Paul the Octopus continues to ruin my mood as the FIFA World Cup 2010 rages on towards an action packed grand finale, and we’ve already seen something of a spectacle at the Wimbledon this year. These are exciting times for the world of sports indeed, and Codemasters and Trickster Games have decided to pitch in to the festivities by releasing the follow up to last year’s Ashes Cricket 2009. Yay! Inexplicable release window aside, International Cricket 2010 does deliver with its solid gameplay and improvements over last year. But is it one small step for gamers, or one giant leap for uhhh… gamerkind?
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It certainly seems like a small step if you go by the graphics and animations. The game is almost identical to Ashes in that respect. Apart from the English and Australian players, who resemble their real life counterparts to a great extent, you’ll be hard pressed to make the players in other teams come close to their actual looks even after using the player editor.
In fact, the customisation options are a bit of a let down and do not hold a candle to the kind of depth provided by other sports games these days. You can edit the look of the player within a set of preset options, and the gear can be modified as well; but only in terms of aesthetics. Ideally, factors such as the types of bat, the weight of different protective gear should make a difference to the player, making customisation all the more strategic and engaging. For now, all we have is a bunch of skill points that can be assigned to different factors within the broad groups of batting, bowling and fielding. These skill points are earned by individual players when they perform well. So essentially, you can pick a team and improve its stats by playing over and over.
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In the long run, however, this feels hollow. While options to play all three formats – One-day Internationals, Tests and T20 – and various tournaments are there, there is no career mode to tie everything together. So all the effort that you put in the single player gameplay doesn’t amount to an aggregate, which is a huge drawback that should be addressed in the next installment of the series.
The gameplay, on the other hand, is solid as ever, with both major and minor changes to the formula established last year. The core is still the same, where in batting, the face buttons determine the type of shot (attacking, defensive or lofted), the left shoulder buttons determine the front foot or back foot, and the left stick is used to choose the area to play the shot. New to the mix is the Powerstick feature, which essentially further refines the area the player selects to play the shot, enabling the player to pick out finer gaps in the field.
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The other new feature, which makes this game well worth a buy (especially if you liked Ashes) is the Action Cam. Technically, it is only an alternate camera option which places the camera right behind the batsman or bowler. However, the difference it makes to the immersion into the game is astounding. The Action Cam is definitely a step in the right direction, and has definitely hit the sweet spot of how the action should be presented in any cricket game.
Other tweaks come in the form a more aggressive AI, especially on medium difficulty. You definitely cannot have your way with the bowlers, even though you know exactly where the ball will pitch. The bowlers will use different delivery types, vary their pace a lot more than last time, and bowl to their fields. So trying to knock everything out of the park usually leads to disaster, as I discovered while playing Holland and getting bowled out for 64 in 7 overs.
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On the batting front, the AI is again very aggressive and will punish bad or repetitive bowling, something which I used to get away with in Ashes. However, there are a few chinks in the armour. For one, the difficulty jump between easy and medium is not balanced. On easy, I scored 205 in only 10 overs against Zimbabwe, which also involved a player scoring a century off 20 balls. Ideally, the game needed a difficulty level between the two. The batting AI can also play some unbelievable shots. A lofted cut shot off a yorker? Please! And the fielding still seems as lethargic as last year.
However, these are all minor issues when compared to taking things online. Things head southwards very quickly if the player wants some multiplayer action. Aside from a general lack of games, I was never able to complete a match which was more than 5 overs a side due to poor connectivity. In fact, on one occasion, after being blasted for two sixes and a four off the first three deliveries by a fellow gamer from across the border, the aforementioned issue spoiled the party for him. He promptly dropped me a message on PSN calling me a cute Indian kitten that is particularly affectionate towards its mother.
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Even during gameplay, the game lags heavily. Thankfully, lag mostly occurs after the shot is played or the delivery is bowled, but the jerky running and shot animations are far below the current standards in gaming.
International Cricket 2010 is a very good representation of the gentlemen’s game. However, the excitement you will derive out of it will be directly proportional to the excitement you derive out of watching the sport. It’s not fast-paced and frantic, and with the introduction of a more competent A.I., it requires all the more thought and patience. For me, the most exciting aspect of the game was the 5 overs a side multiplayer matches, which have the ingredients for some exciting encounters, but the poor net code dampens that as well. However, the new features, especially the Action Cam, make it a marked improvement over Ashes Cricket 2009, and a must buy for cricket fans. Just make sure you turn off the menu music as soon as you fire up the game.
(+) Action Cam does wonders for immersion
(+) Solid gameplay; a very good simulation of cricket
(+) Power stick makes batting more exciting
(-) Lack of a career mode
(-) Poorly implemented multiplayer
(-) Shallow customisation options
(-) Wide gap between easy and medium difficulty
Title: International Cricket 2010
Developer/Publisher: Trickstar Games/Codemasters
Platforms: PS3 (Rs 1,999), Xbox 360 (Rs 1,999)
Reviewed on: PS3