A quick note before I get onto the review. This review was mostly written during the preview copy I received of OOTP 17. I have played the day one version and some issues were prevalent in that build as well.
Can you smell that? Spring is in the air and despite that vile smell that you can get early on recovering from Winter, there is something on the horizon. That of course is another year of baseball. The hopes and dreams of management, staff, players and fans alike come together in hopes their team prevails in the Fall Classic. Your favourite team may not win it this year but you can make it a reality with Out of the Park Baseball 17.
There was one thing I noticed almost immediately when I started my new playthrough of the 2016 Atlanta Braves and that was the improved sim speeds. The game now takes advantage of multi-core processors. I found it to be a blessing in disguise and it’s really accelerated my game. Most notably for me, was how much it cut down the loading for the free agents page. To give you an idea, OOTP 16 on my PC it took about 30 seconds to load that free agents page. The same time this year? A swift 2 seconds. OOTPD say it’s “up to 40% faster” regardless, that’s the experience I got from it.
|• The ability to import your league from OOTP 16||• 3D interface has improved immensely, but it’s not without its flaws|
|• Officially licensed by the MLBPA & MLB.com||• Some spelling mistakes in post-game articles|
|• Historical exhibition match ups||• No inclusion of the World Baseball Classic|
|• Faster loading times||• Minor game crashes/freezes|
|• Improved GM AI||• Managers still make poor substitutions|
|• Automatically generated post-game articles (editable)||–|
In OOTP 15 they introduced a 3D element to the in-game engine, but it was largely unfinished. Fast forward a year and some substantial elements of it had improved. Despite the fantastic effort from Out of the Park Developments, it still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Now we are two years into the cycle and there have been some great strides with the engine, including improved MLB stadium models, moving player symbols on the field and outfield shifts for the first time. In regards to the ball physics, I’ve had some weird bounces that the balls take against the outfield wall in the 3D view during games. However that has been accounted for and OOTPD are well aware of that issue. It’s steadily getting better but it’s certainly not the games strong point.
This will be my fourth review on this series and I’ve mentioned in every single review that there has been an omission that I feel needs to be added in, so much so, I’ve added it into the cons portion of this review. In case you haven’t read my past reviews, I’m alluding to the lack of the World Baseball Classic tournament. Unfortunately it will be another year at least, before we see it come to fruition. Most of the players are in the expansive database that OOTP 17 has to offer. It’s a matter of coding the tournament itself. All but one of the qualifying rounds have taken place for the 2017 WBC and I felt that this year would have been perfect to include, to get a head start for OOTP 18.
From a managing side, it has yet to be determined how much better the managers manage on their own. In my current season I am letting my manager (Fredi Gonzalez) handle all the in-game changes to the lineup. In one instance, I had my second baseman Jace Peterson get injured and removed from the game. How did Fredi deal with it? Well, not so great. He put in a inexperienced Adonis Garcia in at second base instead of moving Gordon Beckham to second and having Garcia play third. Garcia has been playing third base most of this year for me and Beckham has experience both on second and third. I know had I been managing, I would have done things quite differently to best minimize the amount of errors coming in at second base.
When it comes to new features more often then not you can expect some minor or glaring issues from them. Thankfully they lean closer to the former. That brings me to the newly added post-game recaps that are automatically created upon completion of each and every game. I’ve come across some spelling mistakes in those recaps and although I don’t feel it’s a huge deal, I do think it kills some of the immersion when you see such errors. The only other issue I’ve come across, which have been few and far between is the small portion of game freezes.
Now for the many positives of this game……
The biggest addition last year was arguably adding the official license from the MLB and MiLB. This year they’ve completed the licensing process by adding in both the Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB.com to this game. The game is more authentic than it ever was before. What that means this year is that they have amped up the FaceGen models to include realistic face images of most every Major League Baseball player. They will also show signs of aging as their careers progress and will automatically swap jerseys when players find themselves on a different team. Getting all these licenses was monumental for OOTPD. Talk about immersion!
The next biggest feature is the inclusion of a historical exhibition mode that you can start up right at the main menu. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers take on the 1957 Milwaukee Braves? You can do that. What about just finding out how the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays stack up against last years Blue Jays? Those being the last two years that Toronto won the AL East division. If you want to be really creative on your part, you could make your own brackets of 16 or 32 teams and have them battle it out to see who reigns number one. With authentic historical rosters the choices are seemingly endless.
Over the years the developer, Out of the Park Developments had really improved their game interface. I thought last year they had pretty much hit their peak at what they could do in that regard. Oh boy, how I was wrong. The smaller additions that they made to it this year certainly adds up. Those include, adding the team schedule in the top right corner of the screen. They also gave us the ability to scroll down the schedule as we see fit, without having to leave or modify the page in any way. In addition to that, integrating the team standings just beside the team schedule at the top right portion of the screen. With those additions OOTPD have given us nearly every relevant piece of information for your team in one place. After playing for a couple (in-game) months, I’ve come across a minor annoyance. When I watch a game and it comes to an end, for some reason it shows me the box score from the previous game, as opposed to showing me what happened in that game I just played. I haven’t been able to figure out why it does that, but it has happened on several occasions already.
One of my favourite features that was added this year was the aforementioned post-game recaps and headlines. Like never before, after you finish a game it will automatically generate a headline and story that is based on the outcome of that game. All you have to do is check the box score and you will see stats and a brief article that tells you some of the biggest moments in that game. You don’t have to stop there though, if you really want to immerse yourself into it, you can edit those stories and either write a completely new one for yourself or you can add other crucial moments and notes to it, so months later you can look back on it and see what had transpired through words. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to recap other games outside of the team you’re controlling.
The last new feature I’m going to talk about is the improvement of the overall AI in the game. GM’s take on more of a personality, so not every GM will be the same. Some will have an itchy trigger finger and try and wheel and deal all the time, whereas others might decide to keep what they have and push forward with their teams. It’s something I especially started to notice over the course of a couple simmed years. The power and influence they leave on a team is remarkable in some cases. The one thing that irked me from receiving trade offers in past iterations of these games was that I never seemed to get any deals that I felt I needed completely. Now in OOTP 17, I can clearly define what I want in return from teams during the course of the year to have more trade offers that fit my teams need the most. A most welcomed plus to this game.
One small note I’d like to mention, is one of the first things I seen when I fired this game up was the message stating that the “displayed player salaries and contract values for MLBPA players are not official” The message is also shown in player profiles as seen in the screenshot at the top of this review. I can understand why it’s thrown in there from a MLBPA stand point. I thought it was interesting to point out nonetheless.
Every year I keep asking myself, “how can they possibly top themselves this year?” and every year I’m blown away with what they bring to the table. Nothing comes close to what OOTP 17 has to offer. Sure there are some issues, but what games don’t have some problems? The juggernaut of baseball management games is back and it’s not going anywhere. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.