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Out Of The Park Baseball 2007

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Sports Interactive Ltd
Developer: Sports Interactive Ltd

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PC Preview - 'Out of the Park Baseball 2007'

by Nicolus Baslock on March 9, 2007 @ 5:42 a.m. PST

In OOTP Baseball 2007 players get the chance to do almost anything a real life general manager can do to guide their team to glory. Players can also create their very own fictional baseball universe, create and import fantasy teams and players or simply compete with other human players in an online league.

Genre: Sports Management
Publisher: Sports Interactive
Developer: Sports Interactive
Release Date: March 23, 2007

Known for its incredible depth, realism, and stat-crunching abilities, Out of the Park Baseball has long stood as one of the best, if not the best, baseball statistical strategy game. It was no surprise that last year's OOTP was a great game with plenty of new additions, and the 2007 edition is proving to be no different. In fact, it might be even better.

OOTP 2006 was a monstrosity in more ways than one. Its guide alone was a whopping 350 pages of pure and unadulterated statistical baseball know-how. Attempting to become more user-friendly with subsequent releases, OOTP 2007 is the biggest step forward. Continuing from last year, the user interface is still set up like a web browser, making the navigation fairly easy. It also looks and feels like you're reading the front page of ESPN.com or another baseball web site.

Everything is given to you in a very streamlined manner, and that helps dramatically, as you will spend lots of time flipping between lineups, roster moves, and everything else. Most importantly, there is now a much-needed quick-selection menu bar on the bottom that allows players to quickly jump to certain functions, such as their e-mail. This quick-selection menu bar becomes invaluable, as it eliminates lots of the navigational headaches that existed in last year's edition.

Having been well-received in previous versions, player star ratings were lamentably and noticeably absent in OOTP 2006. It was an attempt at remaining more "pure," but it cost the franchise some fans. The feature has returned in this year's iteration and remains crucial in making the title more user-friendly. Players are given a star rating equal to their potential and current ability at any given stat. Although there are an incredible number of additions, it's an important feature that helps save a lot of time and energy for people who are not into breaking down the statistics of every single player. For those who want to, the option is still there, as player development and scouting seem to take a big leap forward.

From the very beginning, players will have an incredible amount of flexibility in their options. Leagues are completely customizable, to the point where you can change gameplay rules and even the financial aspects within the world. Teams' general managers will be capable of moving players around and now will be able to recruit players from two new sources, which provides a realistic infusion of youth into the teams: high school and college.

OOTP players can view how well-matched individuals may be for a particular league. If an athlete is over-matched in Double A, you will know that he needs to be sent down to Single A without having to crunch stats for hours. Additionally, the bench coach can create the lineup based on the available players on the squad, and you can opt to favor veterans or prospects. You sometimes end up with an odd mix, but it appears to be working well and proves to be a much easier way of making fewer decisions.

OOTP 2007 will feature expansion teams, so at certain mile marker years, teams will automatically be added, and an expansion draft will be held. From what I've seen, it works really well, but that is also because of OOTP's other new addition: an expansion wizard. It works the same way, except it makes your regular leagues much easier to manage. Of course, all standard athletes depicted in the game are fictional. Look ma, no Major League Baseball players! You also have the option of downloading rosters that have been made available for real-life teams.

A big issue in last year's OOTP was the play of the A.I. The developers have included new A.I. functions that seem to be working significantly better. For those who don't remember last year's edition, the issue was that GMs would regularly trade away big-time prospects for washed-up veterans in strange moves that would make little to no sense and ultimately destroy teams. Thankfully, with the inclusion of some new features on that end, the A.I. seems to be functioning more realistically. You're able to set whether the team wants to make a race for the pennant or start rebuilding. Of course, stupid things are still bound to happen, but if you take a look at what occurs with real baseball teams, you'll realize that this experience is no different.

Speaking of trading players, that interface has also been changed and is shaping up well. There are a lot more options, like the ability to "make a trade happen now," which allows players to find out exactly what needs to be done to make a trade work with an opposing team. With this and a host of new options, this somewhat-dodgy aspect of last year's edition is looking great. Players will also develop more realistically, based on both coaching and amount of time played.

Actual games in OOTP 2007 have gone through a bit of a transition as well. The interface has been expanded a bit, with a few more options in terms of controlling your pitching and batting. To add realism, some features that had been omitted from last year's version are back again, such as weather conditions and bullpen warm-ups. Although they are not dramatic improvements, they seem to be realistic enough that they are going to be welcome features this year.

Also, there is a new interface that works extremely well for individual player selection. It's an upgrade from last year's model; you can now drag and drop players and move them around easily, making in-game changes more enjoyable. It was also promised that the play-by-play text would be better, and from what has been shown, that is definitely the case. As a result, what was probably one of the weakest aspects of OOTP 2006 is instead poised to be a huge asset.

OOTP's game manual is 350 pages long, and not mentioned a single time within said manual is the game's online mode. Although it was technically functional in last year's version, the online mode was in no way user-friendly. This year's iteration has been changed to accommodate users significantly in multiple ways. First, the commissioner mode has been changed to make everything easier. Commissioners will be able to send group messages, as well as see the teams in their leagues with far more accuracy. It was difficult to navigate around in last year's OOTP, so this might end up being one of the most helpful improvements, making leagues far smoother to run. Similarly, it should be easier for players to control their teams, with a more flexible draft option and the ability to add a high bid for a free agent player, even when a current bid has already been established by the same owner. Add in the promise of much better import features, and this could shape up to be one of the biggest — and possibly best — modifications in OOTP 2007.

Although it still looks like it's being catered to baseball stat fanatics, Out of the Park Baseball 2007 is shaping up to be one of the most realistic and elaborate simulation games to date. Learning from last year's mistakes, the team behind Out of the Park is promising a lot of improvements which really seem to be coming through in the preview build we played. It still has some stiff competition in the form of the Baseball Mogul series, but if this preview build is any indication, Out of the Park Baseball 2007 has a great chance of hitting a home run out of the park.


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