For the last week or so, my breaks have basically been spent playing (the newly released) EA Sports Cricket 2005. The game is a marked improvement over previous versions, and while I'd written it off early on, it's grown on me in the last couple of days - well, enough that I'm actually writing this ;)
The graphics are acceptable, though not in the same league as EA's other releases. The interface is also decent, but like most multi-platform games, requires a combination of mouse and keyboard use, which is .. annoying. But the graphics and interface are both generally satisfactory in modern games. It has always been the gameplay along with things like the commentary, realism, and attention to detail that have historically been really poor in every cricket game that I've ever played. Cricket 2005 however, seems to have been given a solid boost in the right direction.
While I, like most people prefer to just bat all day, the bowling side of things in Cricket 2005 has been imbued with a number of nuances - bowling is now .. an art form etc. etc. But, while I'm happy to plod away with defensive strokes for hours on end, I tend to find bowling a little tedious and usually just "auto-play" all my bowling innings :P The fielding, umpiring etc. is pretty shoddy and very buggy [yet another game rushed through to release prematurely..].
Anyways, coming back to the batting.. Though your strokes are quite limited, and there isn't exactly anything like "direction control" for placing the ball, it's still pretty involving. You, as the batsman will need to play the ball based on merit, which I suppose is one of the more central aspects of the art. Timing and shot selection are pretty much the key to doing well. The manual mentions an option to control the power of your stroke, but I'm yet to get the hang of it.. Currently, all I do right now is leave, defend, stroke or whack! (with the "Six Hit" button), which (for the moment) is enough to give me the jollies :D
Other interesting things include:
- Bowling Complexity - Swing and seam movement for the fast bowlers. Turn, loop and drift (seems so anyways) for the spinners. There's also variation of pace, and choice of bowling over or around the wicket..
- Fielding - Probably the worst part of the gameplay; it's very "Arcade-y" and very buggy. The fact that the cricket ground seems to be rather disproportionate doesn't help either. But you can see dives, slides, misfields, slip catches, keeper catches, caught and bowled, overthrows and the like. Pushing the fielders with good running between the wickets can lead to misfields, which is also rather neat :)
- There are also other little things like pitch and weather conditions that add to the gameplay. Oh, and from the .. psychological POV, getting tonked on the head by a Shoaib Akhtar bouncer doesn't help with your confidence.
In terms of commentary, Cricket 2005 follows in the path of its ancestors and is absolutely, ridiculously, pathetically, <insert choice adverb> annoying - just when you thought that it couldn't get any worse, EA have managed to plumb new depths in incompetence. It took me only an agonising 2 minutes to decide to turn the damned thing off..
When it comes to realism, we're still quite a way from getting the same quality or standards as other EA releases. If not for all the bugs, this would be considered a pretty good attempt at something close to it.. Also, I should probably mention that it is rather pointless to play at any level besides "Hard". Any lower, and the game gets quite trivially easy to play - slog-sweeping sixes by rote can get a touch tiring after a while for the best of us ;) And just like the real game, Tests are more interesting and demanding than one-dayers and this 20-20 rubbish.
Anyways, it's been a while since I last tried a cricket game, so it's possible and likely that my POV might be a little dated. But all in all, this is a decent game to check out if you are an Indian/cricket fan ;)
P.S. For those who e-mail me weekly asking for the PDF manual - I do not have it. Please be a little enterprising and learn to Google.