Review: Out of the Park Baseball 15 | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

If you don’t know what Out of the Park Baseball is, this is no exaggeration — it’s the deepest, most intensive baseball sim out there. Virtually everything about the playing experience is customizable, allowing players to design an entire baseball universe to their liking.

Every year, the developers keep tinkering to add something new to the experience. While the changes are often times subtle, the game has undergone one of its biggest overhauls in awhile this year with OOTP 15. Among the biggest changes:

League-Relative Ratings
Player ratings have always been the crux of OOTP gameplay. OOTP 15 introduces a completely revamped ratings system that may take some time for experienced OOTP players to get used to. The league-relative ratings feature is not a default setting, but if you choose to play with it on, what you’ll get are ratings that are more of a true indicator of where a player stacks up compared to league averages. Whereas with the traditional rating system, a guy with “5” power on a 1-10 scale wouldn’t have had very much pop, with the new system a power rating of 5 would actually mean a guy has league-average power. It’s different, but in the end makes a lot more sense, and when you’re playing GM it gives you a better idea of what you can expect.

The league-relative ratings can also come in handy when trying to decide if your prospects are ready for the next level of the minors. Have a guy who’s crushing it in High-A, but you’re not sure how he’d look with a jump to Double-A? Select the right league from the “Ratings Relative To:” dropdown menu on the player’s profile page and see how the ratings change. A pitcher whose current “Stuff” rating is 7 in High-A might see that current rating drop to 5 in Double-A.

Expanded International Leagues
Recent editions of OOTP allowed you to expand your baseball universe by adding leagues in other countries. They were fictional leagues, but at least you could get a real-world feel with players coming over from overseas. In OOTP15, you can now add real leagues (with real players) from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Cuba, The Netherlands and Italy. You can keep an eye out for the next Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka for years before they get posted if you wanted to, and can see American players try to re-ignite their careers in Japan just like Nyjer Morgan did.

Not only can you create these leagues, but if you get tired of managing teams in the United States, you can manage those international teams, too. Excuse me while I take a moment to continue my quest to be the greatest Honkbal manager in the history of the Netherlands.

(It’s also worth noting that while they aren’t standalone leagues, the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League teams have been added to every Major League team’s system, giving you another place to stash extremely raw prospects. Last year, all of your scout’s international finds were kept in the “International Complex” and you pretty much left them there until they were developed enough to come stateside. The Complex is still there, but now you can see how these players fare in actual games before promoting them to your Rookie League teams.)

3D Ball Flight
OOTP has always been a text-based sim, first and foremost. While there have always been tweaks made to the in-game management screen to add more of a visual element (animation when balls were put into play, fictional player faces through the FaceGen feature, etc.), OOTP has always been 2D — until now. One of the flashier features new to OOTP15 is 3D ball flight (and along with that, 3D stadiums).

It’s a feature that, by the developer’s own admission, isn’t totally ready for primetime, but the potential is there to be a cool addition. It’s one thing to read “Braun crushes it to left…and it’s GONE!” in the play-by-play. It’s another to actually see the ball carry over the left field fence and disappear. The game ships with a generic major league stadium background and a generic minor league stadium background, but the OOTP gaming community is always good at quickly creating mods, and it’s hard to imagine “real” stadiums not being available and usable in the near future.

There are a slew of other new features — including the ability to retire numbers of your franchise’s best players, which is just plain cool to me — and even after playing around with the game for a few days, I’m sure there are things I haven’t even come across yet. That’s one of the best parts about OOTP: you could simulate 30 years of baseball and still come across something you haven’t seen before, whether it’s a league rule change, a team relocation or a strange storyline involving a star player.

Every year, I sit here and say, “if you think of it, it’s in OOTP.” And every year, they keep thinking of new things to add. That’s the crazy thing. The level of depth continues to be mind-blowing, to the point of almost being intimidating. But as always, OOTP is only as hard as you want it to be — every feature can be scaled back, and you can play however you want to play. Want to guide a group of Dutchmen to a Honkbal Hoofdklasse title? Have at it! Want to be GM of the Brewers for 50 years and make impossible for Mark Attanasio to fire you? Go for it. Want to destroy the once-pristine St. Louis farm system and see just how long it takes the organization to recover? You’re evil, but that sounds like a lot of fun. Want to go back in time and give the Brewers Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1992? You can do that, too.

The beauty of OOTP is that nobody can tell you how to play. For $40, you decide what kind of game you’re getting, and you aren’t tied down to just a few experiences like you are with the console games on the market.

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