Pimm’s sweating on the table, fours and sixes scrawled on a sheet of white paper close to hand and an outstretched finger ready to point to the sky at the sight of toppled bails: it can only mean another Ashes summer. Should England win (our crystal ball’s cloudy at the time of writing), the inevitable wave of bat ‘n’ ball euphoria will certify Ashes Cricket 2009 as the hottest sporting title until FIFA and PES return. If the Aussies retain the title, Codemasters are hoping disappointed fans will want to rewrite history in their living rooms.
And their attempt is indeed commendable. In-game ugliness aside, the overall presentation is impressive, with interesting commentary, and smart use of Hawk-Eye and infographics between contentious decisions and overs. Picture-in-picture displays are cleverly used to monitor action from out in the field, and the inclusion of record-breaking challenges to unlock both Achievements and kit modifications adds those extra incentives that keep you returning for more.
With more moves than Manchester City’s summer transfer record, the first port of call is Practice mode, where cricket legends Ian Botham and Shane Warne are waiting to share their best tips with you. The pitch annotations and clear HUD icons ensure even the fairest of fair-weather fans can bumble through the motions.
Batting options involve attacking, defensive and loft shots, with the ability to modify each strike with various footwork manoeuvres. Bowling is handled in a similar manner. Shoulder buttons are used to cycle through delivery styles and face buttons then dictate spin, though finer tweaking is needed during the run up too. Most simple of all is fielding. Positions are chosen before each delivery (if you don’t like any of the pre-set options you can create your own), so the only work involves catching and choosing which wicket to target for run outs.