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Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 PlayStation 2

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Swordfish Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Brian Lara International Cricket 2005, an introduction.

There hasn't been many cricket games over the years and, in all honesty, there have only been a few that you could call great. In my opinion Graham Gooch's Cricket (ZX Spectrum 48K) and Brian Lara Cricket (PS and PC) were two cricket games that I would call great but they are old games and nothing since has been as enjoyable. Now though we have the sequel to Brian Lara Cricket for Xbox, PC, and PlayStation 2 and with the original game being so good a lot has been expected of it. This review looks at the PlayStation 2 version of Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 to see if, at last, we have another cricket game that can be called great.

What's the game about?

Almost everything you could want from a game based on international cricket is here. Game modes include Exhibition Match (One Day International, Test Match and Double Wicket) and Tournament (ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, World XI Series, World Tour and Custom League). If you fancy some set scenarios you can opt for the Challenge mode which enables you to take on Classic Matches (in glorious black and white, grainy, archive newsreel style), World XI or Classic XI challenges. The World XI challenges are rather unusual in that you'll start off playing with Australia (considered in the game to be the best national side) against a World XI team and should you win you'll then take the number two rated team and play against the World XI and so forth. This continues until you defeat the World XI with the worst nation. Naturally you can also head for the nets to practice your bowling and batting and you can even head for the pavilion to admire the trophies you've won. There's an editor that allows you to create your own custom teams and edit player names (useful if you want to edit some of the fictitious names in the game). If you fancy doing so you can create a career player and place him in the national side of your choice. The player will start off with poor attributes but by earning runs, wickets and catches you can improve the player and eventually make them into an asset for your nation.

What's good about the game?

The three main elements of a cricket game are batting, bowling and fielding. All too often in recent years we've seen cricket games that fail to implement these three main elements in a satisfactory fashion. In fact the last game to get these three main elements to feel just right was Brian Lara Cricket on the PC and PlayStation. Brian Lara IC 2005 pretty much nails these three main elements on the head and it makes for a cricket game that is intuitive and very enjoyable. The batting in particular feels superb and very natural. The same can be said for the bowling too, although you'll have more to learn here because of the different bowling types. Fielding, whilst satisfactory, is not quite as impressive (you have a gauge that appears over the fielder's head that allows you to time your catch), although it does the job quite nicely.

There's plenty of depth here too. You can select from a variety of stadia to play in as well as changing the surface to anything you like such as dry or even artificial. There's even a variety of ball types such as Kookaburra, Club, Dukes or White. You can even set the age of the ball (in overs) or simply remain with a new ball. These are little things of course but impressive nevertheless and they all affect how the game plays. Confidence is an important part of any sport and the developers decided to include it in the game. The batsman and the bowler have confidence meters that when full allow them to perform slightly better. Bowlers have access to extra techniques when their meter is full (not giving runs away fills the meter here) whilst the batsman will play slightly better shots when his meter (filled by playing good shots) is topped up.

What's not so good about the game?

On the whole Brian Lara IC 2005 is a great cricket game but there are a few areas where improvements could have been made. First of all the PlayStation 2 version has no online support meaning most will be playing against the AI exclusively. The difficulty levels feel a little out of balance too. The difficulty levels are Slog, Village, County and Test. Most people shouldn't even contemplate using the Slog or Village difficulty levels because they are far too easy and sixes are far too frequent with the AI batsmen doing little to prevent you from taking wickets like they were going out of fashion. On the County difficulty mode it begins to get more interesting as the AI batsmen show intelligence by defending tricky balls and taking advantage of poor bowling. That said though it won't be long before you're playing on the Test difficulty mode, which is where the game begins to provide a real challenge. I would have liked to have been able to instantly change my bowler when practicing in the nets. It feels like a chore to go back and forth just to change a fast bowler to a spin bowler so that I can practice the different techniques.

How does it look?

The many cricket stadiums on offer all look great (although some of the buildings in the background can look quite blocky) and are instantly recognisable. The player models are not quite so impressive though but they get the job done and animate satisfactorily. TV style presentation is definitely in full effect with picture-in-picture displays and a rather impressive use of the Hawk-Eye Technology that demonstrates whether an umpire's decision has been accurate. If there's one criticism I would make it's the small loading times that occur when you change your bowler during a game. These aren't overly long but it does serve to break up the flow of the action a little.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

As you probably could have guessed there are no subtitles for the commentary during matches. This isn't a disaster by any means (although to some it might be disappointing) and in fact the commentary is quite repetitive anyway. In every other way the game is fine for deaf gamers and you'll have no trouble at all in enjoying the game. The information for the challenges etc. are all given in text and will cause you no problems. Every bit of important information during a game is also displayed on screen (in true TV style) so the only thing you're going to miss out on are the commentators' remarks which, as we've already said, isn't that much of a loss.

Final thoughts.

There's no point in beating about the bush, Brian Lara's International Cricket 2005 is the best cricket game we've seen in a long while. Of course it would have been better if county cricket had been included but even without it, the game is still very appealing. The batting and bowling are both excellent and feel intuitive. Most of the difficulty levels are a bit on the easy side but playing on the Test difficulty level will provide most with a stiff challenge. It's a shame there's no support for online matches or competitions (10 over matches in particular would ensure the online games wouldn't have taken too long) but what's here is impressive and represents the most playable and enjoyable cricket game we've played so far.

 

Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

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The sequel to Brian Lara Cricket has been well worth the wait. Brian Lara International Cricket 2005, whilst not perfect, is the most enjoyable cricket game I've played in a long time.