Out Of The Park Baseball 14 may be the most in-depth sports simulation game yet.
As somebody who has never played an OOTP game before, I expected to feel overwhelmed when starting up the game. I was, but not for nearly the amount of time that I expected to be. OOTP 14 is as deep of a game as you can get, but learning and understanding how the basics work is a painless task, much to my surprise.
The game can be as simple or as deep as the player would like. Players have the option of being able to micromanage every little detail that they choose to manage, such as ticket prices, the team's scouting budget, and whether the team is rebuilding, in win now mode, or in the middle, or they can just watch the big picture and allow their management team to handle call ups, signings, lineups, and trades. Whatever way the player wants to play, it can be done in OOTP.
OOTP is not officially sponsored by the MLB, so uniforms and logos are basic designs created by the game. Fan-made mods are available through the add-on central in game that put in the logos and uniforms that the actual teams wear. Mods are also available to use computer modeled faces that replicate the actual player's faces as well.
Individual players in the game will see their potential and overall ratings fluctuate throughout their career, just as would be seen in real life players. A player can have multiple seasons where they are barely better than a replacement player, then turn it all around and figure it out again, like Vernon Wells has done this year for the New York Yankees.
OOTP's version of prospect progression is spot on to the real life counterpart. Prospects who play well and are slowly brought through the system will progress and possibly see an increase in the player's potential, while players who are rushed through the system or brought through too slowly will have their progression diminished. Placing a player in a league that is too competitive for him can wreck his confidence and progression, while a mediocre prospect can blossom with confidence by having a perfect situation and turn into a superstar that nobody saw coming, sort of like Albert Pujols. There is enough randomness to player progression, however, that there is no foolproof plan.
Storylines within the game add to the realism factor as well. A well-known major league player's son could gain admission into a high-end academy that is in the same town, or close to, his father's major league team, adding a reason for that player to want to sign an extension with the team. Off the field injuries also occur, along with off the field problems. Players can miss extended time due to the death of a family member, or fall down the stairs and be injured. Team owners will also pass away, giving control of the team to their son or having the team be sold, which could change the owner's patience level and the amount of money available. There are many more examples of events occurring throughout play as well, some being events that unfold as time advances.
Children of players and former players will also be seen in the draft in future years. Obvious findings are players named after their father, but some children will not be a junior and may have been involved in a storyline multiple seasons ago as a child.
OOTP also offers the option to players to start a new season or career at any point in history, from 1871 all the way to the present. If someone ever wondered what would have happened if Ken Griffey Jr. had never left Seattle for Cincinnati or had the Red Sox never sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, this is the closest that anybody will get to recreating it.
Real Time Simulation, an addition to last year's release, has been improved and expanded on. Players can still watch games play out in real time, or a quicker passing speed, on a scoreboard. This year, players are able to expand a single game and see all of the important facts, such as the pitcher and batter matchup, a basic box score, and win probability.
New to OOTP this year is a completely recoded player origin system. Players now enter the game through the first year draft, international top prospect free agents, established international free agents, international scouting discoveries, and players from independent leagues. All except for the first year player draft are optional, but all are realistic ways for players to come into a player's system. Players with major league potential are rarely found from scouting discoveries or the independent leagues, but the rare breakthrough player can appear from those two sources.
Also new this year is a new type of fielding ratings development system. Players can outgrow positions as their bodies fill out. A tall middle infielder can outgrow his position defensively as he ages and puts on weight, forcing him to become an outfielder or third baseman, or an outfielder can lose athleticism and become a first baseman.
The new system for tracking player development is one of the most useful screens in the game, as it allows the player to see which prospects are progressing or regressing and in what ways. The report page shows every change that has occurred for any player within a chosen time period for all players in the organization.
Anybody who is a fan of being a virtual general manager needs to try OOTP. The realism is unmatched by any sports game on the market. The level of depth in the game is enough to keep a player micromanaging their franchise for hours on end, but only advance a month in game time.
Players who want to actually play the game on the field, this is not the game for you. But those who feel they could be a general manager, a manager working his way up through the minor leagues to a role as a general manager, or just as a manager who manages the game pitch by pitch, there is no better game available to fulfill that dream.
I am giving Out Of The Park Baseball 14 a 9.6 out of 10. (Note: I was not able to experience an online league before writing this review, so all notes made are for single player. All features are available in single player and multiplayer, and all gameplay is supposed to work identically for single player and online leagues.)