With the Ashes starting it's about time to get excited for cricket games again and well over the past four years there hasn't been much to speak of. EA have of course tried but in general failed to create a game that appeases fans as well as the casual gamer but they have, on the back of the ashes campaign, tried once again with a difference. Like Rugby, this game is now developed in the Canada, with the bigger EA studio and cash behind it. Now this is going to sound strange but it is possible EA has made this too much of a simulation this time around and that could be its down fall.
As with any EA game expect the main game modes here. Tournament, Test, World Cup (Unofficially due to Brian Lara cricket) and One Day internationals. EA does have Twenty20 in the game but only for the English counties which is disappointing. We assume it will come in Cricket World Cup 2007. Other than that it's pretty much run of the mill with a few unique features.
You can also play a one off exhibition if you like but the main crux of the game comes from the game modes. You can pit England against Australia in a five test series which follows the same timetable as the proper series. The test matches play just like the real world albeit without weather interruptions. You have a set period of time to play which is 90 overs per day over five days to win the match. Now this is a problem that has and continues to plague cricket games. You can't adjust the number of overs per day to play and who really wants to play five 90 over days in a game other than purists? not many is the answer. The fatal mistake EA made with this mode however is that you can't save anywhere during the match, and as we've seen in a preview build this will be featured in Ricky Ponting 2006 making RP 2006 the test players choice.
One day international is a whole different kettle of fish however. It is the game mode that most people will play and despite its pick up and play nature it is still in this game in terms of what bowlers and batters can do. Bowlers have up to six deliveries to bowl but you will find that only the best bowlers will feature all 6. This would be fine if it wasn't a case of the majority of bowlers including greats like Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka not having the full compliment and only having three or four, and sometimes even two making the bowling extremely easy to pick.
The problem with the game is batting. Bowling is relatively easy to do well for once but batting is ridiculously hard. Even on the easiest difficulty level, you will struggle to get an entire team past fifty let alone one player. Also the timing required is inch perfect which is quite ridiculous. It would have been nice to have a slog mode included but as it is batting is hard. What makes this even more frustrating is the AI obviously doesn't suffer the same problems as you. It would have been excellent to have this in the hardest difficulty, but we can't see the point of making the game extremely hard on easy.
The game does have a training area to help you and even provides comments such as "struck too early", "played at too late" and that gives you a false sense of security. After a session in the nets we thought we were ready but that turned out to be wrong as again we were skilttled quicker than England vs Glen McGrath. What is the point of the training mode if it doesn't accurately represent what will happen in the game? That may be a harsh comment but it's how we see the game as it is.
The licensing is all there with grounds and players all represented with all their official logos and current uniforms right up to the Ashes series in the case of Australia and England. The world's most famous grounds have been recreated inch perfect and really the graphics are the best aspect of the game. The players look just like the real life counterparts as do the grounds and the animations are great. One problem is that all bowlers have the same action determined by whether they are spin or pace. Not every bowler in the world bowls the same EA and while it may be a lot of work, you kind of expect that level of detail from EA these days.
Cricket 2005 may seem like one huge disappointment to us but in reality its only one or two major flaws that has kept it from being the game it wanted to be. Rugby showed what can happen when the game moves to Canada so EA should keep plugging away at this. Had Brian Lara/Ricky Ponting cricket not been due for release, EA would have had the best game around. As it is, it just may be worth waiting the extra two months if you're patient to see how the Codemasters title turns out.