[This review is based on the 14.3 Build 12 version of the game.]
Out of the Park Baseball 14 continues to be the premiere baseball simulation, and one of the best of any sport, alongside such games as Football Manager.
For the uninitiated, OOTP14 allows players to run their own baseball team, whether real or fictional, from the present to any point in baseball history. The simulation moves forward through the years – often into the far future when starting at present day – and has players being drafted, playing, retiring, and sometimes taking on a coaching role, as the player can if they choose worry about finances, the minor leagues, drafting, managing actual games and so on.
OOTP14 this year is all about player development. Out of the Park Developments brags that the game has been completely recoded to make player career arcs more realistic, and by and large, this is true. I’ve seen some players burn brightly during their early years and be done by age 32 without injury, while some players are Steady Freddy’s. Others are cursed by constant injury. The game also includes pages which helpfully report player development visually, making it easier for owners to see players on the rise or declining.
Part of the recoding also includes international amateurs, players who are discovered at age 16 or 17 and sent to an International Complex where they can develop and possibly be a part of the team; if they reach age 20, they’re automatically signed and put in the low minors. Meanwhile, established foreign pros from Japan, Taiwan and so on can be bid on just like real life.
Players also have more malleable fielding ratings, and can develop skills with time in new positions, though the game is still rudimentary in that aspect. For example, a catcher would have natural affinity for first and third base, but that isn’t represented.
The trade AI has also been beefed up, but it still has some exploits in which it can be bullied into giving up top prospects or superstar players. Players are also prone to accepting ridiculous contracts early in their career, making them low paid superstars thanks to long contracts.
In-game managing hasn’t changed much from previous efforts, and live-game updates from other games in progress which are being played simultaneously is still an immersive treat.
The online multiplayer leagues are one place that the game shines as well, but one of the features that the game sorely needs are real-time drafts, whether inaugural, rookie or Rule V. In essence, the commissioner must do all of it himself, whether holding remote drafts via Skype, or getting wish lists from owners, and so on. In short, it’s a huge hassle. The importing/exporting has been fixed from OOTP13, at the very least.
Out of the Park Baseball 14 may seem like a subtle update from OOTP13, but a lot of the behind-the-scenes coding has made it a more realistic – and realism is the key in a simulation with no rendered graphics – which keeps it the champion of the baseball sims once again.