Good cricket games are few and far between, a great cricket game has never happened. The official licenses have laboured between EA, Codemasters and 505 Games for years and the Ashes 2013 game was heavily delayed and then cancelled because it was awful but luckily a savour has arrived in Big Ant Studios and Don Bradman Cricket.
Named after the Australian cricketing legend the game definitely matches up to his talents and is the ray of sunshine Cricket fans deserve with what is a different and worthy game for fans of the sport, if you’re on the fence for it then hopefully this will push you over, it’s that good.
What makes Don Bradman Cricket different and better if that it actually tries to accurately replicate the cricketing experience its well designed and intuitive in its controls, it can take time to get used but as you work on your timing and bowling precision you will very quickly start to see why I’m lavishing so much praise on it.
There are two things that for me made the game better: the control scheme and career mode. The controls aren’t revolutionary, EA have tried to do a similar thing in their sports titles in recent years, it’s just incredibly well executed and makes for a marked improvement. For the batting it has a behind the batsman view and uses both sticks to control, the left stick moves the batsman’s feet and the right stick is the direction you want to hit it in, the triggers are used to for various aggression levels (from blocking to aiming for a six), they’re relatively simple and effective. Timing is immensely important though, long gone are the days of slogging it around at ease, press to X win doesn’t really exist here you have to get your timing right or you will be in trouble.
Batting is also more difficult, there is a lot less time between the ball being bowled, seeing where its being bowled and when you have to choose your shot and hit the ball
With the behind the batsman view you can enter in first person mode before the ball is bowled so you can see where the fielders are and look for gaps in the outfield, there’s no radar to show you where you where the fielders are and the AI will respond quickly if you keep hitting it into the same spots, the fielding positions are named above the player incase the fielders blend in too much and make sure you know someone is there.
When facing deliveries there is also much less time to decide what shot you want to make, the bowler will start his run up and the cursor position won’t appear until the ball has been released, it will have a colourful ring around it (red for short, green for good or yellow for full) so you know what sort of delivery to expect but the margin for time to work out where you want to hit it is short and you have to be decisive, just as in real cricket.
Touches like these add to the realism and detail that Big Ant Studios have gone to in order to create a realistic cricket sim.
Where the game really excels in is the career mode, there are plenty of options in the game – casual, tour, competitions, online all of which are pretty standard but its the career mode that combined with the controls make it so good.
The special thing about it is that you start as a 16 year old and have a 20 year career to battle through, you do start every match but only at county level, you have to work your way up from county level of your local country to the foreign leagues. For me as a county player at Hampshire I am working my way towards Australian T20, Domestic Shield and 50 Over Cup level as well the England International Circuit and the Indian T20 League.
There is a ton of cricket to be had here but in career mode you only control your created player, once you are out batting or removed from the attack in bowling you can skip to when its your next shot at the action. Personally I always picked an opening batsman as I prefer to start the innings. This makes it important to get off to a good start and due to the way teams set up in the early overs I found it slightly easier to be hitting boundaries and take risks. You gain XP in the career mode for various things like run milestones, hitting a boundary off your first ball, making partnerships, getting maidens, wickets and other things which all help you towards your XP level.
Bowling again uses the twin stick approach although I find getting accurate deliveries to be a challenge. For spinners you can choose the amount of spin by rotating the stick anti clockwise then pushing the right stick up to choose other stuff, for fast bowling you press down instead of rotating the stick to choose foot positioning then immediately press it up to choose accuracy etc
I find bowling more of a challenge but I do enjoy it I focus on batting as I prefer that so it’s not a surprise in rusty with bowling.
For fielding you can control your career player individually or in exhibition matches the players will run themselves but you have to help them catch and choose which end to throw to. When bowling it also has manual appealing, you can also in games that support it review deliveries which is a nice touch.
Don Bradman cricket has a 20 year career mode which will keep you more than occupied, a raft of other options including online mode which is lag free and fun to play with friends it’s not only the… only cricket game around at the moment it’s the best we’ve ever had. It’s challenging with intuitive and good controls and overall it’s a great package, Big Ant Studios have outdone themselves with a fine game that cricket fans will have plenty of fun with.