Out of the Park Baseball 15 was, without question, the most realistic sports simulation game I had ever come across. Despite that, if I had one complaint about the masterpiece that was/is OOTP 15, it’s that it wasn’t quite real enough. As the type of self-proclaimed sports nerd that this franchise was meant to appeal to, the previous lack of MLB licensing stuck out like a sore thumb. That’s the thing about the OOTP series – it’s so good that it’s entirely possible to hold it to this type of standard. The addictive emphasis on team building, the implementation of real-life MLB transaction rules and procedures, the thrill of watching players enter your system as prospects and progress right before your very eyes – it’s all here and as seamless as ever. Now, however, the all-new Out of the Park Baseball 16 has added the style to match its substance. An MLB.com license adds all 30 MLB team logos and jerseys, over 150 Minor League Baseball team logos and jerseys, and historical club logos. It was simple enough to import these items manually into previous editions of the game, but having it all out of the box adds a cosmetic touch that instantly enhances the experience. Additionally, having the folks at MLB on board also makes you wonder what other realistic enhancements might be possible through the partnership in future iterations or patches of the game. Ultimately, though, it’s safe to say that this enhancement is one meant to make the game further appeal to the masses. If you have any interest in this game, the reason likely isn’t for a small picture in the top left corner of the interface – it’s for the depth and the realism that more accurately recreates the experience of being a general manager (in any sport) than anything I’ve ever experienced. When you fire the game up, you’ll notice the license overhaul. The snappy red and blue motif of the MLB logo adorns the menus and backgrounds. The actual game itself looks nearly identical to previous editions in terms of the overall design and interface. The basis of the game falls within three separate tabs – the manager tab, the league tab and the team tab. You make changes to manage your team under submenus within each (and often submenus of the submenus) and simulate the season, day by day, seeing how your changes unfold on the virtual field. This is exactly how OOTP has played previously, and it’s a tried and true system that works. If you’ve ever been the type of person, like myself, that’s more often more interested in building your Madden dynasty off the field than on it, for example, then this is the game for you. You’ll likely start your game in the 2015 season with a full MLB roster that you’re familiar with (an Opening Day roster update ensures that each organization, down to rookie ball, is 100% accurate). As you rapidly fly through seasons, making contract decisions, setting lineups and pitching rotations, drafting and signing new talent, you’ll quickly progress to the distant future when Mike Trout is a retiree and players are all fictional, with made-up names often better/worse than even those that NCAA Football could generate. What I’ve found to be fascinating is that the more you play, the more real these players become. At their core, even the OOTP version of a guy like Trout is no more than an elaborate alignment of skill ratings. The game shines in its ability to bring these ratings to life without really doing so at all. The ratings change dynamically as aging stars decline and prospects attempt to reach their potential. Seeing which highly touted prospects reach their potential, which fade away and which blow up out of nowhere as the years progress is highly addictive – in time, I find myself almost “rooting” for the players that I drafted. It’s an incredibly fulfilling experience to overhaul an organization from the ground up, make shrewd Rule 5 picks, strategically set exact lineups based on skillset and watch your plan succeed. If you’ve played OOTP in the past, none of this will sound very different or unfamiliar to you, but if you’re a veteran, you’ll notice several changes in this game that make the admittedly steep learning curve even easier to manage. The Front Office page has a new look that better brings you relevant information for managing the business side of your ballclub, including a more detailed look at your owner, your finances and your year-over-year budget. The game has also retooled the finance AI, resulting in more realistic contracts and negotiations, a welcome change if you understand the ins and outs of the real-life baseball financial system. Managers now have specific personalities as well, affecting strategic choices, and speaking of strategy, that page has been overhauled. A system of buttons has replaced the drop-down menus, making it far, far easier to alter the way you want your team to play in specific scenarios. My personal favorite: you can also now do a “quick choice” setup to immediately alter the sliders for a well-known philosophy. For example, sabermetric or small ball are one-click options that can add your personality and style to the team without requiring you spend much time on sliders. These are the kind of changes that make a “next-level” type of move more realistic to implement for the type of player that might not have previously given team strategy a look. In short, OOTP 16 is terrific, just as you'd expect it to be if you loved the '15 version. The depth of its features and possibilities cannot even be begin to be explained in a short review such as this; you have to play it and click through its seemingly limitless menus to truly experience it, and each time you do, I bet you might stumble across a new feature you didn’t know existed before. It is the baseball nerd’s dream, and some of the changes this year make the game more accessible for someone who might not identify as one. Rating: If you’re like me and read Baseball Prospectus cover to cover each spring, 10/10, but know that there is a learning curve for someone who might identify as a more casual fan.