Every year, I know that baseball season is beginning in earnest when the year’s new video games are released. For PC and mobile gamers who want to live out their dream as General Manager or field manager of their favorite baseball team, Out of the Park Developments has your fix. I’ve been playing OOTP’s games for a few years now and continue to return to high quality simulations. Last week, Out of the Park 16 released on PC/Mac/Linux while MLB Manager 2015 released on iOS and Android. Both games are highlighted by MLB.com and Minor League Baseball licensing. Lucky for me, I was able to get some time away from schoolwork to put in enough time to review both games. In the process, I played out the 2015 season with the Cleveland Indians, so read on to see how they do!
MLB Manager 2015
Previously known as iOOTP, MLB Manager sports a new color scheme and name to reflect the new licensing. The game fits as much of Out of the Park on your phone or tablet as possible. Every team has proper logos and rosters, complete with plenty of top (and bottom) prospects waiting in the minors. Starting a 2015 season lets you pick a team and manage or simulate every single game. This means that you can perform manager duties as well as GM duties, if you so choose. Team finances are also a real factor, with transactions and the off-season playing big factors. One new feature is the “Shop a Player” function, which saves plenty of time as I no longer have to dig around to find a trade partner for David Murphy and Ryan Raburn.
When I took over for Shapanetti and Tito, my first task was cutting dead weight. Money wasn’t a major factor in my decision making since I knew I was only playing through the 2015 season. That said, I made sure not to mortgage the farm in this single season. First, I used “Shop a Player” and was able to trade Raburn for Adrian Gonzalez. I used the same feature for Michael Bourn and got no options. My third shop of the day (that’s the max, for some reason) was Murphy, who went to Minnesota in exchange for Kurt Suzuki. The following day, before my Opening Day game against the Astros, I shopped around Nick Swisher and got one offer: Roenis Elias from the Mariners. Since both pre-2013 signings fetched almost nothing in 1-for-1 trades, I decided to pair them up and search manually. Since I am a college student with a finite amount of time, I only tried trading with the Dodgers. The same team that saw some sort of value in Ryan Raburn wouldn’t even trade Dustin McGowan for this high-priced duo. This is evidence of the improved trading AI touted by OOTP when previewing this year’s game.
Before I began the simulation, I went into the strategy menu and tried to change the sliders in order to emulate Terry Francona‘s managerial style. This included tuning the “Infield Shift” slider to frequently and “L/R Matchup” to prefer. Looking at the pitching staff and lineups, the biggest relief was Swisher’s demotion to the bench. The rosters are accurate as of the beginning of spring training, which means Danny Salazar is in the rotation instead of T.J. House. I should mention that there will be an update coming soon that includes Opening Day rosters. Afterward, I used another new feature, “Auto-Play to Date X,” and fast forwarded to July 1st. I also checked the “Do Not Disturb” box, which let the computer handle roster moves like injuries and promotions/demotions over those few months. Led by Gonzalez, Brantley and Kluber, the Indians entered July with a record of 41-36, 3.5 games behind Detroit. The rotation was the biggest disappointment, as all four starters behind Klubot has ERAs above 4.00. Not too far behind them were Michael Bourn, whose .194 average relegated him to part-time duties, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who hit .218. I tried shopping Bourn and Chiz, and though Bourn got no takers, Chiz, along with Josh Tomlin and C.C. Lee, were traded to Houston in exchange for Jed Lowrie and Luis Valbuena (whodathunkit?).
At the All-Star Break, the Indians were 47-42, with Kluber, Gonzalez, Carlos Santana, Cody Allen, and Yan Gomes named All-Stars. One funny note is that their AL All-Star teammates included Asdrubal Cabrera. I simmed the rest of the season and the Indians had a second half surge led by Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. The Indians finished the season 92-70, seven games behind Detroit in the AL Central. This led to a Wild Card matchup against the 90-72 Angels, which the Tribe won 5-4. An ALDS matchup with the Oakland A’s loomed, but the Fighting Franconas were not scared, as the Indians swept the AL West champions easily, with a shutout from Kluber in game three. As if to create the best storyline, the ALCS pitted the Tribe against, you guessed it, Detroit. David Price shut out the Indians in game one, but the Indians won game two. After alternating wins in games three and four, Detroit won games five and six for the World Series berth. In the Fall Classic, the Tigers played Arizona (???) and fell in seven games.
If you don’t want to play through 2015 and beyond, there are two other modes in MLB Manager. The first is a fantasy mode that allows for nearly complete customization of teams, players, and league size. The other is a historical replay mode, which features in-app purchases. You can start with any season going back as early as 1901 and play forward, with a complete pack of historic seasons costing $20. (Disclaimer: the historic seasons are only in the iOS version right now but will be added to Android during the summer) Buying all seasons lets you play through the history of Major League Baseball complete with expansion, logo changes, and real player sets. For fans who want to play through the 1994 strike-shortened season or replay the 1995 and 1997 seasons hoping the Indians can actually win a title, you don’t even need a computer to do so. My one warning is to watch your battery as MLB Manager can be very draining. That’s really my only flaw with the game as it is an otherwise top-notch experience for a mobile game. I give MLB Manager 2015 a 9/10 and will happily recommend it to any baseball fan with an iOS or Android device and a passion to run a baseball team between answering calls and checking e-mails.
Out of the Park Baseball 16
If you enjoy work productivity, this is not the game for you. But if you are an obsessive baseball fan with time to burn, then Out of the Park 16 will be the best $40 you can spend. I have already started my own save, which sees me in my first year helming the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball. Yes, this game has international leagues, including new additions of American and Japanese independent leagues. There is even an Australian league, though I’ve got no news on whether or not players circle the bases in the opposite direction over there. Other new features include more personality to the AI. Between a new owner goals setup and the addition of coach personalities, OOTP 16 gives a life to the people in your universe. The licensing, besides bringing the same new features as in MLB Manager, also shows up in realistic 3D models of all 30 Major League ballparks.
OOTP 16 allows players to choose between being the manager, General Manager, or both. Since I’m a power-hungry and stubborn college student, I chose to be both manager (sorry, Tito) and General Manager. With a deeper and more accurate algorithm in the PC game, I decided to sim the season without making any transactions ahead of time. On OOTP, I can leave every choice to my AI Assistant General Manager and my AI coaching staff. This includes trades, which is a lot of faith to put into an algorithm, but I figured the sim would be more interesting this way.
For the first couple months, the Indians hovered around the .500 mark, going 41-40 in the first half of the season. Michael Brantley was the team’s top catalyst, earning AL batter of the month in May and placing near the top of the American League in numerous statistical categories. The strong offense was necessary to pick up the slack from a starting rotation where every pitcher had an ERA worse than 4.00 at the All-Star Break. By the time the trade deadline passed, the Indians did nothing to bolster the roster, likely because that would have risked mortgaging the future.
The Indians never got on a roll in the second half, finishing the season 81-81 and missing the playoffs. In a cruel twist of virtual fate, the Detroit Tigers, led by Justin Verlander, won the World Series in five games. Jose Ramirez won a gold glove for his play at shortstop, but that was it for the Tribe. After the season, one of the neat quirks of Out of the Park revealed itself, as Major League Baseball decided to shrink roster sizes from 25 players to 24. OOTP understands that Major League Baseball is continuing to evolve, with expansion, contraction, and other rule changes possible. This continues to keep OOTP fresh and keeps players on their toes.
Just like MLB Manager, OOTP also offers historic and fully customizable games. The differences here are that historic seasons go all the way back to 1871 and that they’re included in the purchase price of Out of the Park. Logo changes, expansion, rule changes, and everything else that has encompassed the history of America’s Pastime are in play as you replay history.
Overall, the depth and the features of Out of the Park Baseball 16 will keep you playing forever. That said, I think that these features are almost too deep and can prove intimidating at times, especially to new players. The MLB license adds authenticity, but not enough to make up for the at times overwhelming depth. For that reason, I have to downgrade OOTP slightly. Overall, I would give it a solid 8/10.