GOONL!NE Review: International Cricket 2010

Developer: Trickstar Games
Publisher: Codemasters
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Also on: Playstation 3
Release Date: Friday 18th June 2010
Age Rating: ESRB: E for Everyone
Reviewed by: David Pitchforth

Cricket is one of the sports that hasn’t always translated as well to console games as fans would like. The longer, more traditional side of the game, the Test match, is played over 5 days, and there are many parts of the game that simply don’t play as well as a console game. Whether it’s a new batsman playing defensively to give himself time to bed in, a spin bowler brought on to try and stem the flow of runs coming from the opposition, or two batsmen near the end of an innings simply playing out time hoping for a draw, there are several times when a Test match turns into a war of attrition that doesn’t offer too much in the way of exciting cricket. However, the rise in popularity of the shorter forms of the game, including one day matches and the ultra-popular Twenty20 matches, have seen a much more attacking game developing.  That attacking game is much more suited to the fun that we expect from our games, so I approached International Cricket 2010 hoping to find a very enjoyable game. What I found was a game that certainly had fun, but also its fair share of niggles that stop it becoming the great game it could be.

International Cricket 2010 is the latest in the series of games that began as Brian Lara Cricket, and evolved last year into Ashes Cricket 2009. Last year’s game was fairly well received and new developer Trickstar Games, taking the reins after the unfortunate demise of previous developer Transmission Games, are hoping the improvements they’ve made will take the game to the next level.

The primary and most obvious change to the game this year is the introduction of the Action Cam. This over-the-shoulder camera gives you a much closer view of the action, both as a batter and a bowler, and it works pretty well. It’s designed as a way to try and immerse you in the action as much as possible, and for batsmen it certainly helps with that. When you’re standing at the crease waiting for a delivery, you can move the camera around to check the field placement, looking for gaps where you can try to play your next shot. It doesn’t work quite so well for bowlers though, as you don’t feel like you have quite as much time to place your delivery exactly where you want it.

The mechanics of batting and bowling, with the rather large selection of shot types and the variation in deliveries, are all explained in the comprehensive tutorial. For new players this is a must, as without it you’ll be left feeling rather confused by all the icons on the HUD while playing, and wondering how to perform each shot. The problem with the tutorial is that it’s locked down pretty tightly, with only the beginning section of the batting, bowling and fielding lessons available at the start, with each subsequent lesson opening up after you complete the previous lesson. While new players will probably want to go through each lesson properly to make sure they have a proper feel for the game and the controls, for more experienced players it would be nice if the later lessons were available from the start, so they could pick and choose the lessons they wanted to take, rather than being forced to play through all of them one by one.

When you actually get out playing proper matches, they handle pretty well. Everything comes down to timing, whether it’s batting, bowling or fielding. When you’re batting, you’ll see a green circle on the wicket, indicating roughly where the ball is going to be bowled. After that, it’s up to you to get into position, decide whether you want to play off the back foot, front foot, or advance down the wicket, then hit your shot at the right time. You’ll be told if you’re trying to hit the ball too early or late, and it’s imperative to get your timing right if you want to build up a good score. If you play your shot too early or late, you could end up missing the ball and being clean bowled, or perhaps just edging it towards the wicket keeper, though thankfully not every error is punished, and just like in real cricket, sometimes an edge can produce a boundary just as easily as it can produce a wicket.

Timing is important when you bowl as well. You first need to select your delivery type from the many available to you, from yorkers to swing deliveries, off-spinners to doosra’s. You can affect the amount of spin or swing by holding down one of the triggers as you run up, which is handy in giving variation to your bowling, and you can also change delivery type at the last moment by pressing an alternate button to send the ball down. The timing comes from the actual moment you press your button to bowl. Too early and the ball will be much slower and easier to hit, too late and it’ll be a no-ball, which is certainly frustrating if you happen to clean bowl your opponent only to find it disallowed.

Fielding is definitely a bit of a pain though. Not so much when the ball is struck along the ground, as all you really need to do then is pick which end to return the ball to. The problem comes when the ball is hit in the air and you need to try and catch it. As the ball approaches your player, the camera angle changes and the ball is surrounded by a coloured marker, which changes from red to amber to green then back again. If you press the correct button when the marker is green, the ball is caught successfully. If you press it when it’s red, you’ll definitely drop it, while an amber press is equally likely to be caught or dropped. The issue here is that the colour changes to green and then back to amber so quickly, you need to have the reflexes of a coiled cobra to catch the ball on a regular basis. You quickly start trying to guess when it will change to green and pressing the button more in hope than in expectation, which isn’t how it should be, and it removes a lot of the fun from fielding.

While the game can be fun to play and has generally solid gameplay mechanics, it’s not without its problems that stop it from being an all out fun-fest. Batting can quickly become too easy when you get your timing down, easily picking holes in the field and lofting the ball over nearby opposition players. When you’re bowling, you quickly find that there are some delivery types, that when bowled in just the right place on the wicket, will almost always cause the opposition batsmen problems. If you decide to use and abuse this, you can quickly dismiss teams in next to no time, taking the fun out of trying to out-work and out-think your opponents by your variation in line and length. Fielding just doesn’t feel involved enough, with running after the ball handled automatically, with your input narrowed down to trying to catch the ball if it’s in the air, and choosing what end to throw the ball to.

The game also suffers from a lack of licenses. While England and Australia have fully licensed teams, thanks to the England and Wales Cricket Board, and Cricket Australia both agreeing to have their teams in there, the same cannot be said for the rest of the teams. As long time players of Pro Evolution Soccer will know, it’s just not the same when you’re playing the game and you’re dealing with fake player names, as it removes a layer of authenticity that is really required in a game like this.

Final thoughts: International Cricket 2010 is a good game that is stopped from being great due to a few fundamental flaws in the gameplay. Batting and bowling can become too easy, and fielding feels like an afterthought at times. The lack of real names for the majority of teams and players hurts the game as well. However, that doesn’t stop the game being fun to play. The Twenty20 matches, designed around attacking cricket are easily the most fun to play, and smashing a 6 into the upper stands will always bring a smile to your face. This is a solid enough sports game that provides Trickstar Games with a good foundation to build upon next year, if they decide to make this into a yearly franchise.

Gameplay – 8: Good controls for batting and bowling, with plenty of shots and deliveries available, though they can become a little too easy, and the fielding leaves a lot to be desired.

Graphics – 6: The player models aren’t the best unfortunately, and the running animations could do with a little work, but the shots look very authentic.

Sound – 7: Jonathan Agnew and Shane Warne work the mics, and while they come up with some interesting commentary from time to time, it’s not up to the level of something like the Fifa series.

Presentation – 6: A good range of matches to pick from, from test matches to tournaments, but the game is severely hurt by the lack of official licenses for virtually all of the teams in the game.

Overall – 7: Despite the problems it’s still a fun game to play, and cricket fans will definitely find some enjoyment here. A good solid effort.