Still, you can’t fault either version for play modes or options. Even the more basic Wii version has a choice between quick exhibition matches, a series of challenging scenario missions and a full simulation of The Ashes, while the other versions go two better, losing the exhibition matches and scenario mode but adding online modes, one day cricket, full tests and 20 over matches to the line-up. And when we say a full simulation of The Ashes we mean it – all the games, in all the stadiums with each and every over. And if you don’t want to relive England’s glorious victory/ignominious defeat (delete as necessary), the game features all the main national teams and a generous selection of international stadiums, even if the odd name or detail has been tinkered with here and there.
All in all, then, The Ashes 2009 seems like a generous and well-thought out cricketing package, ideally placed to capitalise on Ashes fever. Unfortunately, while it’s a good sports game, it’s not a great one. Let me explain the difference. A good sports games combines a reasonable simulation of the sport with enough detail and action to entertain existing fans – deserving the classic ‘if you like x, you’ll like this’ kind of cliche. A great sports game manages to reach out to the larger audience of those who have a passing interest in the sport, but probably don’t follow it religiously. In this category we might put a handful of the Tiger Woods/PGA Tour golf games, Virtua Tennis 1 to 3, one or two of the NBA and NBA Street games and maybe Madden NFL09. Oh, and let’s not forget Sensible Soccer or the last couple of FIFAs. The Ashes 2009 is good, but it’s not on the same level.
The biggest problem might just be down to cricket itself, and that’s the pacing. The shorter exhibition and one day matches give newbie players a quick fix of entertainment, but they’re not really meaty enough to sustain much interest in the long term. The Ashes and Test Match modes, meanwhile, are probably a little bit too meaty. In fact, when you’re starting out they can feel like they go on for an eternity.