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With the start of the 2018 MLB season, it can sometimes be hard to get into the baseball mood. It’s not that warm out in a lot of the places that these teams play and cold baseball is not always the most entertaining thing to watch. Sometimes it takes a minute to get in the mood to love baseball again.
Unless, of course, you play Out of the Park Baseball 2019 on PC or Mac.
The best baseball sim in the world is out for the 2018 season and after playing just a few minutes, you are instantly transported from not being ready for the season to eating, sleeping and breathing baseball. This game gets its hooks in you and doesn’t let go.
A great thing about OOTP 19 is that they didn’t mess with success. Last year’s game was the best baseball simulation game ever made and this is mostly the same game. Where OOTP excels is by hooking you in to every part of managing an MLB team from ticket prices to international free agent signings to the game on the field.
The big improvement this series made for the 2018 season is the 3D stadiums and 3D player models. Before when you managed games it was almost like an old school text based adventure game. A” He throws the pitch, swing and a miss” kind of thing. Which was fun and could be dramatic, but it is nothing like what it is now. The 3D player models throw the ball to the plate, the hitters swing the bats and the fielders move into place.
Somehow this improvement makes for slower game play. Not in the speed of the game itself, it’s actually faster than ever with an improved interface, but in how long you spend on each season. Playing as a manager is more fun than ever thanks to the improved models. When you steal a base, the runner actually beats the throw. A close play at the plate can cause some real emotion as I’ve yelled at the screen more than once.
The umpires yell “strike three!”, there is in-game music that mimics the stadium experience (the opening guitar riff to “Stroke” is a nice touch), the crowd cheers and if you ever hit a walk-off hit you’ll see the benches clear to celebrate at home. An hour of game play can go by quickly and you find yourself in the first month of the season. That’s not a slight at all, it actually makes this game more of a value as when you are in sim mode you can quickly be 10 years into the future with a collection of players you’ve never heard of.
The ratings module has also been reworked and it’s seemingly fixed a complaint I’ve had in past years. Aging players no longer seem to drop off the cliff after a season or two and instead have a more natural, slow decline. While guys like Adrian Beltre stay great forever. It’s really improved gameplay and makes for some more difficult roster choices as you get deeper into the game.
There are a ton of options for people who don’t just want to play the current season as well. Historical leagues, tons of minor leagues and the tournament modes give you a ton of options for things to do. Want to start a tournament with all of the best teams of the 1990s against teams from the 1920s? You can do that.
Testing my meddle as a general manager is what initially drew me to this game, but OOTP 19 is far more immersive thanks to the improved on field game. I used to play these games wanting to be Theo Epstein. Now? I play them wanting to be Theo AND Earl Weaver. Quite an improvement. If you love baseball, you should absolutely be playing OOTP 19.