Review by Validus
The best cricket game but that's not saying much.
Seeing as EA is an American company, and (no offense) America is not really a Cricket loving nation (The USA national team is not THAT bad after all), the cricket games that they have produced have not really been of very high quality. Cricket 2002 suffered from being to easy so, in their latest attempt to appeal to an international audience, EA decided to give it another go by releasing Cricket 2005. Unfortunately this game is not really all that great. Growing up in South Africa, where the two main sports are cricket along with rugby, I have a lot of experience with the 'gentleman's game' and I have to say that this game does not live up to my expectations. I prefer the real thing.
The first thing that you will probably notice is the full licensing of all the players and teams as well as stadiums which is the single best aspect of all EA Sports games. Every player, every team and every stadium is full licensed and the only things that are NOT licensed are the cricket equipment brands, which is very easy to live with. The game menus are all fluid and a cricket bat replaces your cursor while you are browsing the menus, which is a nice touch. Graphically the game is very sound albeit a bit limited. Player models look great mostly for the top players (and the USA team) but teams like Canada have horribly generic faces. There was really not a lot of effort put into it and you can see that rather obviously from the way the look. Team kits are top-class. They look practically like the real thing. Kudos to EA in that department. The cricket equipment is also terrific. Apart from the bland EA symbol on the bat and ball, they looked great. There is a visible umpire on the pitch, whom you can easily see when bowling or batting. His animations are somewhat limited seeing as he only has one animation for each call and the fact that there are only two umpire models in the game. The crowd is still the horrible card board figures from the FIFA series. I don't really expect EA to rectify this since it has become the norm in all their sport games (or at least the ones that I've played) The stadiums look incredible well done and you can see that EA at least had the effort to go out and look at them instead of downloading pictures of the internet.
Animations were really sour in my book because there was no variation amongst them. Fielders always throw the ball back to the wicket keeper in the same manner, they always dive in the same way and they always pick the ball up in the same way. It gets really repetitive after a few games. Bowling and batting are no better. Batsmen can only hit the ball in specific ways and it's really painful to watch him play the same shot six times. Bowlers seem to not understand the concept of variation either. I'm pretty sure that Harbhajan Singh has a unique run up but in this game ALL spin bowlers have the same run up as do all fast bowlers. Apart from that unfortunate but rather large error, the graphics were pretty good... but not great. Thank fully there were no cheerleaders ruining the game.
The game's sound was bad. The commentator is BORING. I know that cricket commentators are not supposed to be exciting (not as good as soccer ones anyway) but this guy goes out of his way to bore you. He is incapable of expression. While he may not be as bad as Barry Davies from the awful Club Football, he is still pretty bad. You will hear all that he has to say after a few games and he really doesn't have much to offer afterwards. He knows most of the player names though so that's one positive, but he sure doesn't know how to celebrate a six. There is crowd applause and the like which is a nice touch. There is also a healthy supply of music in the game, most of which I did not really enjoy. You only hear it when you are surfing menus however, so bring your own music for those boring Test matches. The poor commentator really mucks up the rest of the sound.
In terms of actual cricket, this game falls flat on it's face because after you get over the steep learning curve, this game becomes far too easy. There are three difficulty levels and the change is noticeable although I was still whacking sixes even on the hardest difficulty. After you get used to it you will easily be able to score over a 1000 runs in one day cricket and make untouchable totals. Not to mention the fact that you can abuse the bowling to get teams out for 10 runs. It is really broken. Of course this is only applicable to the weak AI. First and foremost, this game offers a wide variety of play options. You can start a World Cup or Test Series instantly from the main menu or you just play a one day friendly if you fell like it. You have the option to change the stadium, as well as stadium conditions, weather and pitch type in order to maximize your game. There is large amount of customization involved and it is interesting to look at all of it. The game features almost every single international team available as well as several cricket clubs from England and Australia. There are also World One Day and World Test teams, which are obviously the best in the game. You have complete control of squad selection, batting and bowling order as well as choosing the captain. This control is amazingly well executed. You also have the ability to make your own cricket player and place him alongside your heroes. It is very well done on the developer's part.
The actual game is again, disappointing. After the coin is tossed you can choose if you want to bat or bowl and then you well, err play. Batting is well coordinated but poorly executed. You have three keys that control three different shot types. By combining these keys with the direction buttons, you arrive at the possibility of 12 different shots and that's it. Just 12 shots for all the possible balls you may encounter. By holding down shift when you take your shot you, in essence, power it up and aim for a six however, only a handful of shot types have the possibility to actually make the six so it is a bit limited. Now unlike Cricket 2002 where all your players (even the dead outsider bowlers) could whack sixes with ease, Cricket 2005 balances it out. I mean, while it was cool, it extremely stupid to see Makhaya Ntini make 36 runs of one over. Now we have a much more refined system. Your opening batsmen are normally the best and the only ones capable of big hits while your bowlers are unable to swing for fours let alone sixes. This also pans out pretty poorly because once you lose your openers, the rest of your batsmen are not up to the task. This is more noticeable with certain teams such as India. Umpire decisions are always 100% perfect. It is quite stupid to see a umpire call for a video replay when it is quite obviously out and then make profound calls when the situation is 50/50 though. Batsemen confidence is also a big element of gameplay. If batsmen frequently make big hits and such, a metre on the screen will fill up. The more full it is, the more power your batsman applies to his shot. It is a very good system.
Bowling is a bit better but it does become very boring, very quickly. You watch the bowler start his run up and then choose how you want to pitch the ball from a variety of options. You then proceed to choose where to pitch it. It is pretty simple overall and doesn't really need much practice. If you feel up to it, there is a bowling exploit that will allow you to get the opposition out on every ball. A bit cheap really and detrimental to gameplay. This only works against the AI obviously. Fielding is another story. You can change the settings to 'auto fielding' or to 'manual fielding' from the Options menu. Auto Fielding is the easiest since the AI will initiate automatic dives and saves for you. Manual fielding is broken. It is next to impossible to judge where the ball is and to initiate dives yourself accordingly. I could not wrap myself around it. It is a complete waste of time. Just stick to Auto Fielding and you will be fine.
AI - It sucks, badly.
The AI is horrid. Batting AI seven on hard difficulty is incredibly stupid and will seek to try impossible shots or block easy sixes. It really is not good enough for a human opponent. Bowling AI is equally abysmal. Bowlers frequently bowl fours or appeal for nothing and it is really irritating. I did not like the AI at all. There is also an element of randomness when it comes to the AI. After a preset number of balls, the computer WILL bowl a no ball or it WILL hit a six regardless of what you do. The AI is very easy to beat and will not last very long. There is no online mode but there is a multiplayer aspect that allows you to play with a keyboard and up to three gamepads. Human opponents make the game much more fun and this should really be your main attraction to the game. You can also play on the same team which adds a whole new level to the game. The Multiplayer is great and could really have benefited from online play but we can't have everything, can we?
Ultimately, you should only buy this game if you are a cricket fan. Apart from Brian Lara's Cricket, there really is nothing else on the market to please cricket fans. Poor sound and average gameplay plague this game but it is still playable.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Cricket 2005 (EU, 07/01/05)
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