The annual release of the newest addition to the Out of the Park Baseball series is always cause for sim baseball fans, but it’s fair to say there’s never been a year quite like the one leading up to OOTP 22. Not only was Out of the Park Developments purchased last October — by Korean company Com2uS, known primarily for its mobile games — but baseball itself hasn’t quite been the same as everyone knew it prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year without minor leagues in operation and with concessions to the virus like the Blue Jays playing in Florida and seven-inning doubleheaders, you could be forgiven for being just a slight bit anxious that OOTP 22 had changed in some unfamiliar ways as well.
So let’s set those thoughts to the side right off the bat: Returning players will find settling back into OOTP 22 as comfortable as ever, with the usual attention to detail and a handful of new features that only enhance the experience of simulating baseball the exact way you imagine it. The only obvious sign of Out of the Park Developments’ new parent company is a positive one (so no worries about intrusive in-game purchases, for example), and the choice of mimicking baseball in its current form or rewinding the clock on America’s pastime two or more years is completely up to you. Yes, that means you can even dispense with the runner on second to start extra innings if that’s what keeps you up at night.
What’s new in OOTP 22?
While the full complement of viewing options is still available for every ballgame in OOTP 22, you’ll want to check out the Modern 3D mode to admire the effort the devs have made to improve the visuals. Not only do the stadiums look impressive, but the players on the field look less like stickmen and more like actual athletes. There are still occasional glitches like passed balls phasing through the backstop or balls caught on the warning track that appear to rebound back into the field of play, but these are rare exceptions overall. OOTP 22 is arguably the first game in the series where watching the action unfold approaches the immersion factor of reading the description of each at-bat, and in a few years, new players may not even realize this franchise started out as a text-base affair.
Fittingly, the 3D Ballpark Construction Kit has also received an upgrade, with a number of new options and a slightly more intuitive feel overall. For those with little free time and no design talent like yours truly, it’s a feature you may just check out once and move on, but it’s not hard to imagine gamers who want to fully tweak every detail of the ballpark of their dreams getting lost in it for hours at a time.
For Franchise mode, the most interesting new features aren’t necessarily the real world additions — though everything you’d expect has made it into the game, including the 2021 minor league system — but the revamp to the coaching systems. Coaches now feel like they really matter, as they can pass along specific skills to prospects and help teach young players the way you want them to play. If player development is your thing, you can now tinker in this area in ways that, say, your friends who play Football Manager have always been going on about. There are also noticeable effects that coaches can have on teams built to play young talent or contend now while a championship window is open, so it pays to explore what coaches can do for your squad.
The KBO arrives
There’s a decent chance that most American baseball fans only became familiar with the teams and players of the Korean Baseball Organization in the spring of 2020, when it was literally the only game in town for a bit. Indeed, ESPN aired a number of KBO games while MLB teams were still sidelined due to the pandemic, and it was refreshing to see live baseball played at a fairly high level while American ballparks awaited the return of their teams (albeit a bit strange at times seeing ESPN broadcasters call the action from half a world away).
Thanks to Com2uS arriving on the scene, OOTP 22 now has a full KBO license for the first time. Admittedly, this is going to be a feature that only ranks highly with the subset of players who are interested in truly simming the entire world of baseball, but it also should satisfy anyone wondering if the game has any new leagues. If nothing else, it’s a welcome bit of immediate synergy from Com2uS who otherwise seems to have wisely decided not to fix anything in the game that wasn’t broken.
Feeling a (Perfect) Draft
Perfect Team was always destined to be one of those “hate it or love it” features of OOTP, but there’s no denying that the dev team has continued to make this collecting and team-building mode more interesting with each subsequent release.
(As an aside, if you’re a baseball card collector and in the know about how much the prices of new cards have gone up over the past year, Perfect Team might be the best way to scratch the itch for busting packs without simultaneously destroying your wallet.)
The marquee new feature in Perfect Team this time around is the Perfect Draft mode, which is exactly what it sounds like: a chance to draft a Perfect Team squad from a selection of cards that changes with each round. You then take your drafted team into competition against other players’ draft teams, vying for Perfect Points which you can then spend on packs or players to boost your regular Perfect Team. It’s a mode that console sports gamers will recognize right away as most EA Sports titles have something similar.
The best part of Perfect Draft is how quickly it allows you to assemble a team and get it into play. Instead of being given a certain amount of time for each round, you have a time limit for the overall draft, allowing you to agonize over that 100-rated player in Round 1 or the five bottom of the roster gentlemen you select in the last round according to your whims. Once all teams are drafted, the simulations start shortly thereafter, and if you choose a smaller tournament, it’s possible to see it through to its conclusion pretty darn quickly.
On top of that, it simply slots in alongside everything that Perfect Team has to offer very nicely. If this is your favorite part of OOTP, you’ll be able to have Perfect Draft competitions, tournaments and your standard Perfect Team league all going in parallel, and really maximize your chances of earning Perfect Points while doing so. It’s not going to change the minds of people who don’t care for this relatively recent trend in sports gaming, but for everyone else, it’s a fun and logical extension of what Perfect Team already had to offer. As an added bonus, you’re likely to learn quite a bit about baseball history just from drafting players from decades past a few times.
It’s getting increasingly difficult with each new release to either find some new way of praising OOTP that hasn’t already been said, or to find glaring flaws or omissions that jump right out at you. Every game prior to this year has been an impressive feat of simulating a sport that has so many intricate details below the surface, and OOTP 22 is once again the gold standard in filling any kind of baseball league you can imagine with both realism and personality. On top of the beast of a simulation engine, this year’s edition rewards gamers with improved visuals that, while still not perfect, reflect just how far this franchise has come over time.
As it turns out, neither the change in ownership nor the chaos of real life has done anything to knock OOTP 22 off its perch atop the baseball sim genre, and it easily contends with any title out there for overall sports sim supremacy as well. It’s hard to imagine any diehard baseball aficionado who hasn’t already checked out one of its predecessors, but even more casual fans are sure to come away impressed by its scope and style.
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