What I loved
- It’s actually a very good cricket game… for a change
- Plenty of match types
- Challenging and rewarding in equal measure
- Career mode
Not so much
- Repetitive and uninspiring commentary
- Graphics could’ve been better
Let’s be clear from the start – if you played Don Bradman Cricket 14 on Xbox 360, PS3 or PC, this is essentially the same game, but with (slightly) polished graphics. The game mechanic is unchanged, and you will not get any extra content (other than new user generated players or teams), so it will be up to you whether you want to fork out the cash again for an ‘HD’ (I use this a little liberally) remake.
Obviously, if you don’t love cricket (or even like it a little), then a cricket game would be sheer horror to you. And if the last cricket game you played was the enjoyable (but slog-fest friendly) Brian Lara Cricket, you haven’t missed too many quality cricket titles. Thankfully, Big Ant Studios has made massive strides to give cricket fans a game that will satisfy their needs, as well as challenge them.
The first challenge you will face is that the game has very few licensed international teams and players, but this is easily sorted out when you first start up the game. You’re given the option to download community edited players and teams, and doing so will save you hours of editing it all yourself. The grounds too are obviously modelled on well-known ones from around the world, but only a couple are actually licensed, leaving one chuckling at ‘Durban Fields’ which is quite clearly Newlands with a different mountain and wind turbines in the background… yes, wind turbines. Wonder if Big Ant were having a dig at Eskom…
The player and team editing is immensely comprehensive, and I would even venture to say that it offers more customisation than FIFA. I spent around an hour making Z. Dredd look as sexy as the real thing, which is around 55 minutes longer than I do in RPGs.
Sadly, the graphics themselves are not about to win any awards, with the stadium and crowds being a little disappointing. The players in-game are generally close enough to their real-world counterparts (if my non-cricket loving wife can recognise Graeme Smith, then something is right) and the animations look life-like, if a little robotic at times. I would’ve loved to have seen a little more variation with the bowlers and slightly different animations for batsman types.
That being said, most of this is just fluff, what’s most important is the gameplay. In this regard, the game gets it right more often than not. If you last batted in a cricket game using the ‘B’ to batter the ball to the boundary, get ready for a little shock. The game uses the right analogue stick for shot direction and timing, while the left analogue stick is used for foot placement – well, back or front foot basically. Batting is all about timing and knowing which ball to play aggressively. On the easiest setting (‘Rookie’) you can literally hit almost every ball for a six (holding the left trigger while playing a shot results in lofted shots), but as the difficulties ramp up, it really is about shot selection. This is where the game’s real success can be measured – every milestone you reach is a real victory and getting a century genuinely means something.
Bowling is equally challenging and no less rewarding. There are enough bowling options available from wrist spin to express pace, and the type of ball to bowl (types are bowler specific) is done via the left analogue. The right analogue controls the jump and where the ball pitches. Now while this might sound confusing, it becomes second nature after a little bit of practice, however, if you bowl a fair amount of spin, expect your left analogue stick to give up the ghost sooner rather than later – you literally spin the left analogue to increase ball revolutions. As with batting, on the higher difficulty levels, the challenge with bowling is to find a wicket-taking ball and it’s about working for it. Bowling a number of dot-balls followed by a slower off-cutter that takes a wicket is a real fist-pump moment.
Fielding is not quite a sophisticated as batting and bowling and catches require you to push the right analogue stick in pretty much any direction before – and until – the ball hits your hands. You can slide, throw to either end and look a fool by dropping a catch, but ultimately it’s the least rewarding part of the game.
The modes available are extensive. You can play a five-over-a-side match, T20, day/night, List A, Test matches, through to a tour and tournament with international and domestic (Australia, IPL and English at least) teams. However, for me, the real winner was the career. Starting at the age of 16, you play through a 20 year career in an attempt to be selected for your national team. In the mode, you only control your player, while your teammates are AI controlled. Thankfully, you can simulate the matches until you play your role, but again, the sense of achievement as you reach milestones in your career is unsurpassed in previous cricket games – and even some other sports titles.
If you are not a fan of cricket, then you won’t be a fan of Don Bradman Cricket. However, if you’re a fan of cricket (and even a fan of sports in general), then get Don Bradman Cricket and enjoy the best cricket game of the last ten years – and possibly the best cricket game until the next one by Big Ant Studios.
Read about our ratings here.