"A decent cricket game to get you through the season"
Cricket games have been a mixed bag over the past decade. We've had titles from both EA Sports and Codemasters each with different results and fans. Cricket 2004 is looking to be the definitive cricket title, and it just may be that. It still has problems but overall it is one of the better cricket games that are available.
HB Studios, the developers behind Rugby 2004 have created this game and they have left no stone unturned in terms of modes and teams. Cricket 2004 features a variety of modes such as Test Series, World Championship, World Series, ING Cup, Pura Cup and English County Cricket.
A test is played over five days and rather then having the innings just continue on, a clock is used and lunch etc does become part of the game. This allows you to play for a draw if you find yourself on the back foot in a match. One thing about test matches is there is no way to speed up the time and the clock seems to move ever so slowly, approximately five minutes per over. For the purists this may seem accurate but for those looking for a quick bash with some mates then the one day options of the game seem much more viable.
The World Championship game mode is basically the world cup, but without the licence. This mode also allows you to choose the host nations for the tournament which dictates which stadiums are used for the matches. The other options are somewhat offshoots of this game mode. A world series is a three team tournament, played off in a finals series at the conclusion of the round robin matches.
Cricket 2004 also features both the Australian and UK domestic competitions. In Australia the ING Cup, which is the domestic one day competition and the Pura Cup which is the domestic test series. On the UK side of things County cricket is featured with all the relevant teams. Whilst most players will only be interested in the International side of the game, having the domestic competitions has allowed the developers to create a level of depth not seen in a cricket game before and also expanded the options players have for teams. You can also go on foreign tours which include warm up matches against non international teams.
Cricket 2004 allows you to select the players for each team. In an interesting quirk Steve Waugh by default isn't selected for the Australian test side, perhaps future proofing the product?. Having players from the domestic series allows you to pick players from the state teams as well and if that still isn't enough, a player editor has also been included so you can add yourself into the game should you want to. One thing that must be mentioned is the memory space taken by this game. It requires 3850KB on your PS2 memory card to save the game, which is almost half a PS2 memory card.
The gameplay in Cricket 2004 is divided into two distinct areas; batting and bowling with batting being far more enjoyable. The reason why batting is far more enjoyable is because it takes time to learn how to control balls properly. Before your run up you have a small amount of time to place a dot on the pitch. Where the dot is positioned is where the ball will land. Trying to control this with the analogue stick is a lesson in frustration with the DPAD offering a far better alternative. Once the run up is started you also have to keep an eye on another meter which determines where the bowlers foot will land. Over step the mark and it will be called a no ball.
Batting also takes time to become accustomed to but is implemented in a far better way. The DPAD (or analogue stick) is used to determine the direction of the shot. The triangle button plays a shot on the back foot with the X button playing a front foot shot. Square and circle are used for running between the wickets. Fielding can be controlled automatically and fielders will make mistakes that cost runs.
To assist you with both batting and bowling Cricket 2004 features a practice mode in the nets. After each delivery, Jim Maxwell will comment on whether you bowled that ball right, or timed the ball to perfection. Timing is everything when batting in Cricket 2004, and a miss timed shot could and probably will get you out. The AI in Cricket 2004 is quite impressive with players diving for catches, but at times they do make mistakes. There are also different difficulty levels featured to choose from.
Cricket 2004 features all the teams which play both one day internationals and tests. Bangladesh is included as well for the test side of things and teams such as Canada etc can only play one day internationals. All the teams have their up to date strips with the Australian team wearing its "3" outfit from recent test series' and the one day international strip from the World Cup.
The player likeness is somewhat of a let down and not up to EA's usual high standards in this area. Some players from behind such as Glen McGrath and Jason Gillespie do look like their real life counterparts, but front on it is a different story altogether. The players animate well but do not have individual traits and most look the same. If a player is hit on the fingers, or chest they do cower in pain but then get on with the batting and it doesn't affect their play. Also during play batsmen can build their confidence which is shown on a metre. Hitting a top shot for four or even six increases this meter.
Cricket 2004 features sixty one stadiums from around the globe including grounds such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Sydney Cricket Ground, Headingly and even lesser known grounds such as in Cairns. All the stadiums are highly detailed and look accurate in terms of size, but the crowds are cardboard cut outs.
Graphically Cricket 2004 is quite decent but not the most impressive title on the PS2 system. The animations are quite good but individual traits for players would have been a nice addition. The stadiums do look great however and all the players strips for both test and one day internationals are accurate. Commentary is provided by Richie Benaud and Jim Maxwell and at times can seem very mechanical. There are times where it is impressive, but especially when scores of batsmen just out are being talked about, the commentator sounds like a robot. Multiplayer is offered on the same console only.
Cricket 2004 is a great game which will keep fans happy till the end of the season. The vast amount of competitions featured including the domestic series adds a great level of depth, and the ability to pick who plays in which team as well as create players is a nice addition. If you've been hanging out for a decent Cricket game, then Cricket 2004 just may be it.
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