Level 1: The Intro
Good afternoon, Ladies and gentlemen. Whilst I have alluded to in previous articles, I might be based in the west of Scotland, but if I pull away the arrogant bastard persona and show you the person behind, I was raised in Yorkshire, and sadly, this means that I am far more likely than my colleagues and counterparts to both understand all the rules of Cricket and to like the sport in question. As it happens, whilst I do understand all the rules of Cricket (I think), I’m not a fan of the sport in question, except for when it comes to 20/20 matches. I could literally spend the entirety of my wordcount explaining all the rules of that but simply put, there’s no point. Cricket might be fun to play, both in a physical and videogaming sense, but it’s a fucking boring match to watch (with the exception of the aforementioned 20/20 matches). However, because I’m working on something very special for you people, my paymasters here at Gamerhub would like me to do something to keep you all occupied until you get to read the article where I tear the movie of the month a new one. So, who has made this game? Big Ant Studios, the same people who made Ashes Cricket in 2018. I believe that this game is simply an updated version, but we’ll see as we crack on.
Level 2: The Game design
The game is designed for anyone, and I mean that literally. Whether you can wax lyrical about the West Indies team that tore through the world of cricket in the 1980s, or whether, like most people in Scotland, you think Cricket’s a confusing and frankly boring game to both play and watch, this game does a really good job of both explaining all the rules and the situation going on with Cricket as it currently stands. I can’t promise you that you’ll fully understand then purpose of a fielder standing at Silly mid-wicket on, but I can guarantee you’ll know the salient points of the game, such as why LBW (Legs Before Wicket) is a tricky thing to call, and why Cricket used VAR long before it ruined European football.
The one thing that is majorly impressive (and a mark up on the predecessor) is how the game allows you to modify the controls so you can bowl like Monty Panesar or swing for the boundary like Vivian Richards. The game design is as such that once you’ve sunk 3 hours or so into the game, pretty much everything is unlockable and you can play the game extremely well. It might not make a huge Cricket fan out of you, but even the multiplayer mode will allow you to turn your completely disinterested mates into fans of the sport. To put this simply, I got my mother to join in with me for an hour, and she’s a Cornish lass that hates the sport. By the end of the first 20/20 game, she was screaming “HOWZAT” at the umpire every time I miscued or edged the ball.
There’s more than just multiplayer (both local, co-op and online) to enjoy though. Like every good sports game, you can also create a player to use for a career and go from playing for your local team to playing for your country. This is really time consuming though, gamers so grant yourselves warned. It took me 36 hours (pretty much non-stop) to get my player from playing for Doncaster to playing for England. Mind you, when you consider the difference between a Big Ant game and an EA game, your wallet will be appreciative of the fact that there are no micro-transactions to help your player level up. So, there’s no lootboxes or virtual currency issues to rob you of any fun in this game.
Level 3: Graphics
The graphics of this game, sadly is one of the weaker points of this game. There really isn’t any change graphically in this game and its predecessor. That’s not to say that the graphics are appallingly bad, and it’s a lot better than WWE 2K20, but don’t expect to see Headingley or Lord’s in full 4K quality. There is a reason for this: what we’ve lost in terms of the graphical quality (which we really haven’t, it’s just not been improved upon), we’ve gained in other spots. The animations are all great, however. From making certain types of bowling look extremely realistic, to the way in which replays show the seam of the cricket ball as the ball spins and bounces from the field, the way in which the graphics show the ball moving and the game being played is impressive. That is, however, unless the frame rate drops. Particularly when you slog the ball for the boundaries and score either a boundary 4 or 6, the frame rate can often drop and leave players frustrated.
This was explained no better than co-op playing with a friend, and he scored a 6. As the replay started to play, the game pretty much stuttered as it showed the replay, which had both of us giving Frankie Boyle and Jerry Sadowitz competition with swearing. However, all things considered, this is probably my biggest bugbear of the game, as the majority of this game will leave even the most disinterested players with a gigantic smile when you learn how to bowl someone out.
Level 4: The Players
This is where you can tell most of the budget went on the game, as dear sweet flying spaghetti monster, this game has got all of the major world teams’ players licensed and their likenesses are fully rendered pretty damned well. Joe Root and Ben Stokes look like Joe Root and Ben Stokes to the point that during a cutscene, my mother thought I was watching the real thing for a brief moment.
That’s how good the players have been designed and rendered in this game. Also, for those wondering if they’ve made all the people you can play as on an international stage super-men, relax, the flaws in certain players have been transposed from reality to the video game. Once you unlock the classic teams, this becomes immediately apparent. In Australia’s classic team, Shane Warne frequently bowls no-balls as he oversteps the bowling crease. Kevin Petersen throws a bitch fit when you bowl him out (which I really enjoyed watching). The only down side to this is that Freddie Flintoff wasn’t in this game, which is a shame, as I’m a Yorkshire boy, and nothing would have pleased me more than bowling the Wigan lad out for a duck (or even a golden duck).
As for the player creation suite, the levels of creation modification have been significantly increased from the previous game in the series. From being able to make your create-a-cricketer the size of Andre The Giant (yes, that’s an 80’s wrestling reference for those familiar with who I used to write for) to being able to make him small enough to play for The Shire from Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, you can make your player any shape or size you ultimately want. [This is Davey’s editor here. It behoves us to tell you that for legal purposes, there is no Tolkien-based teams or characters in this game, although to us, that would be fucking cool].
Another awesome thing, particularly in the world that we currently live in, is that unlike the predecessor, you can play as a woman this time. If you want to forego a cricketer’s box and stick it to the patriarchy in this game, there’s options available to do so. Also, in a wonderfully feminist touch to this game, getting your female created cricketer to the highest stats imaginable requires a bit lees grind than it does for the men. This is really quite appropriate, considering the recent successes the English Women’s team have had in the sport. Also, who doesn’t enjoy watching women outperform men at sports occasionally?
Level 5: The Soundtrack
Well, seeing as I’ve been contractually obliged to make at least one reference to *that* infernal song by the Dreadlock Holiday band, I don’t like this soundtrack. No seriously, you can tell where all the money into developing this game went, because all the soundtrack in this game, from the grunting sounds of batsmen swinging for the boundaries to the commentators on this game are nigh-on identical with that of the previous game: with one notable exception. Yorkshire-based gamers playing this game might be a bit upset at this, but Geoffrey Boycott’s voice is nowhere to be heard in this game. You can’t hear his Barnsley vowels anywhere in the game, but I suspect that might be for political reasons, considering the palaver caused over his comments on women in Cricket and also his comments on certain matters that my editor has told me not to bring up.
That being said, the Barnsley motormouth has been replaced by Katherine Bunty and another Yorkshire cricketing legend, Dickie Bird. The man with the crooked finger of doom lends his voice for the occssional wisecrack (including a very funny one when you accidentally bowl a wide ball), but the biggest loss to the soundtrack is that there’s a lack of the usual soundtrack that cricket game afficionados are used to hearing on this sort of game. Yes, Dreadlock Holiday have that song in the game (when you complete the career mode), but there’s not that much to write home about, I’m afraid.
Boss Level: The Verdict
So: is this a game worth purchasing from the Microsoft Store, or is it simply one for the Game Pass and getting all those lovely achievements and Gamerscore? Well, here’s my take away from playing this game. The grind to get good at this game is rather short, but it requires one metric ton of learning to master properly, and for those who don’t play cricket or watch it, the grind will only be harder. In my opnion, the game is a great tool to get people into Yorkshire’s national sport, but it’s not particularly fun for people who don’t like the sport.
The creation suite is pretty good, and the licensing of players for both England and Australia is pretty good, and the nod to the poor sparrow who got hit by a Cricket ball on the first ever game at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London is a lovely touch, but ultimately readers and gamers, just download this on Microsoft Game Pass for now. It’s not worth forking out £20 on, even if there aren’t any virtual currency or lootbox issues.
If I could make a recommendation for this game, it would be to add in more teams, spend time updating the graphics to the next generation of consoles, and update the soundtrack to make this game better. To put it simply, Sky Sports licence songs from indie bands such as Imagine Dragons when covering their trailers for the Ashes and World Cup, and Big Ant Studios could learn a thing or two from that.
So, that’s this review done, and I hope you all enjoyed it? What would you like me to cover on Game Pass next? I am, of course, open to suggestions. Until then, I’ve been Davey, this has been Gamerhub, and you have been awesome.