Cricket games are often seen as the lower end of sports games, with the beautiful game not getting its air in the mainstream, however released by Big Ant Studios to coincide with the real life event, we are given Ashes Cricket. Preening their cricket gaming skills on the previous Don Bradman Cricket games as well as a handful of Rugby League and even a Lacrosse game, we got on our pads, slid on our gloves and strapped on our helmet….oo-er. So does Ashes Cricket live up to the glory days of cricket games when Brian Lara Cricket was available, or is it a ginormous disappointment?
Thankfully is the former. Lets read and find out some more.
Usually on a review of a game we would go through the game modes available to you in depth so that you know what you are getting into, and while we are going to touch on those, I’m guessing the cricket fans out there (I am certainly one of them) want to know how it actually plays. How much fun is the game and how straight forward is it to pick up and play. So lets split it down into a couple of segments, batting, bowling and fielding, as essentially that is the general makeup of a cricket game. You can have all the game modes in the world, but if the game can’t get the fundamentals right in the first place, you are going to be dropping this like Alistair Cook dropping an outside edge straight at him.
The bowling in Ashes Cricket is a frustrating mix of being smashed for sixes and missing the stumps by millimetres. Regardless of what type of bowler you are in control of, pace or spin, you first have to decide on the type of delivery and the length of delivery that you are going to bowl. Fancy bowling a standard fast paced yorker? Well that is selected with up on the left stick, followed by pressing the triangle button (on PS4), then when your bowler starts his run up, you then have to stop a moving line in the light green areas. These areas are where you start your jump and then land your feet. Get these outside of the area and you will be bowling a no ball. You have the ability to put a bit more effort on a delivery right at the end, although this can lead to a delivery that is a little bit wayward depending on the accuracy of your bowler.
Once the delivery has been sent on its way it can go one of three ways, the batsman can flick it away into the field. If this is the case your fielders will automatically converge on the ball and then you have to decide whether to throw to the wicket keeper or bowlers end. Alternatively now and again you will be in charge of a quick time event which will see a slip fielder taking a catch as long as you can get your aiming reticle in a circle and press that X button. The fielding is probably the weakest part of the game, with the AI teams taking some outrageous catches, some without even looking at the ball, whereas when it comes to your own fielders, they can sometimes be a bit…erm….lacking. Missing a catch when it all seemed a sure fire wicket. Then for some reason dropping a ball that anyone could catch. It’s not all bad, but its not all great either.
If that ball hits the batsman’s pads and you think that it was going on to hit the stumps, a simple press on the d-pads up button will see the HOWZAT call with your players arms aloft. You will then be treated with the finger of out-ness, or a shaking head. You can challenge the umpires decision, doing so treats you to a bit of a basic Snikometer and Hot Spot view, although the latter is pretty weak. Traditionally when you watch a game of Cricket and Hot Spot is called, you see a dark patch where the ball has either hit the pads, or the bat, whereas on the in game one these areas show up white. Now that wouldn’t be a problem, but the screen itself is over exposed so its essentially a white screen designed to show off the dark impact points of the ball. Hopefully this will get a patch and be accurate in due course.
Batting is brilliant on Ashes Cricket, now I’m sure you are wanting for me to backup those lofty claims. Well let me give it a try. The batting is straight forward, you have to select a shot, get your timing and your footwork correct. That all sounds straight forward, but in the heat of the moment, if you don’t press R2 to take a backfoot shot then you are going to get yourself in a whole world of pain. Hitting the wrong shot at the wrong time will mean you hit the ball straight to the fielder. So what types of shots are in the batsman’s arsenal, firstly you have your standard shot, a general waft at the ball hitting it with enough vigour that it will reach the boundary if you can find a gap. Then you have your precision shot, more accurate but less likely to hit the rope and score the big runs, but very much a shot type for rotating the strike to give your in form batsman the crease. Then you have the defensive shot, literally putting your bat in the way of the ball to stop it getting to the wicket keeper, but at the same time stopping any attacking options you might have thought about. Then you have the aggressive shots, this is where Ashes Cricket becomes a great laugh. Hitting those attacking shots to clear the ropes, often ends in you trying to hit it out of the ground, but quite often if you are slightly out of time you will hit it straight into silly mid off.
As well as those options for batting Ashes Cricket gives you some variations to chose from. You can trot down the wicket to hit those big hits, but obviously leaving yourself open for a stumping. Pressing L1 will give you the option for hitting the ball down and keeping it along the ground. My favourite is R2, these give you the “special shots” these are the show off type hits, the little scoops over the slips, the reverse sweep type shots made famous by Kevin Pieterson. All of the actions that you chose have a direct impact on the scoreboard, hitting your first 50 is a great experience, and missing out on those tops scores because you made the wrong choice will stay with you all game.
So now that we have the game mechanics I can give you a brief overview of the game modes available. So we obviously have the Ashes modes, which will see you going through the Ashes competition as either Australia or England. Then you have your career, which will allow you to create your own cricketer and take them from club level, all the way through county and try and make enough impact so that you get that call up to the international team. You gain experience points as you play through your matches and you can assign the points and swap them for attributes to increase your cricketers abilities. Then you have the online mode, where you can either take on another person, or team up with an online friend and take on the CPU.
Moving onto the visuals aspect of Ashes Cricket and whilst its not about how the game looks it does help if it looks good. Ashes Cricket doesn’t completely disappoint. With it being an official Ashes game, you get officially licenses Aussie and English teams, but that is where the line is drawn. No other teams are licensed and the only stadiums that get the official treatment are those that are venues during the Ashes over in Australia. Gameplay wise the graphics are acceptable, they aren’t going to blow your mind, but for a game that all the focus is on the mechanics they don’t have to.
There are a few graphical issues now and again, the main one is to do with the animations in particular situations. So batting against a spin bowler with the wicket keeper stood up to the wicket, try and attempt that straight drive and if you miss your batsmen holds his pose, bat aloft and leaning on his front foot. This brings you out of your crease and if you miss the ball the wicket keeper can easily swipe the bails off the stumps. It’s annoying as no matter how hard you spam the Cancel Run button (circle) you painfully watch the wicket keeper grab the ball, have a cup of tea and an orange slice before whipping the bails off sending your batsmen on the long walk back to the pavilion.
Now with the audio, there isn’t much to report, the sound of willow on leather is fine, the commentary is so so, the crowd sounds are all OK, but when you are launching a six over 100m straight back over the bowlers head you won’t care what the sounds are like.
With the ability to play a full test you could literally be sat in front of your console or PC for hours, bowling delivery after delivery at the opposition, trying to outsmart them. What I am implying is that there is the scope for hundreds and hundreds of hours worth of gameplay in Ashes Cricket add to it the ability to create your own bat design, and even customise the teams so that you have the correct names and likenesses (kind of) of your favourite county team. You have an impressive game that brings memories of playing Brian Lara Cricket and enjoying playing against friends.
The most fun you can have is chasing down a decent score with your friend at the other end egging each other to hit those big shots.
In conclusion, the game is a brilliant recreation of the game of Cricket and if you are a big fan of the sport then you would be hard pressed to play a more fun game. Obviously Ashes Cricket will only appeal to a select few types of gamer’s out there and I think that Big Ant Studios are fully aware of this and have tried to give you a game as close to the real thing as possible. Ashes Cricket Bowling a googly and being hit for six, we give Ashes Cricket a Thumb Culture Gold Award
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.