I don’t like Cricket, I love it! That’s a song synonymous with the game of cricket for just about as long as I can remember. It’s a song that fits the sport ever so well because you find that people either hate it or absolutely love it, rarely something in-between. As a result of this few cricket games ever see the light of day, and many of them are just a plain old slog fest. While that can be fun, the world has been crying out for something a bit more technical.
Thankfully last year, Big Ant Games delivered Don Bradman Cricket 2014 which showed us just how good a cricket game can be. It brought back memories of the awesome Jonty Rhodes Cricket and had bits and pieces of Brian Lara Cricket, but it was far more than that. Now, they have moved to the new-gen with a re-release of Don Bradman Cricket on the Xbox One (and PS4). Does it stack up to the Don himself.
For the most part Don Bradman Cricket 2014 on the new-gen systems is little more than a facelift of the existing game that was released last year. In terms of modes there is absolutely nothing new. So you have your options of playing a quick game of anything from T20 to a 5 day test match with everything and anything in between. You can play a tournament of your own setting or a pre-existing one. You then have the option of playing a tour which is a number of different matches as one country against another.
The modes don’t end there as you can play a career mode which remains the single most in-depth career mode in any cricket game ever. It’s also the highlight of Don Bradman Cricket as you take control of a 16-year old and can play through 20 years of cricket as you attempt to make your way from club cricket through to one day hopefully being captain of your country.
The career mode has you playing as just one player and does require lots of patience, particularly at the start when your stats are low, but persisting with your player reaps the benefits that comes with hard work. The career mode is honestly worth the asking price alone, and while it can be hard and frustrating it’s definitely worthwhile.
The above modes (apart from career) also have an online option and while there is a bit of lag depending on who you are playing it’s never game breaking or hampering enough to actually become bothersome. I personally found that online games took a bit too long, so sticking to short matches is key, but they were great fun nonetheless.
Gameplay remains exactly the same. I felt like it is maybe just a wee bit smoother than before but that could just be a placebo effect of sorts. Either way the game feels realistic and solid enough to call it a true cricketing simulation. Batting is hard as nails, but a rewarding challenge. It requires you to be instinctive and at times pre-emptive, pretty much like real life. Using the two sticks to direct shots, plus a number of modifiers (aggressive shots etc…) you more or less have an entire armoury of shots at your disposal. The timing takes some practice but it’s not impossible.
Bowling is similarly technical though maybe a bit more frustrating. Getting a good rhythm going takes time but once you understand how the line and length works you will be able to experiment to your heart’s desire. Nothing quite like that quick short ball, or bowling a slow Yorker when your opponent least expects it.
Fielding is perhaps the least intuitive of the controls but again, once used to it, you can deal with it. It requires timing when diving for the ball, how you throw and where an odd inclusion of clicking in the right analogue stick in a specific direction to catch the ball. It feels clumsy and means you will drop a lot of catches for the first while.
Like anything, practice makes perfect and once you get the hang of the controls, timing, batting and bowling options and the field settings you will no doubt begin to see the true quality of Don Bradman 2014.
Everything above is identical to the original release, and where the port aims to differ itself is in its visual department. Now keep in mind that the original actually looked pretty damn awful for a game that came out so late in the console’s lifetime. The players looked and moved a bit like robots with funny plasticine faces. The grass looked as fake as anything I have ever seen in a sport game and the stadiums and crowd were no better.
With it being so poor the devs could do nothing but improve that aspect of the game, and they have largely succeeded. It is definitely not near the quality of other sport games like FIFA, PES, NBA and Madden, but it does at least improve on the original. The grass and pitch look far more realistic, the stadiums too and player likenesses are not nearly as bad, but still hardly represent the real players. The crowd is still crap though. All in all, it’s definitely a visual upgrade, but not near the level of what the console is capable of.
It must also be noted that Don Bradman Cricket does NOT have the official licenses BUT it has the most comprehensive and full proof method of attaining real names and players. When you log in for the first time it gives you the option to download custom teams from the community. If you do this, and wait 10 minutes you will have all the teams and players you can hope for. Alternatively you can go into the Don Bradman Academy where you have all the editing options at hand to create players however you want.
Don Bradman Cricket remains just about the best cricket game to come out since Megadrive days. There have been one or two decent attempts since, but nothing that quite compares to this. It’s technical, patience testing, frustrating, wonderful cricket at its greatest and is a true testament to the sport and what it’s all about. It does have its share of bugs, awful commentary and odd behaviours by the AI players, but those are easy to look at when you score your first century with your favourite player.
Don Bradman is a cricket game for the fan, and a damn fine game at that. However, just be aware that if you have no love for the game of cricket, this is hardly the game to get you into it.