REVIEW / Out of the Park Baseball 20 (PC)

 

Out of the Park Baseball 20 is a nearly perfect baseball sim. I wrote about my love of its predecessor OOTP 19 a couple of weeks ago after I was introduced via a Steam sale. While OOTP 20 isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of OOTP 19 in terms of improvements, developer Out of the Park Developments made some quality of life updates here that are likely important to more die-hard fans of the franchise. Compared to the franchise mode of MLB The Show’s recent releases, OOTP 20 knocks it out of the park (pun absolutely intended).

 

 

OOTP 20 allows you to take control of baseball franchise, either real-life or imaginary. The game boasts not only MLB teams but also baseball leagues from around the world, like the Korean Baseball Organization. Not only can you be the GM and manager, but you can also work as commissioner, helping to shape the league in which your team is hopefully bound for postseason glory. How much you want to commit to your team is up to you; manage every aspect of your organization’s day-to-day or be completely hands off and let your coaches and personnel decide your team’s fate.

The newest item here is the Perfect Team mode. While this was included in OOTP 19, it didn’t happen until later post-release. Now you can start playing online right away by building your team out via baseball cards (like Diamond Dynasty mode in MLB The Show). You start off with enough card packs (with 6 cards/pack) to build a squad to compete right away. Earning Perfect Points allows you to buy and upgrade your team, either through buying more card packs or by bidding in the Auction House. I like this mode since you can set it and forget it for a couple of days, checking back in when you accumulate enough PP to buy a new pack or bid on your favorite player.

 

 

Of course, you can buy PP through microtransactions, but I found that it quickly accumulates for free as your team and players perform well. You can even earn packs through playing the other game modes.

The main game mode that I enjoy is Challenge Mode, which is playing as manager/GM of a team without any commissioner powers. I believe this is the only way you can earn Steam achievements as well. If you are a first-time player, it is going to take you a while to understand all that you are bombarded with right away. There are some helpful online tutorials for players to check out prior to getting started in order to maximize the many choices you’ll need to make. OOTP 20 displays everything via windows and tabs, so you can navigate to where you need to go with a couple of clicks. There are some overview screens that you can hang out in while games are simulated like the Manager’s Office screen that give you a high-level overview of your team, your performance, how your top minor leaguers are performing, and any big news items from around the league.

 

 

Going back to my previous point about how much control you want over your team can make or break them. You can set lineups based on a players overall rating, or you can dive deep into their rating vs left- or right-handed pitchers. You can set a pitching staff up via your AI-pitching coach or you can dive deep and manage pitch count and in-game strategy. Should you decide to manage the games themselves, you can even manage each at-bat. Mind you that managing every game will take you loads of time, but you can do it if you want. I tend to let the AI manage the nitty-gritty like hiring personnel and budgets while I manage the team and top prospects.

OOTP 20 also boasts historical teams and leagues that you can manage. I can only imagine the amount of baseball stats and data that are packed into the somewhat modest download size of OOTP 20.

 

 

So, what are the improvements from OOTP 19? Overall, performance of the game has noticeably improved. When you go into a game to manage, the player animations are much smoother than OOTP 19. The menus and graphics have more life to them than OOTP 19, most noticeably on minor league team pages where the non-typical colors are used. Rosters are updated and minor leaguers who improved last season are noticeably on track. OOTP Developments plan to update player ratings and potential during the season, so there will be even more accurate numbers behind your players.

There are still some aspects of OOTP 20 that could be improved. The algorithms behind items like injuries and suspensions can seem a bit suspect. There were several instances where my best players fell to the injury bug with a month left in the season (of course there are plenty of injuries in real-life, it just felt too convenient with timing) and I fell short of the playoffs. Brawls break out way too many times during the season with a lot of players being suspended. Trades initiated by the AI-controlled teams are laughable, offering bad deal after bad deal. When a deal comes through that seems reasonable, you can’t help but second guess it.

 

 

OOTP 20 is an outstanding game. If you are into the minutiae of sim games and/or a hardcore baseball fanatic, there isn’t a reason why you wouldn’t love this game. I’m happy to report that I got the Rays their first World Series win after a critical trade for Daniel Murphy and doing away with the opener strategy.

 

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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