International Cricket 2010

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Codemasters’ announcement of International Cricket 2010 came as quite a surprise; firstly because we’re not used to annual iterations of cricket games, and second, because from the looks of it, it seemed identical to Ashes Cricket 2009. Last year’s game was a phenomenal commercial success in the UK. It topped sales charts; partly due to the quality of the game, but mostly thanks to England’s Ashes triumph that luckily coincided with the game’s release. But a success it was, and more often than not these days, a successful game is followed up with a sequel.

International Cricket 2010 is, for most part, identical to Ashes Cricket 2009, with one fairly big, game-changing addition – the Action Cam. Cricket games have always stuck with the broadcast camera angles, and gamers have always been comfortable with them. But this year, developers Trickstar have introduced the Action Cam, which puts you in a third-person perspective just over the batsman’s shoulder as he takes strike (like a wicket-keeper’s point of view when standing up to the stumps, but a little higher), or right behind the bowler as he runs in. There’s almost no change in gameplay between International Cricket 2010 and Ashes Cricket 2009, but with this new perspective, you’re given a new way to play the same game, and it does significantly alter your approach.

Playing using the Action Cam is definitely a fun and refreshing experience. It makes placing shots between gaps in the field feel more natural, and watching the bowlers’ arm speed and the ball coming at you helps time your shots better as well. I’m personally not a big fan of the new Power Stick feature for strokeplay, but it certainly adds some variety and gives you an alternate way to bat. Bowling is also more challenging now. Since the camera is much lower than the broadcast view, judging the delivery length becomes much more difficult. One of my favorite implementations of the Action Cam is in running between the wickets. When you set off for a run, you stay in the third-person perspective, and you can either keep your focus on the ball, or change it to your non-striker or the crease you’re heading towards. It adds a brilliant sense of urgency to what is a mundane task in the broadcast view.

The Action Cam isn’t without its flaws though. While batting, the camera isn’t right behind the batsman, but at a slight angle. This makes the line and angle of the oncoming delivery more difficult to judge; although you will learn to compensate for that over time. But the angle gets even wider when a left-handed batsman is on strike. This is probably done so that the batsman’s body doesn’t block your view of the bowler, but it does through you off your game a little bit, and you will need to make some adjustments to your stroke selection as a result.

On the whole, Action Cam is a welcome step forward for cricket games, even if its implementation is a little rough around the edges. But sadly, beyond the Action Cam, International Cricket 2010 is a very lazy effort. There’s no noticeable difference to any area of the game over Ashes when played from the broadcast view; it looks, plays and feels the same. There is a slight improvement in the AI; it bowls better and bats a little more aggressively, but it isn’t a significant change. You still have all the elements that made Ashes one of the best cricket games, such as accurate shot selection and the ability to vary the severity of swing, cut, and spin; so it’s still a good game at its core. But as a full priced game, you expect at least a subtle evolution, which just isn’t there.
In terms of game modes, all you get is the option to play through the various formats of the game (T20, ODI, Test), and a customizable tournament option. It’s very barebones, and unless you have a friend to play with, you’ll get bored quite fast. Like Ashes, there is also a Tutorial mode, for those new to the game and cricket games in general. The annoying part of it is that if you’ve played Ashes, you can’t skip the basics and get to the advanced tutorials; you’ll have to play through them all. There are no licenses besides England and Australia, so you’ll have to go into edit mode and painstakingly rename the players of other teams to their real names. Non-licensed players don’t look anything like their real-life counterparts either, and the editing options are too scarce to change that a whole lot. In this day and age, even budget games like Pure Football manage to squeeze in a career mode, but International Cricket 2010 is still without it.

Speaking of budget titles, you would be forgiven for thinking that International Cricket 2010 was one. The visuals look dated and the animations are jerky and awkward. It’s quite common to see a batsman square cut a delivery that’s well pitched up. Whether that’s due to the AI’s poor shot selection or a limitation of the animation system, it isn’t pretty. It’s all too similar to Ashes 2009. Commentary is also reused from Ashes, which in turn, had a lot of recycled commentary from Yuvraj Singh/Brian Lara International Cricket 2007. You have the same commentary team of Shane Warne, Jonathan Agnew, Ian Bishop, etc, and it’s all very dull, comprising of lengthy unwanted anecdotes and history lessons rather than ball-by-ball commentary.

Although the AI is improved this year, there is still a lot of room for improvement, so offline multi-player is – like in any other sports game - the best way to play International Cricket 2010. Stay away from the online multi-player though, because it’s plagued with connection issues. You’ll be lucky if you make it through a single game without the dreaded ‘connection lost’ message. It’s astonishing that Codemaster’s would allow a game to ship with such a messy net code. It’s even worse than Ashes, which also had issues, but it would at least let you play through one full match.

The existence of International Cricket 2010 feels unnecessary. The Action Cam, despite some of its flaws, is a great addition, but apart from that and some changes to the AI, this game is no different from last year’s Ashes Cricket 2009. It’s the sort of “milking” EA Sports’ titles used to be accused of. If Codies had instead waited another year and worked on other areas as well, we would have undoubtedly been playing a much better game, and one that would have been well worth the wait. To sum it up, this is a year-old game with one new worthwhile feature. And as good as the Action Cam is, it’s not nearly enough to justify a new game.

International Cricket 2010 is now available for the Xbox360 and PS3 for Rs. 1,999.