Friday, 6 September 2019

Cricket 19 ★★★☆☆

I’m not a sports fan. I don’t watch it, I don’t play it, and I don’t really touch the video games. I’ve just never had sporting blood in me. I remember in school, I would awaken my inner actor and channel Robert De Niro in my powerful portrayal of somebody too unwell to take part in physical education. Every week, I would fake a different ailment. Looking back, I suspect everybody could tell how lazy I was being, but hey, I thought I got away with it…

Anyway! I suppose that’s what sporting video games are for! Us lazy folk who want a taste of a sport without having to go out – or indeed have any friends! But in the world of sporting simulators, there is one sport that has always been side-lined to make way for the endless parade of FIFA and PES. It is, of course, cricket! I know absolutely nothing about cricket (I did however once have a coffee with Henry Blofeld and found him to be one of the nicest people I’d ever met), but I jumped into Cricket 19 on PS4 – for you guys! 

Now, I have it on good authority that 2019 is a pretty big year for cricket in the UK with the World Cup followed by the Ashes series, so it’s a no brainer that Big Ant Studios (whoever the hell they are) pumped out this very basic but serviceable simulator. There’s not really much to say about Cricket 19 if you’ve played any sports simulator ever in your gaming life, and of course, you have. Firstly, there is – of course – a career mode that lets you work your way up from club cricket to the big time, or you can start straight off with a pro if you don’t want to go through the tedious climb to the top. You can either control a single player or the entire team – again, just like any sporting simulator you’ve seen before it. 

Visually, the game is incredibly basic. This is not a game that put any particular focus onto graphics, and it does give the whole thing a rather dated feel. Regardless of the gameplay, there’s no escaping the fact that certain parts of the game do look very PS3. That’s not to say they are disgustingly bad, but they’re not great. Being officially licenced for the Ashes means all the England and Australia’s male and female players are accurately rendered and look fairly faithful to their real-life counterparts – but players from all other countries are totally made up and bizarre. But on the plus side, no matter how unusual they may look, the surprisingly smart AI at least means they can be worthy adversaries and not mindless zombies.

But things fare slightly better on a gameplay level. The control system does the job and does allow for skill to have some input in proceedings (rather than some button bashing sports games), with lots of options with control and deliveries giving the player the chance to really stick it to the other team. Like many games of its ilk, there are two control options – button-based or analogue control, both of which have their benefits. There are some fun customisation options with bats and grounds and you can create your own competitions, or even play famous scenarios from historic games. 

On the whole, this may well be the current standard for cricket on consoles, but it by no stretch a gaming sim masterpiece. There is room for improvement to bring the game into the 21st century – the graphics especially need an overhaul. But if you’re a fan of the sport, at least now you can play it from the comfort of your own home in its best format yet.

Sam Love

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