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International Test Cricket

 

Review by Paul Robson

It is easy to be seduced by Brian Lara Cricket; it looks beautiful. If you sit and watch it run, it looks just like a real Cricket Match. The graphics are well done, albeit limited in some departments (players faces are poor). It has a (stilted) commentary by Messrs Agnew and Boycott and decent sound effects. However, like its licensee (at present) it promises far more than it actually delivers.

Those of us who have been following Console Cricket Games for a period of time will remember a similarly named game on the Sega Megadrive (Genesis in some countries). The sad thing is that if you strip away the looks and sounds of the Playstation version, you are left with the same game, with the same old flaws and some new flaws of its own.

What are the old flaws ? Fundamentally, it isn't a Cricket "simulation" : it is a cricket-based arcade-type game. Batting is basically about learning which strokes work in which situation and applying them (the only real skill to master in the game). One might say this is realistic; unfortunately the variable success rate of shots makes it almost useless (it seems to be impossible to hook without skying the ball, but straight drives are easy). It is tempting to simply ignore everything short/wide and drive anything pitched up and one could bat all day this way, but it would be rather dull. Six hitting is slightly improved but is still basically a "get me out now" option.

However, the batting is by far the best part of the game. Bowling is rather tedious (though improved due to the extra Playstation buttons) but is not challenging; it is more like a management skill (like International Cricket Captain). Fielding (manually) is almost impossible; I would bet that no-one plays it in "manual" fielding mode (partially due to the invisibility of the ball).

A fundamental problem with the old Lara game which has been inherited involves the run out. If you press the "run" button you will run, even if a fielder has the ball and is standing by the stumps. This means however careful you are you will sometimes run someone out unrealistically stupidly; this is quite maddening and is now made much worse by the (X) problem (see below). It is possible to cancel a run but this doesn't seem to work until you've got about half way ! It would have been far better to have "stupid" runs disabled and the first run being "computer decided" (with the ability to disable it for one-dayers at least partially).

A note; I read that people are puzzled that very few bowlers are classified as "swing" bowlers; this is because the engine is faulty. If you have a "good quality" swing bowler it is almost unplayable.

What are the new flaws ? Well, the whole thing runs incredibly sloooowly; in "real" time. The game will go through the whole throwing the ball back, walking back to mark etc. of a real game. It looks nice, but after a while it is just dull; you want the game to get a move on. A "cut out the pointless graphic bits" option would be really useful . Simple things like no-shot or defensive shots switching straight to the next ball would make the game flow much better. Unfortunately this would emphasis the close relationship to its Megadrive cousin.

Codemasters have thoughtfully provided a button to do speed up the game flow partially (X). Unfortunately, this is the same button as "run one" which means if you aren't careful you get stupid run-out syndrome (again). Sometimes it is impossible to see the ball; you have to rely on the commentary to tell you if you can run or not. This also, leads to idiotic run outs. The (X) button doesn't work in many situations (e.g. umpire signalling) anyway; this just is lazy coding.

The rest of the game hasn't been expanded much; there are the basic 9 Test Match squads, no option to change them, and a dozen or so "classic" games set as challenges. Irritatingly (and stupidly as the data is already there) you cannot (I think) use these in the normal game; you cannot play 1948 Australia vs 1981 England for example which would expand the game considerably.

What else ? Well, the computer bowlers do not show much "initiative" - the leg spinners will not bowl many googlies and there are idiocies like Slow Left Arm defaulting to over as opposed to round (and resetting back :( ); this tells me that whoever wrote this doesn't actually know Cricket; about the only left armer who bowled over generally I can remember is Ray Bright.  There are no stumpings (because footwork is across the pitch, not up and down it; this also has implications for the ball physics engine). The spinners graphical bowling action makes Paul Adams look normal; the delivery is peculiar.. You can't set fields beyond the preset ones. Bowlers inherit very few of the characteristics of their real equivalents beyond the basic type. (Derek Underwood and Bishen Bedi would bowl identically for example). Adding this kind of detail would improve the game immeasurably and not actually be difficult to do and would allow fun options like playing a 70's India with all four spinners. There is an excuse for these shortcomings on a space limited Megadrive Cartridge; there is no excuse on a CD Rom.

In conclusion, a missed opportunity. Rather than actually make the game simulate Cricket properly Codemasters have wasted development time on pretty, but pointless graphics. Many people reviewing it wow at the graphics (like the various grounds) etc. My view is that these things are almost completely valueless; I wish to play a game, not look at a 3D representation of the MCG.

I am aware this is pretty negative : anyone who wishes to point out variations in GAMEPLAY compared to the Megadrive version is welcome to do so. From what I can see, there are none of any real significance.

Review by Jeremy Dyer

INTRODUCTION:

After almost two years of development, Shane Warne Cricket'99 has finally arrived. This game caused me to become jealous of Playstation owners for the first time in years, as I firmly believe that a powerful PC is the ultimate game machine. However, I managed get hold of a Playstation and a copy of SWC99. After seeing all the hype over the internet, and reading raving reviews about it in magazines, I was very excited about the game. However, I had read several reviews, and was not convinced that the game was as good as everyone had said. I decided to find out for myself, and this review will tell you both the good and bad sides of the game. So if your pretty sure that this is the best game you've ever played, and that SWC99 has no flaws in it, then please stop reading.

One of the first things you notice about SWC99 is the excellent presentation. From the very start, you can clearly see that Codemasters have made a real effort to create a TV style presentation. There is a very short but brilliant introduction to the game, which really shows off the motion-captured players, and is one of the few times that you will hear music in the game, which sounded pretty good as well. You are then sent to the main menu, where there are a number of options available, such as deciding to play a match, have a quick practice, visit the archives, change the settings of the game, or view the teams, or restore a game. There are 3 difficulty levels available, 'Village', 'County' or 'Test' level. I strongly suggest you play on village level for the first few games. County is the average/normal level, but is still quite hard. I found test to be virtually impossible. You really have to practise hard to be able to play at that level. One of the many excellent things about SWC99 is the variety of matches you can play. You can select from a Quick Start, Friendly matches, WorldCup, Knockout (like the Mini-World Cup), World Series, Test Series, Test Season and Classic matches. These are all worthwhile additions, especially the classic matches, which is quite original on Codemasters part. When playing the World Cup or Knockout, you can even decide what part of the world you want as the venue, and the computer will create the fixtures. There is also player performance tracking, which is another welcome edition, and an option called slog mode, where you can force the computer to slog everything instead of playing defensively when batting.

Once you decide to play a game, you select the match type you want, and then the team you want to play as. There are 9 test nations to choose from plus 6 non-test playing nations. In the World Cup, and Knockout tournaments, you can choose more than one team to play with. So if you are a die-hard Aussie fan, you can play as Australia, but can also try and carry the West Indies win the World Cup. You select your team of 11 players out of a squad of 20. This is where the negative aspects of the game start to creep in. Many of the players in the 20 man squads haven't played for their country for almost a year, and you cannot choose the line-up of the opposition, which is disappointing.

PRESENTATION:

The presentation of the game is second to none. The menu screens are very well done, and the blue backdrop makes the game look as good as TV standard graphics. The options are well set out and I had no trouble in terms of finding my way around. As mentioned before, the intro is excellent, but slightly too short. However, I have to say now that the graphics, although they do look good by Playstation standards, really do remind me of the VGA days of PCs. This game will really look spectacular on a fast PC with a 3dfx card. There is a lack of videos however, such as the fly-bys of the grounds - which will be present in the PC version.

Presentation Rating: 8.5/10

GRAPHICS:

The presentation graphics are very good, and the in game graphics are also pretty good. The stadiums generally look impressive apart from being pretty blocky. The players look terrific, and there are several 'types' of players such as blonde and brown haired players, white, brown and black skinned players. There is a lack of personalised looks however such as the lack of height, weight etc like you find in NBA Live 98. The uniforms look good, especially the ODI uniforms that appear to be modelled after the 1996 World Cup uniforms. The pitch and outfield look awesome, and it is great to see the outfield look a more yellowish colour under floodlights.

The crowds look shocking, but that cannot really be helped, although the 3dfx crowds do not look that bad. Also the players sometimes walk right through one-another, which can look pretty awful. Overall the graphics in SWC99 are about as good as you are going to find in a playstation sports game. However, if you have a 3dfx card with your PC the graphics will look very close to TV quality. It can also be very difficult to see the ball sometimes during Day/Night games.

Graphics Rating: 8.5/10

SOUND:

The sound in SWC99 is right up there with EA Sports Fifa soccer series. The crowds are the real highlight, with chanting, cheering, booing, clapping, whistling, and trying to rev the bowler up as he's coming into bowl. Even the balmy army can be heard!! The sound effects are pretty good as well. You hear the batsmen shout 'wait' or 'yes/no' when running between the wickets. The stumps sound realistic when they're broken, and the players sound excited when they take a wicket. The willow hitting leather sounds pretty ordinary to be honest. Apart from that, about the only thing missing with regard to the sound effects, is hearing the bowler hit the ground in his delivery stride, and the batsmen tapping his bat on the ground when waiting for the bowler. (These sounds are always heard when watching cricket on TV).

The commentary is good, but not great. Jonathan Agnew and Geoff Boycott make a great combination. The sequences of sentences they put together at the start of a game are great, and between overs Boycott gives advice. It really does sound like TV. However, the commentary is repeated too much, and during gameplay, Boycott is pretty quiet. Also, you can always tell when you've hit a four just by hearing what Agnew says. He ruins the anticipation by saying you've hit a four as soon as you hit the ball. Having said that though, I generally enjoyed listening to the commentary.

Sound rating: 8.8/10

GAMEPLAY:

An area of the game that is adequate, but could have been really well done if it wasn't for a few very frustrating things. Batting is the most enjoyable part of the game. Once you get the hang of things, you'll soon be bashing 6's and 4's. It becomes almost too easy, until you try the harder levels such as county. If you try the six-hit shot, you may succeed a first time, but if you try the same shot again, you'll invariably get out. Sometimes you can't play a shot at all cause you left it too late - very frustrating when you get bowled without even having a chance to block the ball. That's okay, I guess, if you can save the game. However, the speed that the players run at is extremely frustrating. They literally jog, whether you're running between the wickets or in the field. When watching the cut-scenes, the players sprint out to the wicket. There's no way of making the players run faster either. Trying to take a quick single is practically suicide if the ball is within 1-3 metres of the fielder. The other very, very frustrating aspect of batting is not being able to charge. I kept wishing of being able to charge down the wicket to a spinner. There are a wide range of shots you can play, and apart from the annoyance of getting runout all the time, and not getting a chance to play a stroke, batting is good fun in SWC99.

Bowling on the other hand is ordinary. It reminds me of cricket 96 in a big way. You feel pretty helpless when bowling. Even when bowling on a green pitch, the ball doesn't move around much. Fast bowlers are limited to fast or slow deliveries. You cannot decide how fast you want to bowl, like in previous games. The other types of bowling in the game is swing, spin, slow. Generally, bowling is really boring, and there's not a lot of variation you can do.

Fielding - not too much to say except, don't try manual fielding. It is almost impossible to see the ball, so let the computer do the work. There are a wide range of different field settings but you can't set your own custom field, which will annoy many people - including myself. Sometimes the fielders will do spectacular saves, other times they'll start running after a ball before it's even reached them. On other occasions they'll simply run beside the ball as if they are trying to race the ball to the boundary - VERY FRUSTRATING!!

Gameplay rating: 6.5/10 - definitely needs improving, especially in bowling and fielding departments.

REALISM:

This is where the gameplay is ruined somewhat. The ball physics system is pretty average. Some mistimed shots, especially hook shots, will go for absolutely ever up into the air. One ball was in the air for more than 10 seconds. On another occasion, the ball fell safely, but bounced about 5 metres off the ground - ridiculous.

The Artificial intelligence in the game is actually pretty good - on the harder levels you will definitely be challenged. The computer batsmen play pretty well, even the batsmen in the crap teams. They will go for the slog when the end of the innings is near, and the bowlers will always attempt to bowl a good line and length. Their stock deliveries are bouncers and yorker length balls. The computer captains also adjust their fields quite regularly. The fielding AI is very average indeed. The fielders never run in to take catches when they are fielding on the boundary. And as mentioned before, they'll start running after the ball before it has even reached them.

The Motion Capturing of the players is excellent, and really enhances the realism and enjoyment of the game. Everything from dives, to batting strokes, several different bowling actions, batsmen practising their shots, fielders warming up and stretching – it's all there, apart from the batsman acknowledging the crowd with his bat when he scores a 50 or 100. The 46 stadiums are generally pretty accurate, although, just by looking at New Zealand grounds alone, there were some inconsistencies, such as the Basin Reserve having Floodlights - which it doesn't, but that's not all that bad.

Another flaw in the game is the Umpire decisions. There are some very good decisions but some lbw and 3rd umpire decisions will make you swear your head off for a few minutes. Also, fielders always throw the ball right over the stumps, their throws are never wide. They will occasionally hit the stumps direct, and that is when the 3rd umpire usually stuffs up big time.

In One-Day games, there are fielding restrictions, but only for 10 overs, not 15 overs in a 50 over game. That is annoying, considering the first 15 overs of a One-Day innings is so important these days. There is no no-ball rule which is disappointing, as the computer fast bowlers will bowl several bouncers at you per over in One Day games.

A great deal of effort has also been put into making you feel like you are watching a real game. You see the toss, the players walking out to the wicket, there are time restrictions and sessions in test matches etc. The weather changes and the pitch and ball deteriorates, which is a very welcome addition. Overall the amount of realism in the game is of a high level, and is ruined by a few serious flaws.

Realism rating: 7/10

MISCELLANEOUS:

The attempt by Codemasters to make the game look and feel like a game on TV is apparent, however, their are several areas that need improving. One is the lack of statistics and graphical displays during the game. When chasing a total in a One Day game, you always see the Run-rate required, wickets in hand, etc readout on TV - it's non-existent in this game. They have runs required and overs remaining, but it's not like TV is it? Also, the lack of an editing facility to create/edit players and teams is a serious loss in terms of replayability. In 2 years time, half of those squads will be outdated, and even now, there are many omissions in the squads. Hopefully someone will come up with an editor/patch for the PC version. There are also no graphical displays such as 'wagon-wheels' and 'worms'. These will be present in the PC version.

OVERALL:

Shane Warne Cricket is an enjoyable game, despite several major flaws. It is certainly the best game around, at least for another 5 months, until we see the much anticipated EA Sports Cricket World Cup 99. I still recommend that you buy this game, as it still has a lot to offer that CWC99 cannot, and you will not get sick of SWC99 in a hurry. The PC version will almost certainly be a lot better than the PSX version, and with a few patches, and the use of an editor, many of the problems could be fixed, and this game would be right up there with Fifa 98 etc.

What the PC version will offer:

- Player performance tracking of all 240 players
- 3dfx enhanced graphics
- Possibly better sound
- Graphical displays such as 'Wagon-wheels' and 'Worms'
- Real-time lighting for Day/Night games (unconfirmed)
- Ability to release patches that will fix many of the problems with the game
- More videos such as fly-bys of the various grounds
- In game music.
- Ability to set custom field settings (unofficial)

I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my comments with regard to Shane Warne Cricket 99. Your comments and suggestions are certainly welcome, and I will reply ASAP to any questions/comments you may have.

Overall Playstation Version Rating 7.5/10

Predicted PC Version rating 8/10 (without patches/editor)

Review by Dave Austin

OK, this game was probably the most anticipated Playstation title for me yet (next is AFL 99). So, when the game shops gave me a definite release date, I was ecstatic, only to find it delayed time after time. One shop even guaranteed I would have it by a date which came and went. So, was it a marketing ploy? Well perhaps because anyone who owned a Playstation hassled every shop they knew for the game and a date. So finally it came out, and luckily I had it pre-booked cause as it stands now, I still have not a copy of this game on the shelves as it has been sold out nearly everywhere (as have most Sony Playstations due to Christmas).

And was the wait worth it? All I can say is WOW! This game rocks. So what do I have to compare it with? Well, unfortunately not much, EA Sports Cricket 97 on the PC, Brian Lara’s Cricket on the Megadrive and International Cricket on the Super NES. With BLC probably being my cricket king in the past, Shane Warnes Cricket 99 (aka BLC 99) came in and single handedly delivered the first instant knockout punch. But before I say how great this game is, perhaps first I’ll touch on what is bad about it, but believe me, the good far outweighs the bad.

Downers:

  1. Perhaps it was Codemasters attempt to make the game more arcade-like, more appealing to non-cricket fans, but essentially you can score too quickly. In a test match, it’s not hard to get the run-rate ticking over at say 6 an over. And while wickets may fall sooner, you still get perhaps a 200+ score, which is fairly competitive.
  2. Fielding. Manual fielding is abysmal. Just trying to stop a ball, let alone catch the thing is far too hard when the computer is able to quickly pick it up and whip it in at a cracking pace. Even throwing the ball back is annoying having to push the button one to seemingly pull the arm back, then push it again to throw the ball. Manual fielding to me is only good when you are playing two player against each other (and say one of is really good, and the other isn’t then it’s a good way to even things up).
  3. Difficulty settings - If you have been playing only on village mode while you are trying to get really good, change immediately to County mode. Why? It’s better and less frustrating. Fielders field much better, returning the ball quicker, and the run rate is slowed slightly even if it is still generally unrealistic.
  4. Third Umpire - okay, it’s a great innovation, but it’s questionable. How many times has he got it wrong? I watch the replay, the bails come off, he should be out, but the replay keeps going a few frames to when the bat crosses the line, and then it pauses and says NOT OUT. WHAT?
  5. Field Settings - some of them are shocking. It’s all pre-set allowing for no manual adjustments. I could handle it if they all somehow managed to vary enough so that I had a use for them all, but for example, fielding restrictions are on, human v human game, want to know where to hit it, straight back. There’s no-one there.
  6. Stats/Records - OK, these are actually pretty good, but the fact that with player stats you can only follow 20 players (basically if you are playing a series you’ll probably only track your own squad), so that’s a downer. Now the bowling records seem to be a bit stuffed though. In one game Glenn McGrath took 7/45. Pretty good I thought, same game, second innings, Steve Waugh takes 4/11. Guess what, Steve Waugh gets the record for best bowling.
  7. Commentary - Only a few glitches here. A few times I’ve skied the ball, knowing I was going to get caught. The ball comes down, fielder’s under it. The commentary goes like this "And Dropped. Out" It seems he dropped it then caught it? Maybe the old one-hand-one-bounce rule?
  8. Players - OK, it’s been said before, many of the squads are outdated. In fact it makes you wonder when they actually got the squads together. Some examples of players missing for Australia at least who have been fairly prominent in the side, Jason Gillespie, Darren Lehman and Stuart McGill (maybe the last two there are relatively new, but Dizzy should have been there). And yet it includes more fringe players like Dale, Bichel, Harvey and Law. There should have been an edit option, or at least the option to download updated squads from CricInfo via the Sony memory card thing.
  9. The controls. The controls are relatively simple, but a Playstation has 8 buttons. Why oh why didn’t they use them all? Bowlers have so many more balls in their armory these days so I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t use the shoulder buttons. Even most PC based sports games use 6 or 8 button controllers. And these shoulder buttons for the batsmen would have been the perfect way to make your batsman advance down the pitch to a delivery, something that is also missing.
  10. Attributes - I would like to have seen more individual attributes to players, things like certain shots they play well, certain balls they can bowl effectively, and one thing is that players should have their own speed levels. How come Taylor and Bevan run at the same pace?

Now to the great things:

  1. The presentation: superb. Not too fancy, not too awkward, and not too boring. Relatively easy menus. Perhaps the only poor point is the loading time for an actual game.
  2. The graphics: once again, superb. The players look great, but it’s the grounds that take the cake. Playing at my home Adelaide Oval, what happens to be in the background, but of course, the old Cathedral. Marvelous. See the shadows from players under lights and all.
  3. Sound: Crowds. The crowd seems to really get into the games. It seems to pick up the tense moments and you hear the crowd chanting as the bowler starts his run-up. The commentary while occasionally they get it wrong (see above), it is great, not too monotonous, and at the end of an over, try just letting it sit for a bit. It seems Boycott and Agnew can’t shutup, they sometimes start babbling away about the game so far, what their thoughts are and so forth. The sound of bat hitting ball is fairly good too, you can hear the different sounds for when you happen to mis-hit a ball, or when you time it right and it flies away.
  4. Competitions: There is a whole multitude of types of games. One dayers (10, 20 or 50 overs), One Day Series (although the fact that you have to include Australia as a host is a shame), World Cup, Test Series (1-6 games), Test Season and of course Classic Matches.
  5. The practice option isn’t too bad I guess but it would be good to be able to choose where you want the bowler to pitch the ball when you are practicing your batting (so you can master playing the yorker or hook).
  6. So how does it play? Well, it’s great. Completely and utterly addictive. What can be said? But there is one way to pay this game which is the most enjoyable. Two or more human players. Against each other can be fun, but perhaps only when say there’s 3 or more in a one day series. The best way to me is 2 v 2 with a multi-tap, or 2 player co-op against the computer. Nothing more satisfying than the large partnerships you can build. One plays a bit more aggressive, while the other is a more defensive, run the singles player.

Review by Matthew Coyle

PRESENTATION/FRONT END

First impressions of loading/introduction screens were not great - but I'm not one to get too excited about introductory movie sequences so I'm happy Codemasters didn't waste too much time on this. The menus were all pretty self-explanatory and to the point and once selected, further options came up pretty fast. The choices are vast with the many different cricket competitions being available, and individual games have many different settings that can be changed. I like the "tracking" system whereby you can track the statistics of players of your choice throughout the life of the game. I have not as yet utilised this fully.

GRAPHICS/ANIMATION

I like the largeness of the players on the default camera angle (just like in TV coverage which is slightly above the pitch). When the camera angle changes after a shot to show the ball's position in relation to the ground, you get a good impression that the ground is indeed large. In Cricket'97 and Cricket ATE the players were too small and the ground seemed small too. When there isn't a lot of animation, the players do look a bit grainy but this is definitely forgivable considering the size of them. Also when batting, the ball can be hard to pick up in the field which can sometimes make you go for a run only to discover a fielder is right next to the bowl and then you get runout. Its a shame the way in which each small piece of animation has to be retrieved off the CD which can result in obvious flaws and big delays when your trying to scramble back to your crease as a batsmen, or when a fielder first slides to cut off a ball and then returns it to the wicketkeeper. But even with this and the small graphical mistakes (I have had the wicketkeeper disappear for an entire delivery), its still graphically a great game, it is fluid in its animation and presents well as a cricket game.

GAMEPLAY/CONTROL

When batting, shots are easy to make and will match your intended stroke after it is selected with the joypad. If you do get caught or the ball goes in a funny direction after you hit the ball, you can usually come to the decision that it was your fault because of timing/incorrect shot selection etc. It is difficult to keep the run rate unreasonably high if you stick to using the normal hit button ('X') instead of the power hit ('O'), as your timing will not always be the best, resulting in 1's and 2's and the occasional four. People have complained about the extraordinary run-rates, but I've found it easy to control whether batting or bowling. If you bat according to the type of delivery and don't overuse the power hit button (which is dangerous and increases the chance of a dismissal), you will score about 4 or 5 an over. If you aim to hit every ball for four by, for instance, positioning your batsmen outside off stump to hit the ball into a vacant area on the on-side, you will get an unreasonably high run-rate. Saving this sort of batting for the end of an innings is a great deal of fun.

When bowling/fielding, bowling a good line and length generally results in wickets and a small amount of runs. But due to the system by which you have to bowl (positioning a moving cursor on the pitch), 25% of your deliveries will be wayward and are open for punishment - resulting in a realistic representation of cricket. In higher skill levels, you have less time to position this cursor too. My major gripe when fielding is that there are no field set-ups with a man at 3rd man or fine leg for slow/spin bowlers. The wicketkeeper seems to miss a lot of my deliveries which either go deep behind the wicketkeeper resulting in 2 or 3 runs, or go to the boundary.

In any case, I have only played this game for a few hours so I'm still getting out cheaply when batting - but I am having success with getting batsmen out when bowling. When batting the key is definitely concentration, and high levels of it. If you relax and stop thinking, you will get out.

SOUND/COMMENTARY

I imagine it must be hard to incorporate a commentary system into sports games. I figure this by how lousy all sports commentary becomes in a game after you've played it for a few hours. I would have suggested replacing players' names with alternatives. e.g. "powerful stroke for four by Slater" = "that's a powerful stroke for four" - the names sound very "pasted in". Also, the cricketing stories that have been recorded by the commentators are only played after an over if you leave the game to have a drink or something - they are never played in between balls or directly after a shot. I guess this is due to the hardware limitations of the Playstation.

The atmospheric noises by the crowd are quite good really all things considered. They do often cut out rather than a slow fade, but they join in randomly during a bowler's run-up and when a good shot has been made. And I haven't experienced some of the different countries' crowds yet.

OVERALL

I'm getting the distinct impression the more I play Brian Lara, that the difficulty aspect will remain the same no matter how many hours I spend at the controls - just as cricket really is. I may have to go up a skill level in the future, but I can see this game being a lot of fun for a long time.

Perhaps the minor glitches I pointed out will be given some attention in the future, or will be improved upon by another developer. I should point out that I'm even finding bowling fun for the first time in a cricket sim really - and I'm looking forward to playing out a World Series and a World Cup competition. Then I've got the classic matches to complete - oh no, my mouth has started watering again! If I wasn't at work right now, I'd be playing Brian Lara Cricket '99!!!

Review by Micheal Atkinson

Well, when I went out and bought Shane Warne Cricket I was quite shocked to see that it was the most expensive game in the entire store.
 
When I first played it I was in my first match and I was batting. Watching the batsmen take centre and so on. Then the bowler bowled and I was out while the batmen was still mucking around with his box or something. You have to press X on your first ball to actually even take guard. Its was the first of many errors that I found in this game which to me should be exchanged for the final version as it seems that it has been accidentally swapped with one of the first beta versions :)
 
The next thing I noticed was how hard it was to run between the wickets. When you cancel a run the batsmen doesn't just not turn around he speeds up and runs further then turns around. Also finding the ball on the yellow outfields in night games is a bit of a mission.
 
Another running between the wicket flaw is that when the field is back just defend and run as the bowler and keeper will just stand there and whack off while the batsmen take a single.
 
Also sometimes when you change your field your keeper will field at square leg. Also there are NO fields for a spinner with a third man or fine leg and the sweep is easy and the keeper cant catch anything. 'except the late cut which is caught all the time of the spinners.
 
Also the hit for six button, does it actually have anything to do with timing or is it just a random selection by the computer.???
 
The commentary is poor and the stories only occur when you leave the menu up for about a minute or so, and who does, I only found out about them when my controller stopped working and I couldn't quit.
 
Finally as I can't be bothered blabbing on about all the things wrong with this game, when are English programmers gonna stop making there teams so frigging good when the real life counter parts are so crap. The English are one of the better teams in the game and Gough is probably the fastest bowler in the game. Another example of Codemasters doing this was in Jonah's Rugby were they were way to good, always beating SA and AUS in the simulated matches.
 
I hope that when EA's Cricket game comes it "if its in the game then its in the game" rings true. Perhaps England will have a talentless team with a long tail and spineless batsmen. Oh and shocking fielding and bad weather.

Review by Jason Forte

I've played this game for about 5 days solid (8+ hours a day) and I have finally come to the conclusions in this review.

After playing Cricket '97 for so many hours back when it was first released I made a list of features that it lacked. When the list came to about 30 entries, I stopped and put Cricket '97 away and went back to one of the true simulations of the game, ITC. But C97 always nagged in my mind as a game which could have done so much better.

Once Brian Lara's Cricket was announced, I began to have faith in the cricketing simulation again. The screenshots looked great and the feast of options were promising.

So I went out to buy Brian Lara's Cricket and to my amazement, it nearly broke the bank with it's price tag. As I stared at the shrink-wrapped box I thought to myself that list of Cricket 97's and I warmed my heart. This, I thought to myself, was going to be the one.

As soon as I got home, I through the CD into the Playstation and booted it up. Up came the nice Codemasters logo and then the introductory "movie". It was pretty much standard and what I expected, so on I moved to the real thing.

After the title screen came up I raced into the "TEAMS" section for the all important team selections. I wanted to know just how realistic this game was going to be. I selected Australia, and as I scrolled down my face was in disbelieved. Michael DiVenuto was included? No Darren Lehmann? No Stuart MacGill? No Matthew Elliott? Where are these cornerstones of Australian cricket? On further observation I found that some of the other teams were slightly out of date and without a player editor (down further), my complaints were futile. Even good old Lee Germon is in the New Zealand squad. I'm sure he'll be playing for NZ in the World Cup next year :)

I then had to see what the fuss was all about. I selected Quick Start and the match was India vs South Africa. "Yay," I thought to myself (no offense to India or South Africa supporters out there). I choose India and listened to the warm accent of the commentators as they explained to me that it was "hot alright" and if I had some "disciplined bowling" I'd win the match. This was incredibly realistic and I actually felt like I was watching the television.

The toss came and South Africa elected to field. Then, I faced the first ball with Tendulkar. Clean bowled. Apparently you have to press X to take guard, and I didn't know this. I played around a bit more and began to hit the ball quite easily, discovering that it all relies on the supreme timing of it all rather than the type of shot you play or what button you press. Running between the wickets is annoying, and very hard. Even Michael Bevan, one of the fastest in cricket, can't seem to beat a throw from deep in the outfield. When you cancel a run, the game plays a lovely sound file of "NO!" and then proceeds to show me the batsman running forward a few steps, then deciding he's had enough and turns back. By that time, of course, the wicket keeper had gotten the ball and was already celebrating the wicket. I was still half way up the pitch.

I kept batting, and the game began to grow on me. Soon I had mastered the stroke play but the "six-hit" button was still a mystery. I have no idea whether it actually involves skill or whether the computer decides it needs a wicket. Two exact same balls, on the same pitch, with the same batsman and bowler, with the same timing, resulted in a six and a wicket. I have gotten better at it but it still troubles me to see when I can't get a six to save my life. When I don't need sixes (ie. first day of a test match) they flow abundantly. It all depends on the pitch, I am lead to believe.

After a while, you can build up extraordinary run rates. My best is my 150 runs coming off just 5 or so overs. However, this was just with the six-hit button and I lost 4 wickets because of mistimings. If you use the X button and only leave the six-hit button for emergencies it becomes more realistic and makes the game more enjoyable.

Then of course, there's the dancing up the pitch omission. In someways I agree to the programmers leaving this out, but I still think it should be an option to the player. Sometimes you need to dance a spinner and when you are confined to the crease, it makes you throw your joypad in frustration.

In terms of graphics, the game gets an A. The size of the players is just about right on the default camera angle. I would have liked to see more "playable" camera angles (maybe an Australian Sheffield Shield camera angle, slightly higher and at a more angle off the pitch would have been nice), but overall the choices are quite good. After smashing the ball about 500 metres into the air and then discovering the ball landed somewhere at mid-off, you get the impression that the stadiums are large, which was a major grip of C97. In Cricket 97, you could edge a six quite easily and Richie Benaud would exclaim that it was a marvellous shot, worthy of a textbook. The ball is quite hard to spot in night matches (the yellow ball), and a few bugs in the polygons (fielders, namely wicketkeepers, disappearing; limbs missing; players running the wrong direction), all of which are inevitable in such a high-end polygon game, do not detract from the fact that the graphics are superb and the animation is spot on. The players act like real players. They practise shots; bowlers warm up their arms; the umpire adjusts his hands; the keeper claps, etc. All this adds to the atmosphere and at times you really do get involved with the game and forget to take the controls and move your player.

The commentary, I must say, is damn annoying. It lacks emotion and at times is a result of just reading the score out to you. The only time that it becomes interesting is after an over, and you leave the pad for a few minutes. I was just checking my email and to my suprise the commentators started talking about the good old days of cricket and why my batsman shouldn't have lost his wicket so cheaply. Great feature guys, but why not put it in the actual game? Why do people have to sit there and wait for a few minutes to hear a story or some humourous words? It increases the atmosphere, but I found it by mistake, after all.

Still on commentary, the names are terribly pasted in. Obviously it's very hard to keep the same pitch and tone of voice while reading out a long list of names, but some slight adjustment with the commentary would have made it smoother and more enjoyable.

Which brings me to my next point A player editor. Surely, with a slightly more advanced commentary engine, they could have encorporated a player editor? I mean, the difference between "cracking shot there by Taylor" and "a cracking shot by the batsman" is not that much. And usually, unless you've just bought the game, you've got the commentry turned off. A player editor would have 1. Enhanced the longevity of the game and 2. Made it possible for custom teams, lack of updates, etc. Editors come hand in hand with player creation systems, which BLC could have also come with.

While bowling, it seems to be a lot easier to bowl them out than it is to bat for a long time. Batting takes concentration, and bowling isn't as requiring on the mind. However, there are NO field positions with a field at 3rd man when bowling spin bowlers. The damn keeper always lets the ball run down to the boundary costing in many byes in the innings.

The game itself is meant to be a slow, deliberate sort of game, but at times the computer turns it on and the boundaries and wickets flow like tap water. You can finish a 2 innings test match quite easily in three days.

What the hell is up with the English cricket side? When did they become better than anyone else? Why is Darren Gough so good? Why did they win the World Cup on my first try at it? Oh well. I'll just have to settle for Australia trashing them in the Ashes. At least THAT'S realistic.

The thing that makes BLC so addictive is it's amazing options. The Classic Matches, for example, are a great addition and Codemasters are to be congratulated for this great option. I still have trouble beating Pakistan (damn Afridi! Who can hit 100 in 37 balls!?) in the final Classic Match, but overall, this is an excellent chance to get back to some "old-school" cricket and bang around a few balls with the likes of Don Bradman.

And you know what the best thing is? I'm still not sick of it. Despite its plethora of bugs, it's an addictive game and it deserves the title of best cricket cricket game out there (I'm not counting ITC as a game). If BLC 2000 ever comes around, I'm sure it will be a wonderful game and with a few tweaking of bugs and addition of a player editor, it will go down as one of the best cricket games of all time.

Graphics 91
Sound 80
Gameplay 85
Longevity 89
Overall 87 A worthwhile addition to your PSX collection

Review by Vijay Patel

Hmm. Brian Lara Cricket 1999. IS it what we all expected?

For starters, it is not what I expected. Basically, when you play a match, its like your Philo Wallace smashing in a test match. Any ball that the bowler bowls, it is likely to be a boundary. When the white circle is also shown, you can get in to a wonderful position to smash one straight out the stadium. Even if you bowl a GREAT line and length, you are likely to be smashed.

The graphics are excellent though. It looks real, and its one of the best graphics I have seen on a cricket game. The crowd looks awful, all you see is dots, and they have not really focused on the umpires that much. The players look excellent though.

The commentary and the atmosphere around the ground is excellent. Aggers and Boycott really must have enjoyed themselves when doing this game. I wonder what it feels like to commentate an imaginary cricket game. The system of the commentary is excellent. There are over 70 players in the game. It must have took them ages to do it.

The atmosphere is excellent. You can definitely see which ground is the West Indies and which you can see is Lords. You can also hear the drunkies also shouting there heads off!

I also like the way they have done Shawn Pollock's hair. Very jazzy, and looks very real. Donalds, and Henry Olonga look like what you would expect to see on BBC TV or Sky Sports today!

Is it hard, or easy? Its TOO EASY. Once you have played it, you have done them all. The Test Series is an absolute slogging match where all the field is Aggressive, and you can smash it for 6 nearly every ball.

The net practise is very good as well! Mainly all cricket games that are out, you don't get nets! This game has it!

Hmm, the 3rd Umpire. Very wise to put the 3rd umpire on BLC99, but,  did you know that they can sometimes be wrong. I was West Indies, and I was controlling Wallace. I was appealed for a run-out, and when they shown it, my bat was halfway in the crease.

FINALLY

I give it a 7/10. If you want a bit of fun, play it, otherwise if you want some serious cricket, buy something else!

Review by Chris Gin

Here are my comments on Brian Lara Cricket for the Playstation.

Graphics

The graphics are as good as you can probably get on the Playstation, so no complaints there. Certainly leaps and bounds better than any other cricket game out there. There are a few glitches with the players - sometimes it looks like they're doing the moonwalk (i.e. walking forward but actually going backwards!), and a few other minor things - but overall they are excellent.

The default view is good, and it's the only one I use as the others aren't really playable. Just as well, because it keeps switching back to the default view before each ball is bowled.

The Action Replay feature seems a bit odd. You only seem to get the last few seconds of action, which usually means you don't see that actual shot being played! Am I missing something here?

You do get full replays when the batsman edges a catch to the keeper, but so far I haven't had a replay on any other occasion, which is disappointing.

Sound

Sound effects are adequate. The sound of the ball hitting the bat is realistic, and the crowd noise is also pretty good. Nothing spectacular here, but then again you wouldn't expect it.

Commentary is good at first, but you soon get sick of it. The commentary engine is probably better than anything else out there, but it doesn't take long before you see the flaws and limitations of it.

For example, the only time the score is announced is after the 4th ball of the over. The commentator refers to a 'great catch' when it's a dolly. Whenever there's a boundary, the commentator announces it as soon as the ball is hit rather than waiting to see if it is actually a boundary. And of course it gets repetitive, but again, that is probably to be expected.

If you leave the game unattended, Boycott and Agnew start chatting about the game, but the conversation appears to be totally random rather than being related to the current game. They talk about one day tactics during a test match. They talk about the batsman struggling or doing well when he isn't. It seems as though they intended to do something more useful with the commentary but ran out of time, so they just decided to play it at random during some idle moments.

Playability

This is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I can't make up my mind whether I like it or not. Still, I keep coming back to it, so it can't be too bad. My overall impression though is that you don't have a lot of control over what you do.

Batting's not too bad, but one major limitation is you can't move your batsman out of the crease. Also, the outcome of a shot is meant to be determined by the timing of the shot, however, I can't really figure out what is good timing and what isn't. If I get a nick, was it because I pressed the button a split second too early, too late, or was it simply too good a ball?

When you're bowling, you press the button to start your runup and that's it. Where's the skill in that? You should at least have to press the button again to release the ball - otherwise no-balls don't really come into the picture. It just feels like you're watching someone else bowl the ball rather than doing it yourself. As with batting, when you get a wicket or get hit for a boundary, you can't be sure if it was your fault or not. Did you overpitch or bowl it too short? Or was the batsmen simply too good?

I was thinking how the above complaints could be addressed, and I thought it would be interesting if they incorporated the popular 3-click method used in golf games. I like the idea of a 'power bar' or something similar where you can see if your timing was spot on or a little off. That way it would involve more skill, and you can see what you did right or wrong.

Perhaps it would work like this

When batting, you press the button to start your backswing and the power bar starts moving. When the bar reaches the 'sweet spot' you press again to start the downswing. The third button press would be the point where the ball hits the bat. Or maybe 2 button presses would be sufficient. With a six-hit, the same applies except any deviations from the 'sweet spot' are more pronounced.

When bowling, you press the button to start the runup. You then press again to start the delivery. The power bar would then start, and you would press the button a third time to release the ball. I dunno, just an idea.

I can't believe what they have done with the fielding options. You get a very limited number of preset field placings and that's it. You can't move individual fielders into different positions. To me that's just unacceptable. I hope this is different in the PC version.

Summary

Overall this is definitely the best cricket game by far, and I enjoy playing it. You just can't help but get the feeling that it's very close to being an excellent game, but with all the bugs and limitations, it's only a very good game.

This is actually the same for other Codemasters sports games, namely Pete Sampras Tennis and Jonah Lomu Rugby. These were both very good games, but they all suffered from annoying problems much like BL Cricket. For example, in PS Tennis, you could produce shots with more swing than Damien Fleming on a cloudy day! I've never seen that in a real game of tennis before. In JL Rugby, knock-ons weren't penalised, and the computer AI wasn't very good.

The room for improvement suggests that these games would all benefit from sequels, but I haven't heard anything in the pipeline. It seems such a waste that there are these games that seem 90% complete and could be 110% if they went back and improved on them. Codemasters have produced a sequel to their racing game TOCA, so let's hope they go back to some of their sports games and do the same. Anyone want to start a petition? 

Revised: Saturday, 16 March 2013.
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