I’ve just finished taking in a full tour of the world-famous Lords Cricket ground, fully informed be a brilliantly bearded man with fetching sports jacket. Now I’m not the biggest cricket fan, but you can’t help but be impressed with the history, items, and nostalgia of this 200-year-old ground. Particularly when the team dressing rooms are adorned with honour boards which mark every century made in a Test match on the grounds, and all instances of a bowler taking five wickets in Test innings, or how Lord’s is most famous for having a sloping outfield. For the record, the south-west side of the ground stands almost two and a half meters lower than the north-west side, causing considerable deviation to the ball when bowling.
Further to that, a stuffed sparrow is also on display; memorialised as the unlucky ‘bowled out’ victim of a deadly beamer from Jahangir Khan of Cambridge University during a match in 1936. It also has a museum with the famous original Ashes trophy (a lady’s perfume bottle) housed within. And it is because of that urn that I am here – to have a bit of hands-on time with Cricket 19 – The Official Game of the Ashes which is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch on the 28th May 2019.
Playing the game for a few sessions in the actual location that this game is set is a very strange experience. Especially when you find yourself hitting the ball towards the exact spot you are playing the game. It feels like breaking the rules of physics and time travel… and all because of cricket.
So, anyways, Big Ant Studios have created a game that has enough customisation and in-depth gameplay that will make it appeal to the most knowledgeable of cricket fan. But at the same time, someone who is new to the game – that’ll be me – will see the franchise change a few settings so the every day layman can whack a hundred sixes into the crowd if they fancy. It must be said, when taking in the surroundings, the company, and the overall environment, I really enjoyed the time I had playing Cricket 19, especially as time wore on and the chance to get involved in various batting strokes and bowling techniques allowed me to start to develop an actual game plan; even if it did surprise me more than my opponent.
But further to just smashing out some fours and sixes, I also got to speak to Mike Merren, the Development Director of Cricket 19 – The Official Game of the Ashes. Naturally, I asked him what the newest features of this game were:
“The biggest new feature is the scenario mode where we’ve added the ability for people to add scorecards for famous matches in the past. You, the player, can then go in and change history. You can start the game at any point in the match, wherever you want and then you can go in and set a condition, say England need 500 runs to win in a day and then off you go. There are 13 different conditions to choose based on famous scenarios from the history of the game. You can replay history for a whole match, or play a small part of the game that might only last 10 minutes, like get a wicket in the last over.”
I also asked Mike how many scenarios there were.
“Well, we have provided 10 at the moment. But there is a scenario designer that will allow people to set up scorecards or team creations, or player creations, logo creations, and even stadium creations. You can change the rules of the game as well if you like. You can have 10 ball overs, or the match to last for 70 overs. You can also change up the difficulty levels for each player to provide a more even playing field. All these rules you can set up so you can have your own match type, and all these creations can be shared across all formats in the online community.”
As well as the tie in with the Ashes this summer, allowing fans to play along with all the action at home, I just had to ask Mike about the career mode. After all, that’s probably where the majority of Cricket 19 fans will get the enjoyment.
“We changed it from the last game in a number of ways. In the old game, you would finish a game and get a certain amount of skill points and then you could assign them to any skill. So if you did well at batting you could still put all your points into bowling. That felt strange. So now in the game if you do really well in batting and say your hit ratio against pace bowlers was very good, then your skill level with this attribute will go up. Also, there is a perk system that unlocks through the game, giving little advantages and there are gold perks that you unlock when leveling up that gives you major improvements. You can also start from the beginning of a career from a rookie in club cricket trying to impress all the way to being the captain for your country in test cricket.”
So, some insightful moments from Mike and that has ensured that from my little bit of time with Cricket 19 – The Official Game of the Ashes at Lords Cricket ground, I have to say that I’m pretty excited about a game that I hadn’t really thought about much before. For the avid cricket fan, this is quite possibly going to be the must-play title of 2019, what with the deep customisation found within the scenarios, the amendability of the creation studios, the inclusion of the career mode and having the chance to get all your favourite players and locations together in one place.
Even for a newcomer like myself Cricket 19 has made me want to put on some white trousers, rub a ball across my leg and get my name on one of the Lord’s dressing room honours boards.
Cricket 19 – The Official Video Game of the Ashes will release on Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch in May 2019. Massive thanks must go out to the teams at Big Ant Studios and Dead Good Media for putting on the Cricket 19 event at Lords – and of course for inviting us to some hands-on time with the game.