This article originally appeared in issue 243 of PC Gamer UK.
Out of the Park Baseball 13 is a baseball management simulator in the mould of Football Manager. I know a lot about management; less about baseball. With a greenhorn's naivety I created a manager in my image and selected the 'Start Unemployed' option.
My plan was to score a minor league job, then, with a mixture of inspirational talks (“do more homeruns!”) and sound tactical advice (“stop conceding homeruns!”), ride to the big time on the back of a handful of men smacking balls about.
Instead the job screen had nothing. Next day: nothing. Next week? I was a 27-year-old Brit who knew next to nothing about baseball, playing a 27-year-old Brit who wasn't being offered jobs in baseball. If nothing else, it's a testament to the accuracy of Out of the Park Baseball 13's management simulation.
Restarting – this time selecting a guaranteed place with a major league team – it's easy to appreciate what OotP does. The breadth and depth of the game is exhaustive, like being shown a complete collection of baseball trading cards, only without the awkwardness and despair. By default it creates a world featuring the US major and minor leagues, but you're free to add international and historical teams, or even create new ones from scratch.
You'll control everything from finances and transfers, to starting line-ups, strategies and choosing individual plays during matches. It's a lot to take on and, as a result, the pace is slow, but you can offload tasks to the AI, whose competence is based on your staff and the team-level strategies you set.
In play-by-play match management, the strategic minutiae of the sport shines in OotP's sim wrapper. For every strength or weakness in your opposition, there's a counter or exploit to consider. While there's a tension to losing your star shortstop on the eve of a big game (at least, there was after I'd looked up what a shortstop did), the real drama is finding yourself a run down at the bottom of the ninth with two runners on the field and two strikes on the board. With every option backed by a mountain of stats, it's always possible to beat the odds with smart play.
It's outside of matches that OotP feels dry. Next to Football Manager 2012's slick presentation and focus on the experience of management over mathematics, OotP's interface feels antiquated. Players, staff and owners feel less like personalities to appease or clash against, and more like equations in your ever-growing balance sheet.
Management sims are good at hiding the spreadsheets that power them. That OotP's spreadsheets are really good doesn't stop it lagging behind. For baseball fans it's (obligatory pun) a homerun. For anyone simply looking for a deep and engaging sim, OotP has much to appreciate, but it's Football Manager that steals the home base.