by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Superb view from these seats
Apart from the gripes about the player and crowd faces, the game has quite a high standard in a graphical sense. The stadiums (or is that stadia) are well presented and it certainly feels as though the developers have taken great pride in getting them to look authentic. The official use of the Hawkeye system also helps to make the game feel more realistic.
Another thing that makes the game that much more accurate, is the audio. The commentary from Jonathan Agnew and Tony Greig is spot on. The special comments from legends Shane Warne and Ian Botham also help the game flow along at a nice pace. The commentary does start to repeat itself after awhile, and this could get monotonous, but there is certainly quite a range of dialogues.
The other sound effects in the game are also great. I particularly liked the introduction music. It took me back to the opening credits when I watched the cricket on TV during the Aussie summers and is certainly upbeat. The in-game sound effects are also very good. The sound of the bat hitting the ball, the sound of the crowd cheering for a six, and the sound of the players appealing for a wicket all make the gamer feel part of the match.
Letís get down to business
But when talking about sports games, and in particular cricket, the main focus is on the gameplay. Itís no use having great sound and/or visuals if the game is a dog to play. And as far as cricket games go, Ashes Cricket 2009 is closer to the real thing than what the gamers have had up to this point.
Batting is always fun in cricket games, but Ashes Cricket 2009, gives the game some added realism. When a new batsman comes to the crease, it would be advisable to build up his confidence before going for the big lofted shots. A meter shows how positive the batsman is, and once he gets the feel of things in the middle, it seems to become easier to cut loose on the unsuspecting bowlers. And once you do cut loose, there is a wide range of batting strokes to unveil.
It all requires timing and placement
Hitting some good shots requires a certain amount of timing. Going for the riskier shots has less leeway in timing than a simple defensive push. Getting it wrong will result in edges going to fielders. Getting your timing perfect will result in that huge six over mid-wicket. Of course, getting the timing right counts for nought if you donít hit the ball in the right place. Whilst the bowler runs in, the direction and style of shot is selected. Hitting a superbly timed shot through the stacked cover field is almost as rewarding as hitting the aforementioned six. One thing that is still missing, though, is the option to charge the bowler. Not a big issue, but something that Iím sure would-be Pietersens would like to have implemented in future versions.
Bowling too is fairly simple to control (but harder to master). Just select the bowler and then from the options available, which depend on the type of bowler he is, select a delivery style. The player then gets to aim where the ball will pitch and choose the speed of the delivery. Going for that extra speed could result in the bowler overstepping the no-ball line. So, as was the case with batting, you need to get the timing right. Also, as with batting, the bowlers have a confidence meter which will go up or down depending on how they are doing. Loose balls will be punished by the batsmen, lowering the bowlerís confidence, whilst getting the ball in the right place will eventually result in a wicket chance.
Many wicket chances will no doubt come from catches to fielders. The field placings are set before the ball is bowled and hopefully - if the batsman gets it wrong Ė the batman will hit the ball in the air towards a fieldsman. This will result in another timing aspect. A coloured ring will surround the incoming ball (from the fielderís point of view) and once the ring goes from red to orange to green (or yellow-green) the required key needs to be pressed. Again, getting the timing right will result in a catch, whilst getting it wrong will result in the fielding captain giving you a disbelieving stare. Run-outs, too, are quite prevalent in the game. Whilst the batsmen are running, throwing the ball to the correct end will see the batsman scramble for his ground. The third umpire is often called into play to judge if the batsman has made it back to the crease.
Ashes Cricket 2009 does a great job of letting gamers fulfil their virtual cricket needs. I personally, had a few issues with running between wickets, with batsmen not going back to their crease properly. Also the game type (Test, ODI, and T20) doesnít seem to affect the opposition batsmen (or your own batsmen for that matter). I was often more than 300 runs on the first session in a test, and most Tests didnít see the second day. Bowling is a bit more realistic if you keep your line and length tight. The lack of real player names may discourage some gamers, but as mentioned this can be rectified with the use of the player editor function. The controls are simple to use, but require some time to master, so donít worry if you donít blast a hundred or get a hat-trick in your first match. The visuals and audio do a fine job, whilst the unlockable content will keep gamers playing well into the Aussie summer.
The controls are simple to use for batting, bowling and fielding. The stadiums are well presented. Commentary from Jonathan Agnew is great.
Player likenesses need some work, as does the crowd.