With the top cricketing nations around the world converging on England to take part in the Cricket World Cup this week, it’s the perfect time for us to dive into the newest cricket video game instalment, Cricket 19. The game comes from Melbourne’s Big Ant Studios, the team that brought us the Don Bradman Cricket games, Ashes Cricket, and even last summer’s arcade look at cricket, Big Bash Boom.
Where can longtime fans of the series expect to see improvement in this newest instalment? Presentation and production value. While Big Bash Boom had its flaws, one of its strengths was in its production value, and its TV Style presentation that really stood out as the starring feature of the game. This same approach to the presentation has been brought across to Cricket 19 and once again, sees it as a starring feature of the game. There’s been more added to the pre-match presentation, with teams standing for their national anthem before being handed the new ball from the umpire and getting ready for the game to begin. There’s even a broadcast style highlights package before the match begins to get you up and about for the upcoming match. On the in-game side of things, animations are smoother, there’s more variety in bowling styles, catches look better and even fielding behaviour is more realistic.
The gameplay isn’t too different to previous games, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some noticeable changes. Edges seem to be more frequent and have more variety. You could get lucky and hit a few edges to the boundary rope, or you could get the other side of the coin where you edge the ball onto your stumps. Changes in pace are much more noticeable than before and makes bowlers more unpredictable to face than ever. That’s another area where Cricket 19 really comes into its own, the AI Bowling. They now bowl to a plan and do it effectively, some of the plans I’ve seen is them bowling a few bouncers in a row, some wide yorkers during the death overs, a few out swingers before one that shapes back in. Things you would often seen done in the real world have now been replicated in Cricket 19. It makes batting much more of a challenge, and less of a premeditated slog fest that can be seen in prior instalments. All these minor additions really do add up to make one big improvement on what we saw in Ashes Cricket.
Career Mode has also seen some improvements, with a perk system added in to adjust your playstyle even more to your liking. You can add one gold perk to give you a boost in the format of your choosing, for me that was One Day matches as my player was going through the World Championship. Then in addition you can add several smaller perks that improve various abilities, such as player fitness, strength in a shot type or delivery, or some that just give you random boosts here and there. Many of these perks also have negative effects, meaning you’ll have to choose carefully about the way you want your player to play.
One of the more interesting additions is the new scenario mode. This allows you to pick up a game mid match and try to meet a certain objective in order to complete the scenario. You might need to survive the last day of a test match with only a couple of wickets in hand, score 100 runs in a short amount of time, hit a few sixes in a match or take a few wickets within a few balls. There are 10 different ways to win these scenarios and while the game has one of each included on the disc, there are unlimited possibilities to be created. Given the strength of the community who have been playing this franchise for a while, it wouldn’t surprise me if before long we start to see some of the most famous matches in history created into scenarios and shared for everyone to try and recreate.
Not only does Cricket 19 include the licenses for the Australian and England Men’s and Women’s Teams, the Australian State Teams have now been licensed. Then you’ve got the community creations to work around the absence of additional licensing. We’ve already seen the other test playing nations created by users with things such as kits, bats, and even realistic player likenesses being made by the community. This has been one of the strengths of the franchise over the years and the ability of user made creations to take the game from a bit of a hollow shell in terms of available content to a game you can see yourself investing hundreds of hours into. It’s a familiar story with the past few Big Ant releases on launch, the game isn’t without its flaws. I’ve experienced a few crashes and had a few bugs happen at critical parts in matches, all things people would expect to not be present at launch. This hopefully won’t be an issue for too long, given the track record of Big Ant supporting their games with patches and updates well after launch, we should still be seeing improvements for this game for some time to come.
With most sports games on a yearly release schedule it can be difficult to see small but important changes to how these games are played. With close to an 18-month gap between Ashes Cricket and Cricket 19, it’s clear to see how these changes have had a positive impact on the series and continue to build upon strong foundations to create the ultimate simulation of the sport.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Cricket 19 delivers us another solid improvement in the world of cricket games, and while it still doesn’t quite match up to the big budget sports games, it certainly gives the genre a good run for its money.