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REVIEW: MLB Front Office Manager (PC)

MLB Front Office Manager is out now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC. This is a review of the PC version, and it’s not a pretty one. What could have been a wonderful marriage of 3D graphic splendor and baseball simulation is a buggy, ill-conceived mess.

For one, the game starts you off at November 8, 2008 – you know, after the World Series when teams start resigning their own players. Unfortunately, realism doesn’t take a holiday – it goes on Richard Garriott’s $30M space shuttle flight, as most of the major free agents are gone right after the first day, resigned by their teams, which is just batshit crazy. Especially when one of the teams is the Milwaukee Brewers, who shell out a $29M per year 7 year contract for C.C. Sabathia consistantly (I did several playthroughs). That’s right – the Brewers. No major free agent gets signed on the first day by their former team in the first place – not even the Yankees. It’s even crazier when you have teams that try to minimize payroll doing it. If you own the Yankees and want to recreate the spending spree, you can forget it. The game won’t even let you attempt to sign them.

Even just as bad is the arcane nature of the game. There’s tons of micromanagement and no feedback, which is further hindered by a poor interface. It’s a warning sign when the game features an Xbox 360 controller interface (for instance, “Press “A” to Continue!” – not the A key, but the A button, as pressing the A key will do nothing. You have to click A with the mouse. You can play with an Xbox 360 controller, but for a sports sim… why?)

Now, you can edit the Rosters and play it in Fantasy, which I did. But the game’s murky feedback reared its ugly head again, when just as spring training started, I discovered many of my hot younger players were gone – and they were on the 40 man roster. Worse, they weren’t on any other teams nor free agents, which meant they just vanished. Joy.

However, if I did anything wrong, I wouldn’t have known about it, as the game never warns you about critical things. Oh, it’ll tell you when arbitration is coming up and what to do about it, and that sort of thing, but it’ll never warn you when any of your players are in jeopardy. It’ll never tell you what a free agent thinks of your offer, or if any other teams are interested – and when it does tell you the free agent got better offers from other teams, the free agent is already signed.

The rendering of gameplay, though, is magnificent from a presentation point of view. It really feels like a television production, looking and sounding exactly right… save the bad AI. If a player from second scores on a hit to the outfield, the outfielder will always foolishly try to throw the runner out at home – allowing the player to advance to second, even with less than 2 outs (ruining a chance at a DP), and even when the runner would have been out by 10 feet had the OF thrown to second. Worse, I saw other insane stuff like a medium-fast runner trying to steal second down 10-2. In the 9th inning.

Another problem is that you’re forced to manage the entire game or sim it – there’s nothing in between – with full ABs (that are uninterruptible anyway). There’s no option for a 1 pitch AB. You can’t, say, sim til the 7th inning then manage from there.

With better options out there – like Out of the Park BaseballMLB Front Office Manager is a disastrous mess – avoid until Blue Castle Games actually patches it.

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