Let me state from the off that I know next to nothing about baseball! All I really know is that the owners of the football team I support also own a baseball team - or is it called a franchise? Either way, I thought I'd throw myself into this game, as the simulation aspect is similar to what I will have played in the Football Manager series. Thankfully, for newcomers such as myself, you can tick a box where you cannot be sacked as a manager. Phew!
First and foremost, the manager’s hub really did throw me to begin with. The level of detail in the main hub left me astonished, as there was so much to it - from the drafting system, to selecting your team on match day. Having never played any game from the OOTP series, I found reviewing this game easier, as I didn’t have to keep comparing it to last year’s edition. I am led to believe it has certainly been an upgrade, which can be extremely demanding when it comes to releasing games on a yearly basis. It’s here where I’d have liked there to be a tutorial, or a Football Manager style pop-up in the top corner where you can find out what things mean, rather than having to use the internet to find out.
The most confusing aspect for me to grasp was the transfer system. In Football Manager, you bid for a player and, if accepted, you offer them a contract via their agent. In OOTP Baseball 18, it felt very foreign to me largely because of the wages system, and how contracts can get bumped up season after season. I took over the Toronto Blue Jays and mainly stuck to acquiring free agents before the season started. I soon found out that the Blue Jays were one of the weaker teams I could’ve picked - but I like Canada and the colour blue, so it seemed like a perfect fit! Trading was another stumbling block for me. It’s really hard to sign a player from another club. Nothing ever felt straightforward in terms of “I’d like to sign this player” and it’s a done deal. The whole concept of a trade deal to an English football fan is completely alien, it’s just something we aren’t used to. Having said that, it’s a cool little system that makes for some interesting bargaining - like how much money you’re willing to exchange to land your signing, or how which player you’re willing to sell.
My first game was against Baltimore Orioles, and as with any sim management game, they live and die by their match day detail. The level of detail in the game was astounding, especially during the game. As manager of the team, you can switch between various viewpoints such as the webcast, 3D pitch view, as well as being able to change tactics and positions of your team. The user interface is splattered with detail, and it took me long enough to find the manager’s inbox! The UI could potentially do with an update so that sections of the game are easier to find, but it is only a minor gripe as I’ve never played an OOTP Baseball game previously. And it’s only a minor gripe as I love detail in games - particularly simulations. I enjoy reading the stats of the players, and looking through each team in detail and deciphering where I can defeat them, or which player is the potential weak link. This game offers you all that, and more.
My team came out to bat first, and as daft as it might sound, I was hooked from the off. I sat with my fingers clasped, begging that I would win my first game in management, against a very good side as well. One of my batsmen even bagged a home run in the first innings, as Blue Jays beat Baltimore Orioles 7-5. My two free agent acquisitions had really good games, and my pitcher played out of his skin, all while I felt as though I had truly masterminded the performance. That feeling of triumph and successful tactics is addictive, and it made me want to come back and keep improving the team. And while at first I found the transfer system to be difficult, I soon got to grips with it and have managed to build a decent team while keeping the finances in check.
In terms of the match action, if you are short of time, or prefer the day-to-day running of your team, you can skip an entire match or innings if you so wish. I preferred to stay around for the whole match, that way you can analyse and dissect where you can improve in future outings. The animations and sounds were well replicated too, with every element of the visuals looking crisp and well put together. The colours were vivid, and seeing the crowd jump up in celebration at a home run gives you a feeling of joy. The game well and truly draws you in with its real life vibe.
Out of the Park Baseball 18 (Reviewed on Mac OS)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Out of the Park Baseball 18 is a game that is a must for hardcore baseball fans, there’s no doubt about that. But, the most pleasantly surprising aspect of this game is how it can make a fan out of someone who knows very little about baseball like myself. It feels like the ultimate simulator, with immense levels of detail, great matchday visuals, and statistics to make any tactical statistician scream with joy. This game is so immersive that it makes you wonder how they can improve on the game next year - but something makes me think they’ll manage it just fine.