by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Hooked on Cricket
I love cricket. I have played it since I was a small boy. My set of pads was way too big and my batting gloves made it hard to hold onto the bat. I watch it on TV whenever I get the chance, and I will see it live at my beloved MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). I have even played a wide range of cricket games on PC. Some of them have been decent, some just plain awful. But recently, there seems to have been some improvement in cricket games, and Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 looks to be in the latter category.
From the moment the game is installed, Ricky Ponting puts the gamer in Calypso mode. The reason for this is that Ricky Ponting has been officially licensed by the ICC and includes the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, based in the West Indies, as part of the game. The game begins with Rastafarian tunes blaring and immediately the game is livened up with the Caribbean flair. You could just imagine yourself sipping some of the regions finest rum while listening to the melodies. But there are more important things to do...
The World Cup awaits
With the ICC Cricket World Cup currently in progress in the Caribbean, what could be better than winning the coveted trophy yourself? Well, if that's not enough there is the Champions Trophy to win, as well as numerous other tournaments including Test tournaments, Twenty20 championships and custom ODI games. And with all World Cup teams as well as your own custom teams available, there is enough variety to keep the cricket fan going for some time.
One of the greatest strengths of Ricky Ponting is the ease of which anyone can just start to play a game. The batting and bowling both are very instinctive and have improved greatly from past cricket games. One of the nice little touches, though, is in the loading screens. They contain some cricketing terms that may not be familiar to gamers of non-cricketing backgrounds and gives definitions for such strange terms as Googly, Duck, Sticky Wicket and Leg Bye. This idea may only be minor, but it does give the gamer something to read whilst the game is loading and is interesting to boot.
There have been a number of new features added that make batting just that much more realistic and indeed more fun. Batting seems to have been made easier by the number of strokes available. Playing a shot is simply a matter of selecting the desired shot as well as the placement of the scoring stroke. By looking at the small radar in the bottom corner of the screen, the field placements can be seen, and suitable shots can be played. If the confidence is up, and the fielders are close in, it is possible to just hit over the top with relative assurance that you won't get caught.
Building up confidence
Confidence is one the great new features of the game. Batsmen now have a confidence meter, which improves as their stay at the crease continues. Once the batting meter gets high enough, it makes it easier for batsmen to pull off the big shots. Also, having a high confidence meter enables the batsman to dance down the pitch to loft the bowler back over his head. The confidence meter is a great concept, as it means the batsman must play himself in. But once you are in, hitting the big shot feels great. Watching the replay as the ball sails out of the playing arena and the crowd stand in appreciation of the marvelous strike is a thrill. But be warned, get it wrong and your batsman could be wincing in pain as the ball hits him in the, um... well, you know where. Hopefully he was wearing a protective box.
Running between wickets is also straightforward. Once the ball has been hit, selecting the run button gets the batsmen running between the wickets. Pressing again gets them going for another run. A small inset box is displayed in the top-left corner of the screen, so you can see their progress. If you think you've made a mistake going for that sneaky single, you can always change your mind. If your batsman looks to be in trouble he will dive for the line in an attempt to make it back into his crease. Inevitably though, run-outs do occur. If it is close, the umpire will refer his decision to the third umpire and a decision will be given.
Some of the run-outs happen in strange circumstances. I was once run-out after hitting the ball straight back down the pitch. The ball smashed into the stumps at the non-strikers end and though the non-striker was out of his crease, he was given out, even though no fielder had touched the ball prior to it hitting the stumps. I was annoyed, but luckily for me, it did not affect the current game. But I would have hated to have been 9-down and for Glenn McGrath to be run-out that way needing just a couple of runs to win.
You can also see how well the batsman is playing with the use of the TV-style Hawkeye system. This cool feature enables the batsman to see where he has been hitting the ball throughout his innings. But it can be helpful to bowlers too, as it can show where the batsman has been hitting in the air and fields can be set accordingly.
Bowling has been improved in much the same way as batting. Bowlers now have a range of deliveries to choose from. Do you want to bowl yorkers at the batsman's feet? Do you want to bowl in that corridor of uncertainty? Do you want Shane Warne to bowl a googly? It can all be done quite simply. As you're running in to bowl, just select the position where you want the ball to pitch and select the type of delivery. Once the ball is in flight it is possible to get the ball to swing. This takes some getting used to, but can be very handy in wrapping up the tail. Swinging yorkers are as hard to hit in Ricky Ponting as they are in real life. Watching the stump-cam replay as the ball knocks into the off stump is a delight to behold.
No Pros and Cons at this time