Ahh, Cricket. The smell of new wood and freshly-mown grass on a scorching hot Summerâs sunny afternoon. The sound of ball on bat being interrupted by a passionate cry of âHOWZAT!!â at random intervals. Fours, sixes, legs before wickets and a lot of standing around; this about sums up my passion for Cricket. Personally any sport that can take up to five days to play and STILL end up a draw is one that should probably look at revising their rulebook. Many years ago I gave up my college days as a spin-bowler in exchange for football. But as a true professional, I stepped up to the crease to see if Codemasterâs latest game could re-spark a forgotten part of my sporting childhood.
Turns out it couldnât. In fact I seriously doubt that even an avid fan of Cricket would get much enjoyment out of International Cricket 2010. The gameâs combination of poor visuals, frequent bugs, frustrating difficulty and torturous commentary should be enough to put most people off the sport for life.
At its core, all of the gameplay elements seem to be in place. It lets players take control of 16 teams from around the World including New Zealand, India, Bangladesh, Australia, England and even lesser known squads from Scotland and the Netherlands. I admire the game for going that extra mile to include lesser known teams; but seriously - does anyone want to watch a five-day Test Match between Bermuda and Canada?
Like the previous Codemasters cricket titles, only Australia and England are fully licensed leaving all of the remaining teams and players just approximate representations. Any Cricket fan should be able to identify key players but their names, kit and statistics are all variations on their real-life counterparts. However the limited array of default face types in the game leads to some inventive âlikenessesâ. Many key players in the New Zealand âBLACKCAPSâ will certainly require some solid use of the imagination.
Appropriately the game also features a set of recognised Cricket grounds and stadiums from around the world. Players will be able to step up to the crease at Lords or hit a six in Kolkata. International Cricket 2010 even includes an impressive range of game-types including One Day Internationals, Twenty20 games, Test Matches and a unique quick-play tournament mode titled âRound Robinsâ. Add in a new 360 degree control stick mechanism, classy visual replays and multiplayer; the framework is all in place for a decent Cricket simulator. Yet just ten minutes into the game players will start to notice some serious flaws.
For example: batting is initially a fun and engaging experience, but soon feels broken and clunky. Players attempting to make a quick single run will sometimes see the batsman run through a fielder like he wasnât there. Once I was magically bowled out without the stumps moving from their perch. They are rare occurrences but glaringly obvious bugs that can affect gameplay negatively.
Some serious cricket fans will see past the occasional graphical glitches and with persistence will still find some satisfaction in knocking the ball around the park. A painfully extensive tutorial that would give even Mark Greatbatch a headache, combined with a weighty control system lets determined players grasp the basics at the crease. After enough practice, trying to find gaps between fielders and predicting the deliveries is fairly rewarding and enjoyable. The 2010 edition also includes automatic footwork settings to allow players to focus on the timing and placement of their shots.
Fielding on the other hand is a nightmare. Mainly due to the fact that most of the fielding duties are left in the hands of artificial intelligence that puts the âAIâ in âFAILâ. Your fielders will often be slow to react and even get confused near boundaries, simply standing next to the ball while runs are being scored. Wicket keepers seem to switch from being superhuman (catching outside edges with Ninja-like speed) to being super-stupid (refusing to leave his spot behind the stumps to pick up a ball less than 2 metres away). If youâre lucky enough to get a chance to catch a shot, youâll also need the reflexes of a cougar to be able to pull off the on-screen indicators. Each time a catch is possible the player will be presented by a circle that changes from amber to green, requiring the player to press the button at the exact moment it changes. Chances are youâll be dropping more balls than the Pakistan cricket team.
Thankfully bowling manages to redeem the fielding aspects of the game slightly. Again, after numerous and intricately detailed tutorials, players will be able to deliver off-spin, leg-spin and pace balls towards the stumps. Lining up the deliveries is relatively easy but getting the bounce and timing of your release will make the difference between getting hit for six or appealing to the Umpire with a finger in the air.
But despite some appealing gameplay in the bowling and batting, there are too many annoyances to ignore in International Cricket 2010. The learning curve is far too steep and daunting for any gamer. Youâll find that every match you play is completely unpredictable and frustratingly lop-sided for no apparent reason. Presentation-wise, apart from the stylish visuals of pitch radars, bowling analysis and ball trajectories, the rest is completely arbitrary. There is no consistency whatsoever between the three different aspects of gameplay (bowling, batting and fielding), which often leaves the player feeling scared and bewildered as to whatâs happening.
Finally the sound effects are almost non-existent and the voice commentary is enough to make you want to set fire to your ears. The deadpan and often inappropriate waffling of Jonathan Agnew, Shane Warne and David Lloyd should result in most people turning off the Commentary audio almost immediately.
Seriously, if you want any cricket action this Summer; round up a couple of mates, shove some sticks into the ground and play some good old fashion Kiwi backyard cricket instead.