Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ashes Cricket Review (PC Game)

We don't really do reviews, so this will probably be a bit of a trainrape. Nevertheless, we'll do one anyway with lots of colourful language to paper over the chasmic cracks in our journalistic "technique".

Ashes Cricket is made by Codemasters, the guys who made Brian Lara International Cricket. BLIC is probably the most fun and playable cricket game ever made. so when the Codemasters logo pops up, they're off to a good start.

If you like your game intros to feature tricksy motion control shots, epilepsy-inducing editing, real footage seamlessly transitioning into rendered graphics, all set to a pumping Queens of the Stone Age track, then you'll LOVE the intro of Ashes Cricket. Beause there is no intro.

The interface is ok. The menus are easy to navigate.

The training mode is very useful, if erring on the side of the pedantic.

Once Darren and I learned the controls, we did a T20 match between SA and Pakistan. we batted first and got about 150 all out. Batting gives you a good degree of freedom as far as shot selection is concerned. If a ball is pitched on a length on middle stump, you can choose one of a vast array of shots, depending on the field set. It's the one cricket game that's captured the satisfaction of clipping one off the stumps through the legside. That shot in particular looks gorgeous, especially off the back foot.

When batting first, make hay while the sun shines. Those first 6 overs are the easiest to score off.

The wicket keepers are way too good. It's commonplace for a keeper to dive full length to first slip and take a spectacular one handed catch while standing up to the stumps.

There are a few other un-crickety things. When you edge a ball into the slip cordon, it loops up, as though you've just hit an overripe orange into the air with a giant red dildo.

Shots behind square on both sides of the wicket also tend to be few and far between. The AI leads you to playing in the V more often than not. You often find yourself rotating the strike with a full blooded cover drive to the sweeper, rather than a neat tickle down to third man.

Pakistan then went in to bat. We opened the bowling with Steyn and Ntini. A major bug seems to be specific to Makhaya Ntini. Sometimes he'll run in and clip the bail on the bowlers end with his hand. This leads to a reset, with Maccie going back to the top of his run up, no runs being scored off that ball, and only 5 balls remaining in the over. This has happened twice now.

The MAJOR concern with the bowling is that the makers of the game have deemed a ball pitched on the 4 meter mark to be the ideal length. Anything else is a poor delivery and the AI batsmen take full advantage. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that because of the depth perspective, a ball on an ideal length (as defined by Codemasters) looks like a half volley. This is very unsatisfactory.

In an ideal gaming world, the optimum length should be determined by pitch condition, ball condition, match situation, batsman on strike and, most importantly, the bowler himself. In the real world, Andrew Flintoff's optimum line and length is slightly shorter and more outside of off stump than Dale Steyn, who looks to pitch it slightly fuller and closer towards middle.

Apart from that, the catching system is a game within itself. You have to be ready though! It's based on the "what if" situation of Keanu Reeves and Morpheus playing cricket in the Matrix trilogy.

The big screw up is the AI's sense of judgement when it comes to running. In our game against India, we took 4 wickets. Every other batsman ran themselves out. This is easily fixable with a good patch, but what do I know? Maybe it's harder than jazz music.

Having lost in the semi-finals to India (we were South Africa. We don't do finals), we decided to play an Ashes test match. The main headache was trying to decide whether to be England or Australia. We went with England, who are mainly shit. To our delight, we discovered that Michael Vaughan is in the test match squad.

Now the main problem with test matches in computer games is that it takes huge amounts of concentration and patience to wait for the right scoring opportunity, whilst watchfully blocking or leaving dangerous deliveries. After 10 overs we were 22/1. It probably takes more discipline and mental application to leave a series of balls pitched in the corridor of uncertainty in the computer game context than it does in a real test match. So inevitably we went "fuck this" and started tonking Shane Watson to all parts of the field. Kevin Pietersen's clip off the legs looks truly stunning.

With our newfound gay abandon, we were dismissed for 277 after 40 overs. Australia, after starting well, were bowled out just after tea on day one for a paltry 175. We went in to bat again and made about 120. Australia were then bowled out after drinks in the first session of Day 2, 30 runs shy of victory. Day 3 ticket holders would've been annoyed.

Herein lies the problem. I defy anyone to play a test match in a cricket computer game that lasts 5 full days without engineering it that way. (International Cricket Captain doesn't count).

All in all, it's the best cricket game to come out since BLIC. We hope that Codemasters build on this, because while it may not be the best, it's on the right track.


aliens on August 18, 2009 at 10:49 AM said...

Sourav bats for Dravid
On seeing the above title do not think that Sourav Ganguly has given up his decision to quit from all the versions of the game of cricket and is back in the scene. E mean to say that Sourav, nicknamed as ‘Dada’ by the fans has hailed the decision of the selection committee to bring back Rahul Dravid and thereby proving that only form was the problem associated with senior players and age had nothing to do with performance. Sourav expressed hope that the right hander would fare well in the upcoming tri-series. For the past one year Rahul Dravid – ‘ The wall ’ had been away from the one day format of the game. Sourav tried to strengthen his contention by citing the inclusion of Nehra as another example. Sourav’s statement assumes significance in this scenario as we find the three batsmen Laxman, Dravid and Sachin who are at mid thirties of age, delivering a consistent good performance.

Darren Buser on August 18, 2009 at 12:11 PM said...

"When you edge a ball into the slip cordon, it loops up, as though you've just hit an overripe orange into the air with a giant red dildo."

Haha. Indeed. The physics and animations really need some work. There are obvious bugs, like the run out one, that can probably be fixed quite easily. But other stuff definitely won't get any attention until next year, which is a shame.

I really wish there wasn't as much premeditation as there currently is. You lose a great deal of the fun by simply picking the gap in the field and readying yourself for the shot before the bowler has even delivered the ball. Plus to get great timing you need to press the shot button so early. It should be the other way around, especially on harder levels. The later you play the shot should be the sweet spot.

Still, in the end its an enjoying enough game. But that's mostly down to my love of cricket, not my love of this cricket game.

Anonymous said...

What the fuck is this spam bullshit in the first comment? FUC-U Tech needs a version 2.0

Darren Buser on August 18, 2009 at 11:43 PM said...

Knew it would happen. But we get so few comments...and it is at least vaguely on topic.

Sean on August 19, 2009 at 7:17 PM said...

vaguely on topic ???? the only thing that is on topic about that post is the topic of cricket. FUC-U Tech needs upgrading.
but please dont change back to the spam blocker text thingie ( i could not comment)
think I might just try this game but Cricket games do need a lot of inporving on then done

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