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Cricket 2004 PlayStation 2

Published by EA Sports
Developed by hb studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

I was going to start off this review by commenting on the poor state of English cricket but after last Sunday's demolition of the West Indies (all out for 47) it can't be in such a poor condition as most commentators would have you believe. To be honest though I haven't been that excited by cricket since the golden days of Botham and Gooch when we could actually beat the Aussies. Cricket games have been another matter though and Graham Gooch's Cricket on the Spectrum and Brian Lara Cricket on the PC, have been two of the games I have enjoyed the most. Cricket 2004 is the first cricket game I've played in years and it's not bad at all.

Initial impressions of Cricket 2004 took a turn for the worse when I discovered that it requires almost half of a PlayStation 2 memory card to save a profile (without which no saves can be made. I suspect for most people this is going to require a purchase of another memory card unless you have old saves that you don't mind deleting. Once I had got over this stumbling block and managed to set up a profile and begin the game I have to say that I was pleased to see what was on offer. Beginners can head off to the practice nets to learn how to bowl or bat (although as you'll find out in a moment this is not really as useful as it could be for deaf gamers). Should you fancy a match then you'll be spoilt for choice. International games, World Championships, World Series, Knockout, Test Series and Foreign Tours are all on offer. You can even play Australian State or English County cricket if you want to and choose to play a full season, Frizell Championship, National League, C&G Trophy (England) or full season, Pura Milk Cup and ING Cup (Australia). In short there should be something for all cricket enthusiasts.

Options galore then but how's the game play? Well very nice actually. I think the batting confidence meter is a nice touch. Basically the longer a batsman stays in and the more good shots he pulls off, the more confidence he will build up and a confident player has more chance of making the great shots. It's a simple addition but a well thought out one that adds to the realism of the game. A nice range of shots can be played. You can play front foot, back foot, and advance down wicket shots and the type of shot you play is determined by the position of the left analogue stick. Bowling feels solid too and you really have to learn how to get the best out of the pace and spin bowlers, which at first is no easy task. You can field if you want to although I preferred to leave it to the AI and it didn't make a bad job of it. Essentially then there is little to fault with the gameplay itself although it can take some time to get used to. However, you do have a choice of three difficulty settings so you can make the game easier to begin with.

When you look at the EA Sports range you'll see many titles with high production values and great graphics, in fact most are highly polished to the extreme. Cricket 2004 isn't one of these however and it shows. The player models look merely average and the player likenesses are not what they should be. You can use the included editor to change any player you wish though. The grounds themselves are not completely accurate and the quality of the graphics is also lacking. Whenever the camera is zoomed in on the various sections of the ground, the buildings and most other things for that matter, look blurred and really lack the detail you would expect them to have. The player animations are OK but not half as sophisticated as in titles such as Madden NFL 2004. Still the graphics get the job done and don't stand in the way of the game play. The frame rate is rock solid too but as the game doesn't push the PlayStation 2, this is to be expected.

Whilst you can put money on a sports game not being subtitled, and the commentary in Cricket 2004 isn't subtitled by the way, it usually doesn't make much difference as it's only the commentary, which even in the best of situations can get repetitive and boring. With Cricket 2004 though it's a little more unfortunate. If like me you need to brush up on your skills and are making a mess of your batting and bowling you'll need to head for the practice nets to hone your skills. Hearing games will be pleased to find that there are plenty of verbal tutorial messages that help improve your game. However, these messages/instructions are not subtitled so all of this good advice is inaccessible to deaf gamers and therefore the usefulness of the practice nets is greatly reduced for deaf gamers. The manual will help you get to grips with the controls and mentions things like the effect of pitch conditions etc. but it's not the same as an interactive tutorial.

Cricket 2004 isn't a top draw EA Sports title and lacks the polish of the some of the games that EA Sports offer. That said cricket fans will be satisfied by what's on offer. The range of game play modes on offer is fantastic and combined with the solid game play it's a title cricket fans should definitely own. Let's hope that next time round the practice net section of the game is fully subtitled as this is a very useful tool for beginners.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Cricket 2004 is a solid cricket game that all fans of the sport should own. Visually it's not a beauty but in terms of game play it certainly satisfies.

Deaf Gamers comment:
I would like to have seen the practice net mode fully subtitled as it's an important tool for beginners.