With the World Cup currently in full swing and E3, the gaming industry’s major event of the year, taking place this week, the release of Codemaster’s International Cricket 2010 may have got lost somewhat among the soccer-mad media frenzy or the buzz about PlayStation Move and how 3D gaming is apparently set to take the industry by storm. If you are a serious cricket fan, however, then there is plenty of reason to sit up and take notice of this week of this latest simulation of the “gentleman’s” game.
Cricket fanatics may disagree but, in our humble opinion, unless you’re watching “sixes” and “fours” being scored on a regular basis, or embroiled in the faster-paced One Day Internationals or Twenty20 games, cricket isn’t a sport that has the ability to regularly get the adrenaline pumping. Translate that slow-paced sport into a videogame and it's no wonder we find it hard to get totally immersed in its plodding gameplay.
You could say that, in terms of more mainstream videogames, International Cricket 2010 is more like a slow-paced JRPG than a high-octane action adventure, but it is a game full of strategic layers, where composure wins the day over impatience. Anyone who knows cricket will be well aware of this, so as long as you’re not expecting all the whistles and bells of an EA produced sport’s game or a robust, feature-heavy multiplayer mode where it's easy to find someone else online who actually wants to play, then you shouldn’t be too disappointed.
In fact, International Cricket 2010 is as close a simulation to a game of cricket that you’ll have ever played on console, offering a technically sound experience on the pitch that does very well to capture those "exciting" moments. Australian developer, Tricksar Games, who is largely made up of team that bought us the Brian Lara series and last year’s Ashes Cricket 2009, has tweaked and refined the latter, but has improved things commendably this year to deliver as "action-packed" a cricket game as you could possibly expect.
The first batch of good news is that there's a wider variety of animations to enjoy, such as players diving in various ways to catch a ball or raising their bat in the air when they reach a milestone in the match. The character models are also more refined and you’ll get to see and play as all of your favourites cricketers who look sharper, animate better and move around the crease and the pitch more realistically than ever.
Indeed presentation as a whole is excellent, with a smooth menu system and fully customisable HUD that effectively lends a hand in helping you to line up your shots, or switch between deliveries intuitively. The stadiums are decent too (though still not the official ones) and a good atmosphere is generated from the crowds that builds throughout the game and increases during potential match-winning moments. David "Bumble" Lloyd brings his years of experience to the matches in the commentary box, and his familiar voice helps to add an air of authenticity to the action.
On the pitch, it's clear that TrickStar Games has tried to improve things over Ashes 2009 by adding some new features and tweaking the gameplay. It's the same game engine as Ashes 2009, so the pace of the games run identically and anyone who played that last year will be able to get to grips with the largely similar control scheme with little effort. It's a testament that matches, when played on any difficulty above "Normal," mimic the real sport well and no matter how tempting it is, you won't just get away with slogging the ball on every shot; a blend of defensive and attacking play is the only way that you'll be able to win.
This is largely due to some tough A.I. who change the way they bowl to counteract your style of play and who will read your own bowling techniques fairly easily if you don't switch your styles. Ultimately, this means that you have to change the way you play depending on how the opposition plays against you: International Cricket 2010 offers a tactical game of cricket that imitates this aspect of the sport very well.
New this year is the 'Power Stick' control system giving you 360-degree direction and power control over the bat. This undoubtedly offers the widest range of angles and shots that we've seen so far in a console game and it works brilliantly. You still have to judge your shot based on the way it's bowled to you, but you can choose your angle instantly at the last minute, picking out a gap in the field, or slogging over the head of a fielder that is standing close to the crease. It does feel like you have 100% control over every shot.
Bowling is practically identical to Ashes 2009 as you choose your line, length, power and type of delivery. There's a lot to think about, but it's laid out in a way that makes it easy to experiment with and get to grips with the different deliveries. There is one big change that makes things better - the fact that you hold the reticule in place when you deliver rather than having to time it right and press the button to position it at the right moment as it moves from side to side. What this means is you're not likely to concede as many no-balls as you did in Ashes 2009. It's a welcome change that makes matches flow much better.
In an attempt to liven the game up somewhat and deliver a new level of immersion, there's also a new action camera. You can toggle between the Broadcast cam (traditional isometric view) by clicking on the right analog stick, but now you can also zoom right into the action by going over the shoulder of your batsman or bowler, or surveying the pitch to study fielder's positions, or just watching them pursue your attempted boundary shot. It certainly jazzes things up and gives it a T.V. produced feel. If you turn the HUD off as well as using your action cam, it does capture all those dramatic moments superbly.
The addition of four new nations: Bermuda, Scotland, Canada, and The Netherlands, plus a new tournaments section that includes World 20 Overs, 20 Overs Super League and the Champions Cup - as well as the ability to set-up your own customised tournament - is further evidence that International Cricket 2010 is much more than just an upgrade to Ashes 2009. The enhanced batting and bowling controls, the superb action cam, the new game modes and the overall lick of polish makes International Cricket 2010 a must-buy for any serious cricket fan this summer.
-The Final Word-
A technically sound game of cricket that offers some welcome new features over Ashes 2009.