Video games can often provide a player with their first experience in an arena they may never have considered before – leading to a long love affair or at least brief flirtation with the subject matter. What Trickstar Games have done here is produce a game so faithful to the sport of cricket that it will enthuse your average cricket fan, but anyone else would need to be armed with a bucketful of time, a mind open to the physics of spin and swing, and mental stamina that is constantly tested with repetitive actions requiring accurate timings. If that sounds like you, my money is on you being a cricket fan already.
Should you decide to take a chance, or if this is the first cricket title you have played of late, you are in safe hands. International Cricket 2010 has one of the best and most comprehensive tutorial modes ever created. The module gently takes you through all the aspects needed to compete in the game (over 20 separate routines) and gives you a firm grounding in what will be required should your desire be to rub Australian players’ faces in the dirt. Although some of the scenarios will no doubt seem daunting at first, I would recommend persevering as you are likely to come very unstuck marching into a game without grasping the basics.
When you can learn no more, roll into a game. All formats are catered for, 20 overs, One-day internationals, and test matches. You can configure the settings to change the game rules as you see fit. A healthy selection of tournaments are also on offer, along with the ability to construct your own – a feature no doubt being used by many to reconstruct the Ashes series. One presumes only a licensing issue prevented this from being included by default.
The majority of international teams are available, with the latest player selections. This raises the first grumble, as the pace of the international game means that some squad listings are already significantly out of date. Hopes were raised with the inclusion of the squad editor, but this appears to allow more for the updating of existing players stats than adding new faces.
The real effort from Codemasters seems to have gone into what appears to be a new game engine. Batting is now a far more complex beast and is miles away from the old aim and fire method of old. IC 2010 allows you to choose between hitting from your front and back foot (essential to deal with short deliveries) while encouraging shot placement with a 360 degree aiming arc. Picking gaps in the field becomes essential, unless you are planning to rock back and slam the ball over the stadium roof.
Bowling has also been tweaked. The view is the first alteration, with a third-person camera positioned just above the bowler’s shoulder, following him in as he runs up. During this period you have several chances to pick your delivery whilst also aiming the pitch of the ball on the wicket. The motion of bowling as a result feels far more controlled and ultimately more satisfying when you send a delivery whistling passed the ears of the helpless batsman.
This may still sound fairly passé to veteran cricket game users. Well, this bit won’t. Each player has a confidence meter, adding a whole new dimension to the game, with players’ individual performances being affected by their confidence levels. Poorly timing a shot, missing the ball, having to send a batsman back from a run – all these sap the batsman’s confidence. In reverse, passages of good play enhance a player’s confidence and sees them more likely to deliver a corker of a ball for that essential wicket. The only thing missing is the ability to sledge (not a method of transport in the snow, a verbal taunt designed to shatter an oppositions players state of mind) and manually force your bowler to appeal.
The graphics are pretty spot on; stadiums can look resplendent (although let down by a lazy, static crowd), player likenesses have clearly had a lot of attention placed on them, and the one day kits would pass under a dim light bulb. One of the biggest concerns has to be around the sound. The crowd noises are all wrong, nearly always too quiet or too loud depending on the scenario. A double ton, I always imagined, would deserve a standing ovation of rapturous applause, not a polite ripple of clapping that sounds like it was coming from inside a sports hall, ten miles away. Commentary-wise, without Shane Warne I would say it was average. With Shane, it’s abysmal. If there was an award for the the most disinterested articulation of obviously read from cue cards comments and generally unhelpful contribution to cricket commentary – he would probably get the lifetime achievement award. And then have subsequent awards named after him. Turning the sound off would probably help, but why should we have to?
As we all know cricket is a long game, so expect a lengthy session of IC 2010 whenever you turn it on. There is no way you can realistically expect to spend less than 2 hours to finish a game (unless you are on Easy mode). I think we should all recognise there is no way round this, it is the nature of the sport, so Trickstar have tried to turn this to their advantage. To help you really get into the game, the broadcast presentation sees the introduction of the ‘hawkeye’ screen along with plenty of statistics flashing up at various intervals on the screen for number boffins to indulge in. There are all the bog standard sundries such as being able to achieve various trophies, set new cricketing records (which are stored for future use) and customise your team with new apparel.
So there you have it. Not such much of a revolution in a cricket game, more of an evolution. International Cricket 2010 will not bring more fans to cricket, but I would be confident enough to predict that hardcore cricketing gamers will find enough to keep their appetites whetted with this title. Some of the new features are less subtle than others, but together make for a solid all round cricketing experience – if you have considerable time to spare. Needless to say the sound really needs a lot of work, and a sequel would do well to consider manual fielding and a slightly higher difficulty setting. But then since Trickstar Games are mostly all Australians, they may be in hiding for some time until the events of this Christmas have been forgotten. International Cricket receives a 7 out of 10.
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