Despite the mass hype that surrounded the previous Ashes series – which saw us whip some Aussie butt at long last – frequently the sport is about as exciting as watching the Labour party conference.
Your typical over consists of three defensive strokes that are so riveting we have to reach for the nearest printer instruction manual. Then there’s the two balls so far wide of the stumps the player at the crease passes them up entirely. Let’s not forget the one nudge of the ball to around 10 feet away that lets the batters slowly jog for a whole single run. Not much of a substitute for the blood and thunder of your typical football match eh?
Having said that, we do enjoy playing the odd match. So when EA’s Cricket 07 popped up on our gaming radar at the same time Freddy and the gang were heading to Oz, we had high hopes for what could finally be the definitive cricketing gaming title. Oh what daft old souls we truly are…
Like EA’s Tiger Woods titles which now fully utilise the analogue sticks to smash the ball 300 yards down the fairway, Cricket 07 allows you to manipulate your batsman to hit fours, sixes, or a simple defensive stroke with a little analogue stick manoeuvring.
Before the game proper, EA has provided practice nets to get to grips with the controls. There’s no "how to bowl" video though so you’ll be scratching your head over the instructions for a good few minutes. Not a great start.
Thank god for the helpful comments you get after each shot or bowl as you’d really be stuck otherwise. There’s also a bar at the bottom of the screen showing how well timed (or not) your actions were. A few hours in here and you’ll feel able to take on all comers.
So now you’ve built up your confidence, who better to try your skills out on than that great cricketing nation of err … Canada?
Once down the pavilion steps, the first thing you’ll notice is the visual flair. Or rather the lack of it. EA have served up countless great looking PS2 games down the years so why stop now? The players, the ground and the pitch all lack detail although the excellent commentary goes some way to redeeming things.
The game starts and there’s another turn for the worst. While playing shots in the nets is easy enough, out on the field the sheer complexity of the analogue control method makes mistiming shots stupidly easy. Just imagine the frustration of losing your star batter because of a finger fumble in the closing moments of a five match test. All that time and effort goes straight down the khazi.
Bowling’s not much better either. No matter how perfect your line is, the computer can still somehow manage to rattle off six after six in the exact same spot, over and over again. If it manages a lofted shot for four, pop a man into the correct spot and the next three batters will all strike the ball right into his grateful hands. That’s unless your fielder decides that the ball just inches from his feet isn’t worth bothering with.
The option to replay some classic Ashes situations is welcome but it’s in no way a game saver. As for this being a must buy because it’s the only cricketing title with the real names and likenesses of the top teams and players, well, if it plays like a dog then who cares? While we all want to be Flintoff smashing a century against the Aussies, we aren’t prepared to sit through hours of tedious and frustrating play to get there.
Cricket 2007 smacks of a game that’s been rushed out just as the Ashes get into full swing. Another few months of tweaks to get rid of the many, many annoyances and imperfections could have finally offered us the perfect cricket game. Instead, we’re left with something that’s simply not worth your time. Avoid.