Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Ashes Cricket 2009
It's just not cricket... The inclusion of Shane Warne as a commentator almost lost Ashes Cricket 2009 the match.
- Great fun in multiplayer, some good looking visuals
- Terrible AI, shaky animation, Warnie
Ashes Cricket 2009 is pretty disappointing on the Wii. However, if you're a die-hard cricket fan, there is still some fun to be had, particularly if you have some likeminded mates around.
Price$ 79.95 (AUD)
I very nearly gave this game a score of 0. Seriously, what the heck were they thinking asking Shane Warne to commentate? This nearly unforgivable lapse in judgement aside, there’s a decent game of cricket hidden within Ashes Cricket 2009 (AKA "Wii Cricket"). I say "hidden" because there are a host of small issues that almost conspire to ruin the game — it takes some perseverance and willpower to get through to the game underneath, but once you do its good fun for all.
Starting with the presentation. Cricket Wii looks quite good at times – the ovals and character models are well rendered, especially when the camera zooms out, and the bowling and batting action is smooth.
The problem is, in the world of Wii, cricket players use telekinesis to catch and field the ball. A number of times while batting, I let the ball sail past the wicket, figuring to myself "the wicket keeper will never reach that one." Not only did he apparently catch the ball, but he did so without moving from his stance on the opposite side of the wicket. The ball just disappears with the keeper standing a good few metres away from it.
I was awestruck and quite frightened by the number and length of these invisible arms that plague the game, but my team had a few tricks up its own sleeve. Once you hit the ball to the outfield, it just slides from one side of the screen to the other, skipping about 20 frames of movement at a time. Invisible arms have no hope of catching a ball that pops in and out of existence.
Thankfully the graphical glitches, as jarring as they are, don’t affect the bowling and batting. That part of the game is rendered brilliantly smoothly.
We can dismiss the commentary as horrible on account of Shane Warne, although there is a reasonable variety in the comments made by the team, which includes all the usual suspects of a Channel 9 broadcast. Unlike in real life, however, there’s the happy option of turning Warnie off. The really big downfall for Cricket, unfortunately, can’t be fixed: the fielding AI is genuinely brain dead.
Singles are laughably easy to get because the infielders take a good second to react to the ball — if they do at all. More often than not they’ll just let it roll on to the outfielders. Every second catch is dropped, and this all is made worse by the near-gamebreaking mistake the developers made of not allowing direct control of the fielders.
That’s right: the best you can do is change where the little guys are standing, and hope they at least put in a half-hearted effort.
That said, when you’re playing a friend in multiplayer, you’re both grappling with the same issues, so it’s still good fun. There’s a bit too much random Wiimote shaking involved at times — the age-old tradition of shining the cricket ball requires a few quick shakes with each and every ball bowled — but the game is responsive, so rarely will the wicket be anything but your own fault.
There are only the eight big international teams to play with, and disappointingly only Australia and England feature real player names. There are actually some 70 countries that are ICC members now (including ones you’d never expect — Japan, Iran, the US, Argentina — the list goes on), so there’s no reason a cricket game can’t be like the various FIFA soccer games.
Ashes Cricket 2009 is disappointing, there’s no disputing that. However, for anyone who has even a passing interest in the sport, there’s enough here, especially in multiplayer, to while away a hot summer. I’m still docking a star for Warnie though — he better not be back in 2010.
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