Ashes Cricket 2009 is a game which troubles me, I enjoy it, I really do, but it has so many problems and little niggles that make it hard to enjoy the game. The problems start with the release date, for a game that is using the Ashes licence you would think that the game would have been released before the cricket series started. That didn’t happen, the game only came out on the eve of the final test, that is just poor timing.
Still, that is just one of the small things that trouble me with the game, the licensing and player likenesses are anoother. You don’t have any of the official Ashes sponsorship present in the game, it is disoncerting to see Codemasters logos splayed at each of the wicket. There is little when you are playing the Ashes tests to make them stand apart from any other test match you can play in the game, you get the same old commentary repeating the same long-winded discussions all the time. The player likensses are very hit and misss with the two licenced teams of England and Australia. For every in game Monty Panesar who looks very realistic you have a Freddy Flintoff who bears no resemblance to the man who is retiring from international cricket at the end of this series.
The other nations available to play include the remaining eight Test playing nations along with Kenya and Ireland, none of these feature licenced players. Yes there is a customisation tool, but it most certainly isn’t the easiest to use, especially when you realise you can’t create an entirely new team, you have to swap players in and out of the pre-made squads like the CMXI and Rest of the World XI. In their own right these are small things, but after a while they add up to detract from your experience with the game. It is telling that I haven’t talked about the cricket itself yet.
Well for a start you will want to check out the Legends Coaching which sees Shane Warne and Ian Botham teach you the various aspects of how to play the game. I’ll warn you now that you will want to use a gamepad for Ashes Cricket, the keyboard/mouse combo just doesn’t cut it. The principle actions of the three areas of the game are simple, for batting you select the direction you want to hit the ball and chose to defend, attack or attempt a lofted strike. You can aim more accurately by deciding to play off the front or back foot, though be warned that sometimes if you leave it to automatically decide which stance to use, you will find yourself screwed over and walking back to the pavilion. The trouble with batting is timing, I had to ask on the official forums how to time my shots, this is where the game could have done with a ‘nets’ practice area where you don’t have to worry about playing a proper match or being interrupted by the two legends whenever you do something they don’t want you to do.
Bowling is simple enough, as a seamer at any rate, you select whether you want to bowl a fast, slow, swing or a cut ball. Once you have done this you are presented with a bowling meter, hit it in the green section for a perfect delivery, but if you go in the red you will send down a no ball. The trouble comes with the spinners, whilst they are pretty good in the hands of the AI I have really struggled bowling them myself, even when they have a high skill level. This all comes down to the fact that the ideal suggested length is really quite full which prevents the ball from actually getting to spin to a large extent. If you are lucky enough to draw a batsmen to play a poor shot to one of your fielders you are presented with a little quick time event, you have to press select when a target reticule surrounding the ball turns green. It strikes me as odd though that you have more time when the reticule is green when the ball goes to the slips than when out closer to the boundary when you should, in theory, have more time to get beneath the ball unlike the quick reflex catches needed in the slips.
In the field you also have control over which end to throw the ball in an effort to cause a run out. Really though there is little need, most of the AI batsmen seem to have a suicidal mindset when running between the wickets, I regularly end up with more run outs than any other dismissal. This is a major problem with the game, another lies in the run rates. It is all too easy in a Test match to move along at 6 or 7 runs an over. This isn’t the 20Twenty format, it shouldn’t be happening. In one match I played I got onto the third innings when still on the first day. This was because of the shocking level of run outs and the ease of which you can score fast runs. I don’t think I need to mention that my poor batting skills also played a part in this speedy first day of a match.
Despite the issues I have, the game really is fun, especially in the 20Twenty or One Day games, again the competitions are not officially licenced and you can’t start a tournament before the quarter final stages, but the sense of freedom to thrash the ball around is great fun. Also the teams bright colourful kits spice up the visuals which vary from very nice in some views to plain ugly in others.
The trouble is that despite all the issues I have with Ashes Cricket 2009, I do really enjoy it. I didn’t think I was going to at first, and it took me a while to actually make an progress with the batting, but there is a solid game hidden away here. It is just a shame that there are so many glaring problems with it. I hope that Transmission Games can go away and create a much more polished game in time for the next Ashes series down under. For now though, I have to say that for anyone not interested in cricket that you should give this a miss. If you do like cricket then it may be worth trying out, just don’t expect a perfect game.