Ashes Cricket 2009 Xbox 360 Review
After almost a decade away, Codemasters’ Brian Lara Cricket was resurrected to much fanfare and sales success in 2005. Two years later, the game received an update, and now in the present year of 2009, Brian Lara Cricket is seemingly no more, replaced by Ashes Cricket 2009.
For those new to the game, the first option to visit should definitely be the excellent tutorial. Ian Botham and Shane Warne are on hand to teach you everything from the smallest of basics to the more advanced side of the game: walking you through each lesson and then giving you the opportunity to try it out for yourself. I really tried, but I couldn’t think of anything that the tutorial misses out; it’s a truly wonderful entry barrier into the game.
In fact, the game itself has a fairly gentle learning curve, and soon enough you’ll be scoring fours, hitting sixes and bowling some real beauties. Like the real sport, during batting Ashes Cricket 2009 is all about watching the ball closely, timing its contact with the bat and hoping it doesn’t come off the edge, make contact with your leg before the wicket, or slip by you to smash the wickets. Bowling is also about timing, making sure to avoid running over the line during ball deliveries and tossing each ball with a slick and batsman frustrating motion.
For bowling, you must stop a needle in the centre of a meter for a perfect delivery, hitting the red area is meanwhile not a good thing as it’ll result in a no ball. As for batting, after ball meets willow a meter displays how good your timing was, so obviously you don’t want to be told that the shot was poor or that the ball has come off the edge of the bat, but rather we all want to see good or perfect timing, the very reason we are standing at the crease waiting for a flying ball to come towards us.
The game also uses a confidence system for both the batsmen and the bowlers, obviously the better that you perform the more confident your player will be, yes just like real life. Instead of the simple meters of previous games, we’re now told that players are either timid, hesitant, confident, bold and fearless, and it’s a great system that can actually change the outcome of a game.
The third side of cricket is the fielding, here it’s basic but very serviceable. When a shot is in reach, a colour coordinated system allows you to attempt the catch, if you press the button when the on-screen circle is red, the ball will slip out of your careless hands and on to the ground, orange gives you the opportunity to make the catch but there’s the possibility of the drop, finally green means that the ball isn’t going anywhere other than your very safe hands, resulting in us saying adios to the batsman. Throwing the ball back towards the wickets is also a sneaky manner in which to get out the running batsmen, and choosing the end is achieved with the right stick. Oddly enough, there’s no option to give you more control over the fielders, which would take away the frustration that may come from them not doing exactly what you want them to, although on the whole they’re a mostly reliable bunch.
As for options, the Ashes series is obviously in there, but also included are One Day Internationals, Test and 20 over matches. Legends Challenges can meanwhile be found in the coaching and are scenarios based on real life history, which cricket fans are sure to be delighted with, whilst giving the rest of us a worthy challenge. As for multiplayer, interestingly you can play cooperatively (as well as the usual head-to-head) offline, running between the wickets during batting and taking it in turns to bowl and field. Online, the game hasn’t got a lot of people currently playing, though it has proven to be very smooth in my limited experience.
Visually, the game is a step-up over Codemasters’ 2007 cricket game, though it still isn’t amongst the most attractive titles on the market, nor is the presentation anything special, particularly when compared to an EA Sports game. Aurally, the commentary is decent enough, although as cricket can last for such a long time (don’t worry, games can be saved and returned to later) the likes of Jonathan Agnew, Tony Grieg and Shane Warne are far too repetitive with their lines. At least the sound of ball off willow has been faithfully recreated and doesn‘t grate like the commentary team.
Though the visuals and presentation are more inadequate than they should have been, and the fielding, although improved over 2007’s Brian Lara, could have done with a few more options, Ashes Cricket 2009 is still a wonderful recreation of the sport: a sport that isn’t always the easiest to emulate in a game.