Last year’s best baseball management/owner sim has – unbelievably – gotten better. I was eagerly awaiting it’s release with all of the hype it’s developers were pumping out about it’s ease of use, new features, and ‘face-gen’ technology. What I got was definitely more intuitive, and possibly more fun, but still just as rock-solid as last year.

OOTP allows you to design whatever kind of league you want and run it however you want. Do you want a small league with only 4 teams per league, playing under 1905 conditions? Done. How about a monster league with four 5 team divisions per league, each with a full minor league system, from AAA to Rookie ball, college and highschool feeder leagues, playing under custom conditions that favor super-hitting and anemic pitching? Done, and just as easily.  The league wizard guides you through creating whatever kind of game world you want. Also, you can take the ‘advanced’ route, which is much more like what vets are used to from games past.

The face-gen tech is quite admirable. It takes the player’s birthplace to decide their ethnicity (Caucasian, African, Hispanic, or east Indian) and creates an age-and-mood specific face for each player. Teams have custom cap and uniform colors and designs now. You can pick any color to put on their attire with the easy color picker function, or use either hex- or RGB-code to define their look. On top of that, you can hand-draw logos for the cap and jersey and import them into the game from the team’s color menu.

The actual gameplay is great. Stats are abundant and prevalent; every stat you could want is available, and they all matter when the games are played. Whether simming the games to play as a GM, or hand-managing the games pitch by pitch, you’ll see your players grow and wilt over the course of their careers. Over the course of the seasons, you’ll be faced with analyzing and signing free agents to fill holes in your team using option years and incentives as bait, dealing with players moods and popularity (don’t trade a really popular player unless you’re getting someone equally famous in return!), and all of the other pitfalls that come with a full season. One of the more interesting minor additions is the potential for off-field injuries. I’ve read of players getting mugged and having to miss allot of time with fractured skulls as a result.

In the end, if you like baseball management sims at all, or liked the earlier OOTP games, I whole-heartedly recommend you pick this up.  It’s a gem. Alphasim out.