Platform: PC, PS2, X360 - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
It’s probably worth pointing out that I’m a cricket fanatic. Not the sort that started loving cricket after England won The Ashes, but the sort who has loved and played the game since youth. Consequently when a videogame on the sport comes along, it's always of interest.
Much like real life, video games and cricket have a rather mixed past. For many years people insisted that it was simply impossible to make a realistic and enjoyable game based on the sport. It was too slow, too complicated and too boring for a videogame and that was that.
Such feeble mindedness hasn’t however prevailed, as Codemasters demonstrated when it revived the Brian Lara series with the excellent Brian Lara International Cricket 2005. What it did well was understand that, whether it is batting, bowling or fielding, cricket is all about timing. It utilised a simple control system based upon this understanding and as such created a game that more or less resembled a real game of cricket – which was quite an achievement.
Come 2007 and Codemasters is at it again, releasing a new edition of the game to coincide with the Cricket World Cup currently going on in the West Indies. With the series making its next-generation debut, the first thing that’s obvious is the graphical improvements.
On the Xbox 360 the game looks suitably shiny, with some nice bloom and depth of field effects. Player models and likenesses are fairly good too, though the animation varies from some good batting and bowling models to some rather clunky fielding animations. In this sense, although the graphics and textures have been updated, it’s clear that the animations are still very much a legacy of the previous game.
Indeed, the game feels very similar to the original in many ways. Batting for example, feels identical in almost all respects. This is generally a good thing since the batting mechanics were already excellent, with a confidence bar that dictates how easy it is to time your shots and a timing bar to show how well you're hitting your shots. But that doesn't mean there aren't additions, with previously missing batting abilities being added for this version of the game.
First among these is the ability to use your feet; a very important addition. When your batsman’s confidence is at its highest you gain the ability to use your feet, allowing you to get closer to the pitch of the ball and hit attacking shots. To do this, much like in real cricket, you must premeditate – holding down the left trigger while the bowler is running up.
Then, as the bowler is about to release, the batsman will begin to advance down the pitch and must then select either a defensive, attacking or lofted shot as you would normally. This system works very well, and adds a much needed dimension to batting when playing on the higher difficulty. If only England batsmen could learn to use their feet against the spinners, eh?