Out of the Park Baseball X Review (PC)
For those who are unaware, and perhaps a quick refresher course for those who are, Out Of The Park is a baseball simulation management series created and developed by Markus Heinsohn. Out of the Park Baseball X (OOTP X) marks the 10th iteration of the game to be released.
And as a baseball simulation management game, your main aim is to become the general manager (or even manager) of a baseball team. You get to decide what players are signed, drafted, traded for, etc. You’ll be able to manage or watch the game play out via play-by-play text commentary, complete with rudimentary graphical representation and some atmospheric sound effects. These options suffice and do a good job of telling and showing you what is occurring during the game, but you should not expect anything on the level of MLB 09: The Show -- or even something from the NES era -- when it comes to the graphics.
But if I had to describe OOTP and why you should give it a shot, I’ll just say that I was browsing through OOTP X and noticed that the tag-line for the game read, "It’s your game; Play it your way!" and it instantly clicked. That phrase perfectly conveyed what the game was about and explained exactly why OOTP X (and the series in general) is so awesome.
For example, the options for the type of league you want to run and simulate are limitless. You can choose to set up your own fictional baseball league, no matter how wacky or ambitious, while deciding upon various issues. Things like the salary cap, the DH, free agency or the amount of wild card teams that make the playoffs are just some of options you can tackle. Simply put, there are a ton of options that will help you make your league unique.
Alternatively, you can also choose to set up a historical league. If you choose that option, you can start at any time (from the 1890s all the way up to 2008) and simulate baseball's past. For example, you could start out playing a game in 1898, choose to simulate to 2009 -- leaving the game to handle its simulation business for a little while -- and come back to have an entire alternative MLB history to peruse and digest.
Lastly, you can choose to run a league that is modeled exactly like the real MLB, complete with real MLB clubs and rosters. So you can take over a real MLB club and take it through the current 2009 season and beyond.
But beyond the league you choose to run, the experience of actually playing OOTP X can differ wildly from player to player, and there is just a stunning amount of versatility and absolute freedom present in the process. I mean you could simulate multiple seasons in a matter of minutes, or you could spend 45 minutes of your time going through the pitch-by-pitch action of a single game.
I suppose that’s exactly why OOTP is so appealing. It offers a completely fulfilling experience that provides something substantial for everyone. And while these freedoms and options have been apparent and available since the early days of OOTP, the promise and potential of this experience has been realized with OOTP X.
What’s New and Improved?
Hopefully those new to the series now have an idea of what OOTP is all about, so for those who are more familiar with OOTP, I’ll explain why OOTP X is a worthy purchase for those interested in some solid baseball simulation action.
First and foremost, OOTP X comes complete with real 2009 rosters for every single team, which range from the Majors down through every level of the minors. It’s an impressive effort, with accurate attributes for most players (obviously not everyone will be pleased with how certain players are handled) and there is considerable attention to detail, especially as it pertains to accurate player contracts.
Perhaps the biggest new feature in OOTP X is the revamped pitching system, which is certainly effectively implemented. The biggest change you’ll see with this system is that the overall effectiveness of a player's pitches are now rated, and the pitches also affect how pitchers perform as well as what role they may possess in the future. So a pitcher with only one or two dominant pitches may make an ideal reliever or closer, while a pitcher with a plethora of plus pitches would be an ideal starter. The new system adds more realism to the process of how pitchers are scouted and modeled, and it positively differentiates OOTP X from previous iterations of the series.
Aesthetically I also loved the new red and black menu skin, and the user interface (UI) remains as solid as ever. The addition of widgets also adds a nice amount of flexibility to the game-watching process. Other new features that I like are the inclusion of a more realistic arbitration/compensation system -- it now closely resembles how things work in the MLB -- as well as the addition of minor league DL spots.
Otherwise, I thought the biggest assets in OOTP X weren’t necessarily the new features or options, but instead were the vast amount of refinements and improvements made to many of the existing game elements.
For example, I absolutely loved the increased variety and quality of the writing seen in OOTP X. From the large number of new news stories to the varied player scouting reports to the lovely new play-by-play text commentary, they’re all written well and they definitely added to the immersion level of the game. I daresay it’s worth upgrading to OOTP X for these improvements alone. I only hope the series will continue to work/improve this area in the future.
The artificial intelligence (AI) has also been improved. Namely, the AI is much more intelligent in OOTP X, and you won’t see the AI make many stupid moves. It’s not entirely perfect, and sometimes you will come across some minor issues, but I have not encountered anything game-breaking.
Of course you can’t talk about OOTP and not mention statistics. And OOTP X remains just as strong in this area. Personally, I believe OOTP’s wealth of statistical-recording options is a cut above anything seen in any other sports game. And if you’re a stats junkie, OOTP X definitely won’t disappoint.
Additionally, I felt that simulating games in the short and long term felt quicker, at least when compared to past OOTP games. Obviously your particular experience will depend upon your own personal computer configuration, but I imagine that most people will find OOTP X to be a faster experience. Also, I experienced no major hang-ups, bugs or issues while playing through the game. But again, some may find some problems I didn’t. Luckily, if you head to the OOTP forums, the OOTP crew is usually quick to respond if you find some bugs or faults within the game.
Finally, you may have noticed that I haven't found too many faults within the game, but honestly, that’s because there's nothing really worth mentioning. There are some little faults or areas that could be improved, but those negatives are entirely too small to make a difference in my overall opinion of the game.
OOTP X is a fantastic text-sim that contains basically everything you would want in a baseball simulation game. Once you see that opening screen -- featuring a beautiful aerial shot of Fenway Park -- splash across your monitor, you will just feel and know that you are in store for a quintessential baseball experience.
More specifically, I want to say to series vets that they have nothing to fear. OOTP X is as freakishly addicting as ever, and you won’t go wrong upgrading to this game. And for new players, OOTP X is the perfect game if you want to jump aboard the OOTP wagon. There are tons of helpful explanations and instructions available within the game to guide you along.
In the end, the new features and the various improvements in OOTP X nicely augment the foundation set forth by OOTP 9. At the same time, there is enough new stuff here to make OOTP X more than just a small upgrade for long-time users. The game is just loads of fun, and I encourage all of you to give it a shot.
If interested, OOTP X is available for purchase here for $39.99.
Gameplay: Becoming a virtual baseball GM has never been more fun.
Graphics: New skin looks amazing, but the graphics are a weak point.
Sound/Presentation: Not much here except some nice atmospheric sound effects.
Online: The option to play in online leagues remains as available as ever. And for anyone interested in mods, check out the OOTP forums.
Entertainment Value: Thoroughly addicting and well worth your time.
Learning Curve: May seem overwhelming but tons of helpful options are available.
Score: 9.0 (Exceptional)