Sports Interactive are a developer you would know for the famous Football Manager series. They have taken the football management genre and made it their own, producing year in year out the best football management game out there. However, they do a few games in the 'off season' which are of equal quality and one of these has just been [img]ootpb2007_pc_1[/img]released in the form of Out of the Park baseball, right in time for the MLB season in the US. While OOTP baseball is not as licensed or refined as FM, there are definite similarities between the two and Sports Interactive have built a very useful game for those looking for a baseball management sim.
As you might expect the crux of this game is to manage a fictional baseball team through the minor leagues to the majors and win it all. Sounds familiar - and that would be because this structure is very much like that in Football Manager. The main options even reflect this in that you can start a team from scratch or go through a quick start format, by joining a team to get right into the action. From there it's pretty much like any management game and you will find much more time doing managerial tasks than actually taking part in games.
This really is a niche title as you would expect and unless you like managing squads, staff and hiring new people and coaches etc then OOTP baseball is really not for you. On the flip side, it's the same case with Sports Interactive's powerhouse title so this should come as no surprise to those familiar with the company. The interface has been improved and really is starting to look like its bigger brother. It's a matter of simply browsing around a website style interface and making changes. We did get stuck a few times in some areas but a quick look in the help area managed to rectify this quickly.
One thing which did surprise us is the level of interactivity you can have during the games. You can 'quick play' them and have the game do all the simulation [img]ootpb2007_pc_2[/img]for you but you can also manage the game at an extremely micro level such as defining when to pitch, take bases, hit a player on purpose etc. Of course this leads to games taking hours and hours to finish, but you can do it if you want to. You can also of course micro manage your squad right down to selections, but the game itself can take this over so you can concentrate on the action.
As you would expect with a SI game the statistics and level of detail is truly incredible. If there is something that you want to know about a player from history, if they are featured in the game, you will get that information at your finger tips. There is a billion reports to look at when making decisions and the manual itself is 500 pages, which should tell you just how detailed the developers have made this game.
There are however a few disappointments. First of all there is no licensing to speak of whatsoever. We understand that it costs a lot of money but it would have been nice to see at least a few minor licenses to play around with. There are text files however which allows you to change teams, players, ball parks and nations. What they have in place of licensing is the ability to play through the history of baseball with the historical league options. Also with license freedom, you can drop and enter new leagues anytime, change them, move players between leagues etc which allows a high level of custom possibilities.
The visuals as you would expect are nothing to write home about but what the interface does it does well. Everything you need is only a few clicks away and during game time you get all the statistics you need to decide whether a player is a home run hitter or should bunt and hope to get to base. It also allows you to manage the game at the lowest level by deciding when to pitch, try and get someone out by throwing the bases etc. It also doesn't push the computer too hard allowing you to play it on perhaps that old laptop sitting in the corner on the way to work or while traveling.
There are a few disappointments with this game, however the positives far outweigh the bad and this really is the most comprehensive baseball management sim available in 2007. Sure it doesn't have much competition, but that doesn't mean it should be denied the accolades that it deserves. One for the baseball fans or those just looking for a new management challenge away from football.
You can find the demo for Out of the Park Baseball 2007 here.