one of your starters? You had better hope so.
The rest of the gaming experience is just what you would expect from a graphically based baseball sim. You will use your cunning to determine the best strategies for certain situations and generally guide your teams day-to-day operations. I find this depth and ability to customize your playing experience a refreshing change from the current baseball offerings. True fans of the sport will love the ability to have a hand in every aspect of the baseball experience. From game situations where you need to adjust your infield, decide when to pinch-hit and determining the perfect moment to pull the starter for a reliever, I reiterate that everything is here.
The graphics in OOTPBB are a very small part of the game. There is a nice stadium view as a background and very clean and easy to navigate menus. While these seem to pale in comparison to the current baseball games available to play the graphics more than adequately serve their purpose. Considering that OOTPBB is really a text based game and you main form of interaction is through your mouse I think that the staff at .400 Software have done more than you would think they needed to in this department.
Player photos are done for practically everyone in the game and you can even import a picture of your own ugly mug for the managerís photo. This helps to add to the customization and personalization of your gaming experience. All of these well thought out minor touches help add to the experience and overall enjoyment of OOTPBB. While you will definitely find flashier graphics in other baseball games you will not find a more total baseball experience.
Like the graphics, the sound is not an important part of this game. Of course you have your ambient baseball park sounds and in game sounds but they are a very small part of a large game. The sounds that are included are done very well and do add a special touch to the game. The crowd noise and the crack of the bat will have you grabbing your old mitt and a scorecard as you head out to the virtual ballpark for a twilight doubleheader. While the sounds for this game adequately convey the action and atmosphere of the ballpark I still long to hear Harry Caray screaming, ďThereís a shot. Itís going, going and itís gone!Ē Alas, I guess the guys and gals at .400 have yet to find a way to raise the dead.
What words can I use to express the value contained in OOTPBB? Unlimited, limitless, boundless, infinite, immeasurable, incalculable and vast come to mind. Okay, I used the synonym feature on my word processor but you get the idea. There is no end to the value of this game. With the unlimited variations on gameplay and the endless amount of decisions to make during every game and season every time you play you get a whole new experience.
The thing that I both like and dislike at the same time is the exclusion of major league licenses. In the end though, the fact that all of the players and the teams are fictitious weighs more towards the plus side. Because everyone is made up it is easier for you to get to know your players that you have drafted, coached and molded into the athlete and person that they are.
Multiple seasons and the ability to play classic years from baseballs past are all huge positives for this title. I like the fact that I can manage my favorite teams from the past. Just so you know and can correct anyone you see, when I was managing the Red Sox back in 1986 and pulled Bill Buckner out of game six before his life-altering error. The Sox went on to win the series and forever shook off The Curse of the Bambino. Okay, OOTP baseball canít do this but I sure wish that it could.
If you are a fan of Americaís Pastime and you hunger for mounds of data then head over to www.ootp5.com and download your copy today. You will not be disappointed and you may even be surprised at the facets of the game that I didnít have time to touch on in this review. OOTPBB is the most comprehensive baseball simulation available and has no equal. This game sets the standard for baseball simulations and will have the avid ball fan drooling uncontrollably.
Remember though that this game is for the baseball fanatic and will probably not appeal to either the younger or more inexperienced fan. With the perfect balance of statistics and strategy OOTPBB is for the purists and students of the game. With its extreme flexibility and potential for customization you will not find a better baseball game than this.