As a kid I was hooked onto Brian Lara's Cricket and it still remains my favorite cricket game on any platform. Codemasters did what EA couldn't; it captured the fun and excitement of cricket, even though the game was riddled with bugs. Codemasters next release in 2007 was also fairly successful. Fast-forward to 2009 and we have the latest cricket iteration called Ashes 2009.
I got some time with the game recently and to be honest, I was rather disappointed. The game was playable on the Xbox 360 and featured a completely new control scheme. This is the Ashes edition, which features all modes found in the previous game plus the Ashes Tour, which is clearly targeted at the European market. In case you are a 20-20 fanatic, the game also features a 20-20 mode, for some quick cricketing action.
The first thing I noticed was that the game's visuals are not up to the mark; they lack detail and are not on par with today's high standards. I was ready to ignore the visuals as it's the gameplay that I am interested in and I don't care if Irfan Pathan looks like Ajit Agarkar or if they call him Irkan (copyright issues). Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't garner much praise either. The new control scheme breaks up shots into a very easy attack, defend and lob. Its common sense that you choose your shot depending on the line and length of the delivery, it is also very important to time your shot perfectly.
The HUD displays your current posture while batting. You can choose to go on your front foot or back foot or let the game decide on auto. The batting posture is very critical; it can make or break a shot. I noticed that leaving the batting posture on auto does work well, but it also makes batting a little easy. A player's performance while batting/bowling depends on the confidence bar, which is displayed right below every player's name. If as a batsman you strike the ball cleanly, get a few boundaries you will become more confident and reach the fearless stage.
As the name suggests, when you are fearless, even complicated shots will not be that difficult to connect. On the other hand if you miss a few shots and are low on confidence, it will become increasingly hard to get back your rhythm. This particular aspect makes every ball important, so you can't play unorthodox shots early on. Bowling is fairly simple, with every delivery broken into (for fast bowlers) in-swinger, out-swinger, slower-one and so on. You need to make the batsman work, make him think, and keep changing the line and length.
I played a few matches and was able to master (read survive) the harder difficulty in a very brief period. It was a fun experience but as with all cricket games, it's still a little buggy. I have high hopes from the game if the developers can work on the visuals and presentation. The game that I played was a preview copy, so I am hoping they make some major changes before the game is out this month. Keep watching this space for a review very soon.