So, to the graphics. Fair. They are fair in the same way that Alec Stewart was fair compared to Alan Knott, or Geoff Lawson was fair in comparison to Dennis Lillee. You know that graphically current gen consoles and PCs can be really rather lovely. These aren't really rather lovely. They're really rather adequate.
To the mechanics...
My bugbear here is that, as the batsman, well, you're not. The entire game is viewed from the bowler's end. In fact, it's viewed from behind the bowler. On the one hand, this makes for a thoroughly acceptable two-player game. On the other, it makes it a bit of a chore to bat.
Well, at least for me. I'm used to batting badly at seven (as a wicketkeeper I feel this is the only honourable place to bat), but no matter how badly I bat I can at least see the flight of the ball and assess the pace as it comes off the track. I am guessing, however, that the only way around this would have been to adopt split-screen and therefore to increase the load on the coders. Batting would also benefit from the ability to chassis down the wicket. As it stands, in terms of feet you've got five options: front foot, back foot, stand-up, move horizontally left or right. All in all, batting is workable without being truly immersive – even the running mechanic (press the triangle – and even 'queue' up runs) works satisfactorily.
Bowling also does the job. In fact I'm more impressed by the bowling over-all. Working out a decent way to incorporate the complexities of spin (even with God, (aka Shane Warne) voicing the tutorials along with Sir Ian of Botham) is a challenge. It's a challenge that Transmission has pulled off with some aplomb. Spin is a mystical art but this game actually goes some way towards demystifying its exercise – it's also not too bad at giving you some idea about swing. Faced with what initially appears to be a set of button and analog combinations that give SF IV
a run for its money, simply in order to get a ball from one crease to another, non-cricket fans might baulk.
I, on the other hand, felt that this aspect showed that the at least some of the development team and its advisors genuinely appreciate the subtleties of Test cricket in comparison to the adrenal thuggery of 20/20. One thing to bear in mind... once you've selected the type of ball you're going to deliver (by pressing one of the controller's symbol buttons) don't then default to pressing [X] to deliver it. Press the same button again, having selected your length. I was forever pressing [X] to stop the delivery indicator (think golf shot) which was forever delivering a straight ball. My fault not the game's.
Fielding. Well, the catching mechanic is simple, difficult at first, but it works just fine. You have to watch the colour of a ring change from red through orange to green before hitting the X button to capture the ball in flight.
Add this lot up and you're in play. Couple of points to make here. Firstly, there are too many run-outs. Way too many, at least against the AI. Secondly, the commentary, from the likes of South African captain (sorry, England captain) Tony Gregg, and suave commentating type Mark Nicholas works remarkably well. Sure, it's no Test Match Special, but you don't expect that from Gregg or Nicholls. But, bloody hell, it works extremely well. A minor point? Is it hell. The last thing you want is the kind of drab commentary you get in soccer games – that totally breaks the concentration and momentum. And, as we all know, cricket is about momentum.
SPOnG Score: 85%
A strong game of cricket that lacks something in the batting department. Annoyances such as POV combine with niggles in team selection – when swapping a player, you can't compare stats to the player being swapped with – to drop a few percent. On the upside, bowling and fielding both work elegantly and combine to produce an very enjoyable single and two-player outing.