Cricket can't always be 1993's Shane Warne versus Mike Gatting with the “Ball of the Century”. It can't always be Sir Viv Richards pounding the Poms at the Oval in '76. It certainly isn't Bob Willis turning over the Aussie second inning at the third Test at Headingley in 1981.
The same goes for cricket video games. For some reason – excluding an honourable mention of the Brian Lara
games, again from Codies – cricket has been as ill-served by video games as Basil D'Oliveira was by the MCC in 1967-1968.
Right, as a cricket player of old (and of a good standard) I was highly dubious about AC2009
given that when games turn up late for review it's usually a good signal, since I started reviewing them back in 1989, that they are going to be rabbits. That said, I was also keenly interested in whether or not Codemasters and developer, Transmission Games had simply chucked out an Ashes tie-in in the same way that other publishers fart out movie tie-ins or driving game sequels – or whether the team had thought this one through and decided that cricket fans might appreciate some class. Choosing KP for the cover did not indicate the latter.
So, to the tutorials. Believe me, you will need the tutorials. Sadly, you'll also probably need nets as well – but for some reason this essential facility is not provided. I can live without Merlin the bowling machine, but I can't for the life of me see why you'd produce a cricket game without the ability to actually practice.
Having played through all the tutes – unlocking new grounds and picking up trophies from defeating the challenges – it's straight into the games themselves. Now, when playing the AI, this can be an entirely frustrating and disillusioning process. Although this is not the fault of the game so much as the lack of practice I'd put in. While all this is sounding highly negative, it's because I really want a good cricket game. Once you've played a few Tests, AC2009
really does repay you.
First of all there's the management side of it. Yes, I know that captains are part of the selection process officially (sure, Jardine was during the inglorious/tremendously clever episode of the Bodyline tour to Australia). But for me, setting a field is enough of a challenge during the early stages without having to work out if I want to play Andrew Symonds – 'social problems' and all, or leave him back in Aus. The fact that you can't compare the stats of players you're changing is a problem.
Did I mention that I was playing this review as Australia? I was. Well, every other reviewer in the UK played the damned thing as England.
So, you've got to select your line up or go with the 12 that the selectors chuck at you. Yes (undermining my previous point) you can just go with the set team, but what is the point of that once the offer is there? Personally, I don't have any time for Andrew Strauss; he strikes me as, well, lacking in charm, finesse, character and anything else that may enamour you of him. Did I mention that I also played this review as England? Well, I wasn't going to play only as the Aussies after what happened at Headingley.
Right, so you choose your team, having chosen whether you want a 20/20, an Ashes Test, a Test match that isn't an Ashes test, or a Limited Over game that isn't 20/20.