Tyler Arthur provides an in-depth review of Out of the Park Baseball 22…
Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) is a sports simulation management and strategy game for baseball which gives unprecedented control and possibilities in what the developers refer to as ‘the infinite baseball sandbox’.
This description sounds fancy but it is 100% accurate. Even more accurate with the launch of Out of the Park Baseball 22, which is available now on Steam.
For those of you who are fans of Football Manager, by far the most popular peer of OOTP, especially in Europe, this game can be (and often is) described as ‘FM for baseball’. This isn’t inaccurate. Something that I always add as a caveat to that, though, is that it’s like FM for a sport that suits the simulation management genre even more.
Out Of The Park Baseball 22 Review
Baseball is the perfect sport for the genre. The real-life organisations put an emphasis on analytics and statistics more than any other sport. This makes OOTP feel real.
The game both embraces the intensity of the data and stats available, and allows you to load up on them if you want, or you can have a more streamlined experience where you just look at players’ ratings, set the lineup and check the score after each game.
Here we reference possibly the best thing about OOTP, its customization and the ability to set up – and play – your game the way you want to.
Every main screen in OOTP’s interface is customisable, allowing you to optimise and tweak each and every one to your personal preference. These changes are saved, too, so you can spend 10 minutes at the start of your session sorting all of your screens out.
Mess around and find your preferences and then everything will be set up just how you like it, ready for you to return to that screen.
Here is an example of the customisation at work.
Here is what the default team home screen looks like:
But this is how I set up my customised team home screen:
These ‘home’ screens, of which there are a few, allow you to not only change what information it displays, but also completely change the display itself.
You can add more columns or rows to allow for more tiles. This can then be assigned to display certain information.
Really important things such as your team’s lineup can also be spread across multiple tiles, so you can also have much more information on your screen without reducing visibility on the stuff you will be looking at most often.
This is what the game is all about, letting the player play how they want, to maximise their experience.
I love this aspect of OOTP and as someone who takes complete control over the team and is hands on with everyone, I love being able to see everything and put all the info I need on one home screen.
Visuals and Graphics
To a lot of people, the beauty of this game is the simulation and the strategy. The visuals and the actual live games are an optional extra, but with OOTP 22, a full 3D visual overhaul has elevated the in-game management to another level.
Not only does it encourage players who have played the game before to watch more games (and manage them) live, it also makes the game more accessible to players who may want a more Football Manager-esque experience.
The improvement from previous games to this year is massive.
While this game will never have graphics to rival the triple-A sports games where you yourself are playing, the improved visuals are more than good enough to keep you invested in the action when managing games.
The in-game graphics aren’t the only upgrade, either. The UI in the menus also looks sleeker and more streamlined than the previous iterations. It is clear that the developers wanted to focus on making the player experience more accessible. However, the amount of information and the depth of the game is still there. Arguably, it’s even deeper.
While I started by outlining the most obvious upgrade for OOTP 22 from previous games, in the visuals, the most important part of this game is the simulation itself. The game is all about control and, man, this game gives you that.
Firstly, there is more control over setting up your experience than ever before. Most notably, with the addition of a new trade difficulty slider.
This slider really does have a notable impact and I was impressed by how tough it can become. If you set up your game to have ‘Very Hard’ trade AI and set it to ‘Favor Prospects’, I promise you, you’re going to have to pay up to make a deal for a young star.
The old system had the scale between prospect or veteran-focused AI, but the addition of the slider gives you an opportunity to achieve a more realistic trade AI than was ever previously possible.
Once you’ve got everything set up and you’re the Manager and GM of a team, that’s when the fun begins. This is where the true sense of control comes in.
Raise your hand if you've been playing OOTP 22 all weekend and still haven't seen the light of day since Friday? pic.twitter.com/OnvDMiiCNS
— Out of the Park Baseball (@ootpbaseball) March 28, 2021
Any decision, strategy or choice that you can think of, you have the ability to make it. We will talk more about the actual gameplay in OOTP later in the review, but the key is that it is player control.
The strategic decisions and lineup tweaks you make will all impact how any simulated game plays out. This level of control is really essential for people who like to simulate games or even weeks without manually managing each matchup. If you’re not going to sit and make pitching changes or call out baserunning instructions yourself, you have to trust that you’re able to fine tune your settings so that the AI runs the team the way you want it to.
Everything is in your hands. And, if there is something which you don’t control, you get to hire the people who do. This moves us onto one of the biggest and most interesting new features of OOTP 22.
Possibly the only thing that OOTP doesn’t let you do yourself is physically show up at your team’s training session and show them how it’s done. However, with the new overhauled system for coaching, you can get pretty close. The coaching personnel have been made more impactful and they have added two new coaches, your 1B Coach and 3B Coach. They also introduced ‘Staff Cohesion’ which will directly impact the functionality of your staff.
As well as the internal relationship between your coaches, you will also see more of an impact of the coaches’ relationships with the players. Chopping and changing your staff will allow you to try and get the best talent in the door, but it will harm the chemistry of the coaches and players. Each coach also now has more in-depth attributes to make the decision-making process more meaningful when hiring and assigning them.
Finally, the ability to see all of the attributes for every coach (even ones that aren’t currently being utilised in their role), as well as hiring coaches who are already within other organisations, allows for you to seek out people possibly deserving of a promotion. If you have a young team with some elite arms and want to ride your pitching and defense to success, hire a well-respected pitching coach as your assistant manager, or even manager (if you are playing GM). If you’re trying to cling on the end of an era with a team full of veterans, bring in a few coaches who specialise in the ‘Handle Aging’ attribute.
I haven’t been able to see the full long-term impact of this feature, yet, as I’m still only playing through my first season, but the direction of the system is very interesting. I have focused more on staff in OOTP 22 than I had ever before.
Perfect Team and Perfect Draft
The vast majority of my review for this game is centred on the franchise mode of the game, the main experience in OOTP, but there is also Perfect Team. Perfect Team, added in OOTP 19, is the ‘ultimate team’ (or ‘diamond dynasty’) mode within the game.
Perfect Team allows for the combination of their trademark simulation which OOTP is best known for and the collecting cards and creating a team from these modes. It is becoming more popular with each iteration and it can be a lot of fun.
Is Perfect Draft the hottest thing around right now or what?! If you haven't tried it yet, jump in and give it a shot! pic.twitter.com/H0Wz1rqKGb
— OOTP Perfect Team (@OOTPPerfectTeam) March 27, 2021
You open packs or buy players and try to create the best team possible. Then, you enter your team into simulated leagues and tournaments with other players to earn rewards and work your way up the ladder towards the ‘Perfect League’. It is a fun and modern mode to combine with the classic franchise offering that I spend most of my time on.
In my starter packs I managed to pull a 90 Overall Manny Machado, 87 Overall German Marquez, an 86 Overall Matt Olson and an 84 Overall Elvis Andrus, to start my squad.
Brand new to OOTP 22, a new offshoot of this mode has been added called Perfect Draft, which is akin to the Battle Royale modes in other equivalent games. In this version of PT, you get to select which cards you want from a randomised selection to use in a temporary event, to try and win rewards to go towards your main Perfect Team lineup.
This mode, while not my personal preference, is growing each year and is a really nice way for people who have a background in MLB The Show or FIFA and Madden to play a fun online experience.
With fancy new features and upgrades aside, how good is OOTP 22? The most important part of any review – the actual gameplay and the feel of the game.
It’s really damn good.
OOTP 22 doesn’t need to do anything special to be great for someone like me. It’s a deep baseball strategy game, that ticks all my boxes. The game just happens to be fantastic on top of that, though.
The in-game managing is the most enjoyable and worthwhile it’s ever been and along with the improved visuals come more and better animations. There is also a pretty solid camera system that makes watching the game a nicer and more fluid experience.
I set up my camera settings (through the view dropdown in the top right) as follows. Initial Camera View: Default Camera. Pitch Camera View: CF Close Camera. Action Camera View: Wide Camera. Dynamic Action Camera: On.
OOTP isn’t going to look like MLB The Show anytime soon, but that’s not what this game is about. It would be perfectly reasonable to have no 3D graphics (it’s only been a couple of years since that was the case), or even manage the games in real-time. But these features are there and the ability to get involved is alarmingly in-depth. You can even do everything pitch-by-pitch if you want to. I wouldn’t recommend going pitch-by-pitch for a whole season, but it’s actually pretty fun – and very tense – if you want a change of pace.
Where OOTP absolutely excels is the tweaking and customising and experimenting. As we spoke about earlier, the control you have is phenomenal. You can set team strategy, individual player strategy and even situational strategy settings.
These are my general team settings for my Milwaukee Brewers save.
As you can see, you can change everything you can think of. Also, as you can see at the top of the screenshot, you can customise your settings by the time in the game or the score – or even both. If you want to build a team that is aggressive on the bases, that’s easily done, but maybe you want to have it set up so that if you’re only one run down in the 9th inning you might want to be a bit more protective of your final outs, for example. These situational settings are absolutely essential if you want to simulate games without managing each time out.
This is the level of agency and control that makes OOTP the game it is. And, of course, you can alter all of the hitting settings for individual people, too. If you’re playing out a save as the Kansas City Royals, you can tell Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield to go nuts on the bases, but then let the likes of Carlos Santana and Jorge Soler just focus on getting on base and driving the speedy guys in.
It’s amazing how much you can do in this game. The key is to jump in and start sliding things around, offering trades and playing with different teams and change your lineup and just see what happens!
You can even play with historic franchises, too, so you have something to do if you get bored after playing all 30 franchise saves and Perfect Team. If you want to go back in time and play with your favourite team in an era you have only read about, or relive a previous season and try to change how it ended, you can. The future is obviously a key part of any simulation game, but OOTP also puts baseball history in your hands.
Out the Park Baseball 22 Review: Conclusion
Just like I said at the beginning. When OOTP Developments describe this game as ‘the infinite baseball sandbox’ it is more than justified. This game has infinite replayability, hundreds of hours’ worth of gameplay and so many different ways to spend those hours.
Its greatest strength is the ability to do whatever you want the way you want to do it. Crank up the trade difficulty and try and play a realistic simulation of your favourite team, or – just as easily – go back to the 1970s and play as a historic team who couldn’t quite get it right and try to fix things. Set yourself a challenge and see how long it will take you to rebuild a team from the bottom of the standings into a dynasty, or even join an online league with your friends.
If you only want to play baseball and you want next-gen graphics, that’s fine, OOTP might not be for you – and there’s a different game for that. However, if you appreciate the nuances of managing a team and seeing if you can do what it takes to make them successful without your controller input, this is the game for you.
The game can be overwhelming but the thing that makes it overwhelming is the sheer scale and depth of what is on offer.
There are a million things to do and a million ways to do them, and that is why this game is so much fun. I think that Out of the Park Baseball 22 is a must-own game if you love baseball, if you love sports management games.
This is the best version of OOTP they have made so far and the amount of customisation of the experience means that any baseball fan who picks it up will be able to find their own way to play.
Out of the Park Baseball 22 is available now on Steam and has a launch-week sale, saving buyers 10% if they purchase the game before April 2nd. The game can also be purchased on Microsoft through Xbox Live.
A copy of the game was provided by the OOTP Developments for this review.