How do you improve on “the best sports game ever?” Simple: You make it even better.
Out of the Park Productions’ latest installment of its baseball simulation is sort of like Ivan Drago. You remember him, right? The big, jacked-up Russian boxer who sent Apollo Creed to the Hereafter in Rocky IV (“If he dies, he dies.”). Only this time, there is no Rocky Balboa to counterbalance the pecking order.
There is no — repeat, no — way to exhaust the possibilities that OOTP 14 brings to the table. Fans get the control of every major-league team and player from 1871 on to go along with the ability to replay any season with a variety of factors, including the option of recreating the actual transactions of that campaign.
The latter feature was the first I challenged, hoping that the edition of Randy Johnson provides a different ending for the 1998 Houston Astros. Johnson wasn’t as filthy as he was in real life (10-1, 1.28 ERA, 116 Ks in 84.1 innings), yet his OOTP 14 numbers (8-2, 2.01 ERA, 112 Ks in 91.1 innings) was more than enough to carry the Astros beyond their NLDS meltdown against the Padres, propelling them into the World Series against an Indians team that shocked the 119-win Yankees in the ALCS.
(PS: The Indians finally won their first world title since 1948, defeating the Astros, 4-2).
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements is how the amateur player draft(s) is now handled. Users can now dictate the origin of players; the two previous games tended to have an interesting yet confusing mishmash of foreign players. Along with the annual June draft, there is also an international player draft in August, plus the ability to sign international players and send your potential future Carlos Beltran or Julio Tehran to develop close to home.
As usual, the game has each player on the opening-day roster, which is also enhanced by a new and extensive player development report that is more interactive than previous versions. There is also a revised and great one-stop team depth chart that is similar (and better) than the depth charts on CBSSports.com.
To me, the best part of the game is watching it on the improved webcast. Every meaningful stat is in front of the user, that includes a win probability. You may feel comfortable with a 87.2 percent WP entering the late innings if you’ve got a solid bullpen like this season’s Pirates, yet may not be at ease if you’re dealing with the Astros’ relief corps.
If you’re looking for a weakness, ponder this: Prepare for long hours of excitement that was once filled with bad TV and honey-dos. While it may be a stretch to call a game a life-altering presence, playing OOTP 14 comes pretty damn close.
Let your friends develop carpal tunnel syndrome playing MLB 2K13 and MLB The Show. Let them “enjoy” the crapshoot that comes from trying to match the relentless firepower that OOTP 14 brings to the table. Comparing OOTP 14 to any other sports sim — video or otherwise — is like taking on a tank with a pellet rife.
In short, there’s no stopping OOTP’s dominance; it’s a fun, addictive reign of unequaled greatness, which has no competition remotely close to its peak.
(But wait, there’s more!)
As usual, the fine people of OOTP request us to sim the season in order to see how close it comes to predicting the actual finish. Here goes:
AL East: Tampa Bay 96-66
AL Central: Detroit 92-70
AL West: Texas 97-65
Wild Cards: Boston 92-70; Seattle (yes, Virginia, the Mariners) 90-72
NL East: Atlanta 101-61
NL Central: St. Louis 94-68
NL West: Arizona 88-74
Wild Cards: Cincinnati 93-69; LA Dodgers 86-76
AL Wild Card: Seattle over Boston
ALDS: Tampa Bay over Seattle (3-0); Texas over Detroit (3-2)
ALCS: Texas over Tampa Bay (4-2)
NL Wild Card: LA Dodgers over Cincinnati
NLDS: Atlanta over LA Dodgers (3-2); St. Louis over Arizona (3-0)
NLCS: St. Louis over Atlanta (4-3; Matt Carpenter’s 12th-inning HR ends the decisive game)
World Series: St. Louis over Texas (again, this time 4-1)
Grade for OOTP 14: 9.7 out of 10.