Between the launches of Major League Cricket in the United States and the Women’s Premier League in India, and Ben Stokes’ Bazballing Brits putting bums on seats in the Test arena, the past couple of years has been an exciting period of expansion and evolution for the sport of cricket in all of its forms – well, except for one.
Cricket 24, the latest video game version of the most beer-friendly of summer sports from developer Big Ant Studios, finds itself stuck in the past like a handlebar moustache on an Aussie fast bowler – offering a brand of bat-on-ball gameplay that’s almost indistinguishable from the now two-year-old Cricket 22.
Additions Fall Short
A sprinkling of new and only partially implemented player licences, slight visual improvements, and the addition of Adam Gilchrist to the perennially misfiring commentary team don’t really combine to provide a compelling enough reason to bring returning fans back through Cricket 24’s turnstiles.
To be fair, you might assume that adding licensed Indian Premier League teams, the Pakistan Super League competition, and a handful of new national teams would be a boon for Cricket 24 of, well, David Boon proportions. Sadly, most of these additions come with compromises.
- Only eight out of the 10 IPL teams are actually featured, with Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore noticeably absent, and the actual IPL tournament itself isn’t available to play unless you want to cobble together a rough approximation of it yourself using a combination of the competition editing tools and the community-created squads.
- Meanwhile both the PSL competition and all of its teams are fully licensed, yet few of the Pakistani players feature their actual likenesses. This is apparently since they won’t have their faces scanned by Big Ant’s photogrammetry rig and added into Cricket 24 until the Pakistan team arrives in Australia for a Test tour this December.
- Conversely, despite the fact a number of the top Indian players make an appearance in Cricket 24 via their IPL teams, you can’t actually place them into the Indian team itself because it remains unlicensed.
Indeed, trying to make sense of Cricket 24’s complicated web of licensed and unlicensed content gave me such a headache that I briefly considered calling for a concussion substitute to complete this review for me.
Still, Cricket 24 boasts over 300 players that have had their faces scanned and slapped onto the bodies of their in-game counterparts, and certainly the likes of Aussie captain Pat Cummins and Afghan superstar Rashid Kahn look reasonably close to the real deal.
Licensed uniforms also look the part, and there’s some improved lighting and texture work on display in this year’s instalment, such as the gold foil that adorns the Mumbai Indians’ playing strip or the gloss on the stickers of the many licensed bats. Yet elsewhere there’s also some attention to detail that’s notably lacking, particularly in terms of hairstyles and signature accessories.
In terms of the actual action out in the middle, Cricket 24 provides a pretty similar experience to that of Cricket 22. Cricket 24’s batting feels smooth and responsive, its bowling offers the same large variety of delivery types to set up each batsman with, and its difficulty settings are customisable to the point that you’re given the power to tailor the experience to suit virtually any skill level.
However, Cricket 24 is a bit like the Sex Panther cologne of cricket games – 60 percent of the time it works every time. Cricket 24’s otherwise enjoyable simulation can often erode faster than Johnny Bairstow’s ability to concentrate at the crease.
Many of the issues are messy but ultimately fairly minor distractions, like how highlight replays will be out of focus, or how camera angles will switch to the inside of player models or stadium seating, or even how the ponytails on certain players will suddenly morph and stretch into the air as though they’ve got a symbiotic tendril sprouting out of the back of their head. They’re not the only ones who appear to have freakish super powers either, with fielders regularly scoring direct hits at the stumps despite appearing to throw the ball in the entirely opposite direction.
Not to be outdone by the onscreen sloppiness, new commentator Adam Gilchrist awkwardly slots into a commentary team that once again seems to be watching an entirely different match to the one you’re playing, and will insist that every shot was played up and over the infield when it was clearly played along the ground, or declare a match to be a one-sided contest when you’ve only won by a handful of runs.
Considerably more damaging to matches, though, is Cricket 24’s infuriatingly iffy fielding AI, which manages to completely sour potentially momentous occasions on a regular basis.
Despite it being described as “completely overhauled” by Big Ant, for the most part the fielding here feels less Cricket 24 and more cricket under 10s.
Mind you, despite the fact it robbed me of my first wicket in admittedly hilarious, Homer Simpson-pleasing circumstances, that was still one of the more memorable moments from my time with Cricket 24’s career, since the multi-season single player mode in this year’s game is somehow even more streamlined and light on presentation than the already fairly bareboned equivalent in Cricket 22. Certain player management features have been thrown out entirely with nothing added to take…