Where too start.
First off, I think most people would agree that cricket is not exactly the most universal of sports. Apart from the test playing nations, I wouldn't have thought a game like this would generate much interest in other parts of the world, not least the USA, which would normally provide huge market potential for a game.
As such, when I heard a new cricket game was coming out, I was ready too accept that in terms of presentation, it wasn't going to be on a par with other more popular sports such as football, golf etc. All i really wanted was a game that accurately reflected the basics of the sport, with an even balance of difficulty between bat and ball. This is where, like all previous cricket games, ASHES 2009 completely fails.
Having played the game for a few days now, i'm left wondering whether the developers have ever played the sport.
I'll start with bowling. As well as the ridiculous run ups and action animations (which i've said i can forgive) there are numerous problems. Firstly, despite there being all the usual delivery options, once the ball is bowled there is no discernable difference between any of them and the batting AI seemingly agrees as it plays pretty much whatever shot it likes, usually with success. The whole point of bowling in test cricket is to build pressure by bowling a consistent line and length to frustrate the batsmen into playing a difficult shot when their confidence is low. Essentially, you bowl to a plan and set the field accordingly. Turns out, this isn't the way to go. In fact, after playing a number of matches, I honestly have no idea what the AI recognises as good bowling. Dismissals just seem to occur for no particualr reason every so often, most commonly by run out as the AI sets off on crazy runs just when you're on the verge of hurling the controller out the window in frustration. This amounts to complete tedium because, although by the end of the innings the scoreboard looks sensible, there is no skill involved.
The batting, if possible, is probably even worse in terms of realism. Back foot late cuts for 6 off full deliveries, front foot slogs over mid-wicket to bouncers, back foot covers drives for 6 off 90mph bowling. It just makes no sense. Just like the AI does when it's batting, you can play whatever shot you like, regardless of the ball. Whilst hitting sixes ad nauseum may appeal to some, it's not realistic, it's not challenging, it's not fun.
What really grinds my gears is that the developers have claimed they started the game from scratch. Rubbish. The game feels identical to the last Brian Lara and is probably worse in many respects. I honestly thought EA's cricket '07 was ok and that a new generation game would solve all the previous problems. Instead of concentrating on the gameplay, all they've apparently been doing is adding a few more pixels to Monty Panesar's beard.
Joking aside though, I can't emphasise enough how disappointing this game is. If you're a true cricket fan, do not buy!