My favorite computer game, the past few years, has been the Out of the Park baseball series. They were nice enough to send me a review copy of the newest version of the game.
The game is great fun, let's you do all the things that a real GM does, other than deal with idiot bloggers questioning your every move. You can set lineups, run games, make trades, sign free agents, draft players, negotiate contracts, and everything else that goes with running a team. And, if you do a bad job, say, you play Corey Patterson too much, the owner can fire you, unless you set it so you can't be fired.
They sent me a beta copy of the game, so there are a lot of roster tweaks left to be done to the game. Surprisingly enough, I decided to run the Blue Jays. The game starts you off at the end of spring training (I'd rather they start you at the end of last season so you have time to make moves). The first thing I did was sign Roy Oswalt, one of the few unsigned free agents left, to a contract (one year plus a team option). The game doesn't know that Oswalt wouldn't sign with the Jays (there are some free agents that the game will decide won't sign with your team).. It's a good thing I did, because first time through the rotation both Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil each were injured, for 3 and 4 month respectively. The game also didn't know that Brett Cecil would be sent down to Double A at the end of spring, but likely, when the final release comes out, they will.
After 20 games, I'm 13 and 7. I'm using both Travis Snider and Eric Thames, having Thames DH against right-handers. It was handy having both when Jose Bautista missed a week with a sprained thumb. I've been using both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud at catcher (I'm sure I'll pick one and trade the other at some point). I couldn't bring myself to use Jeff Mathis.
I love the game.
They have made some changes to the game, the trading AI is much better than it used to be, you can't package 10 bad minor leaguers for one good one. Computer managers make fewer dumb moves, bunting in late innings down by a few runs doesn't happen any more.
One of the neat things is that you can start at any place in the history of the game. You want to see if you can run the 1992 Jays and win back-to-back World Series, you can. You want to start at year one (if you really want to run a team with Danny Ainge) with the Jays you can. Or if you want to run the 1927 Yankees, you can. You like the Expos from 1981 with Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines, or the 1994 Expos with Moises Alou and Larry Walker and right the wrongs of Bud Selig, you can do that too.
Changes to this year's version include:
- 2012 rosters, including the minor league systems of each of the teams.
- The new changes to the CBA, the Astros will move to the AL in 2013, 2 Wild Cards spots and the changes to the free agent compensation system.
- "Interactive Storylines". I didn't see this, in the little bit I've played, but they say it offers offers greater immersion by giving you choices when situations arise. Do you punish a star player who behaves badly or do you ignore his antics? No two decisions are ever alike, and they have wide-ranging effects on injuries, fan interest, team chemistry, player morale, player ratings, player potential, owner attitudes, and much more.
- They've changed the look of some to of the game screens, made things look a little better and a little more intuitive.
The game is available for pre-order now. The release date is April 9. To look at screen shots or see a complete look at all the new features of the game, or even order it: hit the link.