International Cricket 2010 Hands-On

We drop the camera, pad up, and face a few yorkers with this updated version of last year’s Ashes game.

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International Cricket 2010 is rapidly approaching the popping crease--seam up--and is primed for release, but the game went through quite the tumultuous adventure just getting to the oval. Beginning its life as a patch for last year’s reasonably well-received sports title Ashes Cricket 2009, the then developer, Transmission Games, realised that the proposed changes and tweaks were simply too big to be accommodated in a simple fix. When the studio folded in the wake of financial troubles last year, the core team picked up their bat and ball (and the codebase from the previous game) and formed a new studio, Trickstar Games.

Third-person batting view gets you closer to the action, without the risk of broken ribs.
Third-person batting view gets you closer to the action, without the risk of broken ribs.

It’s clear from both speaking with the development team and playing the game that though they were reasonably pleased with the way Ashes turned out, nothing was sacred going into this renovation. The lineage of the engine remains evident, but while the look and feel of the game are familiar, it has received work in all the key areas, smoothing out many of the shortfalls found in its predecessor.

The game’s visuals have received a dramatic overhaul, with player likenesses much improved (and players now discernable from each other), while the old lighting models have been scrapped, replaced with more natural sunlight, including a full daytime cycle that helps bring an extra sense of realism to long matches. Team licences remain a point of contention, and though the game features the English Cricket Board’s seal of approval for player rosters and kit (this year including both home and away uniforms), many of the world’s most recognisable venues are still without their official names. That said, it’s only a minor quibble since the grounds look so much better than they did previously.

Audio appears to have received just as much work as visuals, with the stilted garble of Shane Warne and Ian "Beefy" Botham booted out of the commentary box to give David "Bumble" Lloyd a chance to rock the microphone. Match audio has been refreshed and now sees venues projecting suitable audio footprints. Larger venues give much more reverb, while smaller fields feel lively but more intimate.

Keep your eye on the doughnut.
Keep your eye on the doughnut.

Undoubtedly the biggest change in International Cricket 2010 comes through the addition of new camera angles for both the bowler and batsman. A user-selectable third-person shoulder-height view now accompanies the broadcast-style isometric view (and either can be toggled as per your preference), giving cricket fans the chance to don their virtual pads and get up-close and personal at the crease. If you play as a batsman, the new view enables you to rotate the left stick to survey the field placements, pick the gaps, and watch fielders chase the ball as you call runs. If you're a bowler, it flattens the pitch, giving you the same doughnut-looking line indicators as broadcast mode, but with text indicators to show your current length.

Cricket nuts will also be able to select the amount of interface they want displayed onscreen. Turn them on full, and you receive onscreen indicators for line and length, delivery types, and shot selection with the bat. Fans after a more challenging experience can disable these options entirely, playing the game in what the developers are calling "screenshot mode" and relying on quick response and your ability to adapt your strokes. It’s a much more realistic way to play and forces you to wait on the ball rather than wind up for a loft knowing the ball will be pitching short even before it leaves the bowler’s hand with markers enabled. Ideally the development team wants cricket to be a game of feel rather than blindly following button prompts, with the ultimate situation of making it more like EA’s FIFA series. The introduction of a pressure-sensitive use of the left stick when batting now also allows for more fine control over shot force, enabling players more tactical play to take singles rather than limiting play to boundaries or dot balls.

Not all the changes in this year's game are cosmetic, and to help flesh out the World Cup and Indian Premier League (IPL) equivalent modes, Trickstar has added four new teams to the roster from the nations of Bermuda, Scotland, Canada, and The Netherlands.

Pick your delivery type, set the length, and fire it in.
Pick your delivery type, set the length, and fire it in.

Unfortunately for PC gamers, because of poor sales and piracy of last year’s Ashes 2009 game, combined with the inability to adequately represent the pressure-sensitive batting controls found in this year’s game, this will be a console-exclusive release.

International Cricket 2010 will be bowling its way onto the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Europe later this month, but Australian fans will need to wait until its launch in the third quarter of 2010. Stay tuned for our full review soon.

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