Those who were a fan of Brian Lara Cricket 2007, will definately take to this like duck to water – but yes, there are a few changes that make it well, a little more interesting and sort of a pain in the ass. I’ll get to more of the game a little later – what I’d really like to call out though is the graphics. They’ve done a decent job, but could have been a lot better, considering the pervious installment was over 3 years old. Also noticed that the logos are not entirely accurate and they’ve yet again not given access to full player names except in the world cup. But there’s a much better T20 format now with the music et al. Although I didn’t notice the cheerleaders and the dug out.
Anyway, back to more about the gameplay – Ashes 2009 is split into three disciplines: battling, bowling, and fielding. Most people will gravitate towards batting as it’s the most instantly satisfying, so we’ll deal with how well it’s been recreated first. When stood at the crease with a ball bearing down at you you’ve got a few shot options at your disposal. At the most basic level you press a button to either attack, defend or loft the ball – well that’s the theory anyway. A successful shot is all about good timing, with an on-screen meter showing you if you swung your bat too early, too late or just perfect.
Good bowling is essential if you’re going to stop your opponent scoring runs easily, but in Ashes 2009 it’s definitely the hardest of the three disciplines. It’s not tough to bowl the ball, with a button corresponding to a delivering type (swing, cut, spin, etc) being pressed once to begin with and again to set the delivery quality (via an on-screen meter), but consistently bowling high quality deliveries is very tricky. It’s essential you do though, as building up your confidence opens up more devastating bowling options that will really test the batsman.
Going hand in hand with bowling is field placement. If you’re trying to encourage the batsman to play some strokes by teasing him with deliveries outside his off-stump, in the hope that he’s going to edge one to slip, you better have some fielders in that position. Fielding is more or less handled automatically, but you can decide which end to return the ball to and catches are caught or dropped depending on if you press a button when the ball is surrounded by green (it cycles through red, orange and green) as it moves through the air. It’s quite basic, but full control of the fielders would have likely caused a fair few control and gameplay issues.
Although the batting and bowling is solid enough, the on-field presentation is lacking slightly. Player models and stadiums are decent, but the animations are clunky and don’t blend into one another well at all. There’s also a strange delay when a wicket is taken, meaning you’ll know you’re out but the fielders won’t react. Then a second later they’ll all leap into the air to celebrate. For a fairly average looking game the frame rate isn’t too hot either, frequently appearing a fraction too slow. Commentary is decent and the voice work by Beefy and Warne is solid, if a little sterile, but on the whole it’s not a game to show off to your mates.
Ashes Cricket 2009 is a solid recreation of the sport and this summer’s big sporting event, but it’s lacking spark and feels a little slight in terms of depth. Play with a friend as opposed to the AI and you’ll likely be able to have fun up to and beyond the end of the Ashes series, but as a next-gen sports sim it doesn’t feel as though Codemasters has done enough to push the series forward.
Here’s a sample game play video:
AMD Athlon X2 4800+, 2GB DDR2 800, Ati 4850 512, Windows vista ultimate 32 bit