The Ashes. Australia v England in 5 gruelling test matches. One of cricket’s biggest rivalries, perhaps only surpassed by the intense passion of the India v Pakistan contests. Living in Australia, the Ashes is the big one, the one series any cricket fan doesn’t want to miss, and now, we have a video game that does the scale of The Ashes justice.
Ashes Cricket, developed by Melbourne-Based Big Ant Studios, is the third cricket game (after Don Bradman Cricket 14 & 17) to be produced by the studio in the past 4 years, but the first to include such star power that Ashes provides. This hits you immediately when presented with one of the star players of the Australian or English sides before you even get past the first menu. The realism of the player faces is visually stunning, and you are yet to journey into the game yet. As the name “Ashes Cricket” suggests, only the players of the Australian and English sides have official in game likenesses. For the men’s teams, there are likenesses for 32 Australians and 28 English players, and on the women’s side of things there are 17 Australian likenesses and 16 members of the English women’s side, for a total of 93 licenced players between the two sides. This also extends to the stadiums, with all the Ashes stadiums to be used this summer having official licensing.The player likenesses don’t just translate to their appearance either, but also as to how they play the game of Cricket. This is where the players become the real heroes of the game. Thanks to the motion capture efforts of Australian players Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Emma Inglis and Mackinley Blows, the batting in Ashes Cricket looks incredibly realistic. They captured the style and strokes in the way they play along with some shot specialties of other players. This allows cricket fans to be immersed in the game to a whole new level, with each official player’s stance, strokes and footwork all captured in game.
A similar approach to the bowling was taken, with motion capture data from the Bupa National Cricket Centre used to recreate the bowling actions of the Australian players. It’s easy to dismiss these as minor features when there are so many similarities between players in both their batting and bowling actions. As an active cricket viewer and fan of the sport it’s fun to spot the minor differences and little details that separate each bowler and batsman in their actions, you become more invested in the game because you feel like you are playing as the best cricketers in the country. This attention to detail for the Australian and English players is at a high enough standard to rival that seen in a high budget sports game. Ashes does a damn good job at making sure it gets everything at its disposal as good as it can be.How does it play? Big Ant games have always given you options as to how you want to play, Ashes is no different. If you’ve played Big Ant’s previous cricket games you will find a familiar control scheme to choose with only a few minor tweaks. On the other hand, new players can use a more simplified control scheme, allowing for easier pick up and play. You can even pick a combination of the two. My personal preference as an experienced player was to use the classic controls for Bowling and then the new ones for Batting, but I think I’ll eventually move back to the old controls when I become a bit more experienced. The same goes when choosing your difficulty as with prior games, make the batting harder if you begin find it easy, tone the bowling difficulty down if you are finding it more difficult.