OOTP 13: Perhaps The Best Sports Simulation Game Ever
Proclaiming OOTP13 as such doesn’t give the game enough justice. As awe-inspiring as last year’s edition was, producer Markus Heinson and his band of creative baseball fanatics flipped the script while fine-tuning the strengths of an already stellar foundation. In other words, OOTP13 is like giving Jose Reyes-like speed to Albert Pujols.
There is no game on the market that combines the myriad aspects of its subject like OOTP13 has. As Baseball Prospectus’ annual book has become the gold standard of the sport, OOTP13 has further established itself as the gold standard of sports games, video or computer. You cannot exhaust the possibilities that exist in this version, a game with scant flaws. Having played a beta version, I can imagine the corrections will only enhance a game that belongs on the short list of the elite.
Having been blessed to give a spin to an advance copy, my Sunday evening turned into early Monday morning while in the process of sampling the new features. To highlight each of them would turn this review into War and Peace-sized, so let’s focus on the bigger standouts.
Real Time Simulation: One should buy OOTP13 on this feature alone. Gamers can follow an entire day of baseball at varying speeds; I tried using the actual real time for a full slate of games, worked out, went to the grocery store and napped before coming back about five hours later to see that Stephen Strasburg struck out 15 Astros in a complete game 1-hitter, Ryan Braun go 4-for-5 with a pair of homers before following the action of a Diamondbacks-Dodgers game that went 16 innings and ended with Los Angeles hurler Ted Lilly — the last available player on the Dodgers roster — concluding the marathon with an RBI single. About the only thing missing was the MLB Network crew analyzing the action.
Improved Interface: From the ESPN-like player pages to more user friendly team and league sections, the game’s makeover is very inviting. Managing a team has become easier to handle; especially the aspect of being able to work your way through the team pages, which begins with a one-stop look at the state of your franchise and only gets better as you peruse through the endless breakdowns that are offered.
Better Trading AI: The days of grabbing a top-tier prospect for a couple of has-been slags are over. You want a young talent like Justin Upton? Better get ready to offer the Diamondbacks the moon, Jupiter, Pluto and a galaxy to be named later.
The game also includes a more fine-tuned draft and free agency, plus it also sets the Astros up for one last ride through the National League before the likes of Pujols, Adrian Beltre and the rest of AL West gets to feast on their mediocre pitching staff in 2013. Another cool new feature is the historical draft, allowing owners to throw random players from past and present into the pool of available talent. Imagine the Astros — who have the first pick this June — being able to nab the likes of 1923 Babe Ruth or 1962 Sandy Koufax. It’s a hidden gem of an addition that makes fans of the “What If…?” modes giddy with joy.
That said, I took the liberty of projecting the upcoming season, which also includes the new playoff mode. After a series of trial runs (one of which included an A’s-Giants World Series and another that saw Dodgers OF Matt Kemp win the NL Triple Crown), I proceeded with a season that delivered its share of twists and turns.
American League East: Red Sox, 91-71 (Actually, they tied the Yankees on the final day of the regular season).
American League Central: Indians, 88-74 (Only team to finish above .500; the Tigers couldn’t find pitching beyond Justin Verlander and wound up with an 77-85 mark).
American League West: Rangers, 89-73 (Pujols flopped miserably for the Angels, hitting .223-20-57 in 121 games as LA finished 80-82).
Wild Cards: Yankees (91-71), Mariners (85-77, one game better than the Blue Jays and Rays, who both lost on the final day of the season).
National League East: Phillies, 86-76 (The Marlins, Nationals and Braves finished within three games of Philly, which needed a rally from a 6-0 first inning hole to top Washington on the last day of the season, avoiding a one-game playoff with Miami, sitting a game back).
National League Central: Cardinals, 86-77 (The defending champs defeated the Reds in a one-game, winner-take-all playoff game).
National League West: Dodgers, 95-77.
Wild Cards: Diamondbacks (87-75) and Giants (87-75; San Francisco was 30-49 at one point in the season).
American League: Mariners over Yankees in WC; Red Sox over Mariners (3-1); Indians over Rangers (3-0); Indians over Red Sox (4-3).
National League: Giants over Diamondbacks in WC; Dodgers over Giants (3-2); Cardinals over Phillies (3-0); Cardinals over Dodgers (4-0).
World Series: Cardinals over Indians (4-1). Another year of torment for Cleveland fans.
Rookie of the Year: A’s C Josh Donaldson (AL); Padres 1B Yonder Alonzo (NL)
Manager of the Year: Manny Acta, Indians (AL); Don Mattingly, Dodgers (NL)
Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox (AL); Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (NL)
MVP: Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera (AL); Reds 1B Joey Votto (NL)