It has been a big year for cricket: The culmination of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, the Hundred, the Men’s T20 World Cup and the start of an Ashes tour to round out 2021 to name but a few. So, a new cricket game is a welcome addition, despite the previous instalment, Cricket 19, having received some DLC.
But let’s also address the elephant in the room; crickets’ reputation is currently in the toilet. A culture of racism unearthed within Yorkshire CCC on all sides, and improper conduct in the Australia camp that indeed resulted in a slight delay to Cricket 22.
Thankfully, none of these off the pitch problems are present in Cricket 22. But how is the action on the pitch?
As well as calling itself the ‘Official Game of the Ashes’, Cricket 22 contains more events than you will ever likely need. The big events from the year are all here but there are also the various T20 tournaments including the Big Bash League, the Sheffield Shield and English County Cricket leagues. It would appear that due to licensing issues the Indian Premier League is not present in its official guise, but the Indian Cricket Championship T20 is the unofficial – and cheaper – variant.
Best of all, if there is a male and female version of the competition, it will be available to select both options.
Even for those familiar with how to play cricket, translating it into a videogame might not be the easiest thing to grasp. Thankfully, there is a very useful tutorial mode that shows you the ropes of batting, bowling and fielding. It doesn’t bog players down with too much terminology but for those that want it, there are advanced tutorials available.
There is also a new career mode that will chart your progress from playing in a local city league to playing at International level. Career mode will incorporate all forms of cricket from full tests and T20 matches, to even throwing in the occasional shorter three-day match.
In between these matches you can spend time at the nets or in the gym to improve your skills by earning EXP. The nets are standard batting practice, but the gym features some minigames depending on which apparatus you choose. Some of these can be a bit tricky to complete though due to the complexity of them. The rowing machine for example has you holding down both triggers, then lining up the thumbsticks with a highlighted area and then rotating them at a quick speed just for one rep. Considering these are timed and reward you based on performance, they are overly complicated.
Now it is worth noting that Big Ant Studios don’t have anywhere near the same budget as the likes of EA Sports to produce a sports sim. And the action on the field definitely represents that. It’s a bit quirky, at times janky, sometimes even inadvertently laughable. But it always remains fun.
Rising from the ranks in the Career mode, taking part in a T20 league or even trying to beat the Aussies in their own back garden, playing Cricket 22 is a lot of fun. Batters and bowlers have a confidence meter on the scoreboard, and you can feel the difference it makes when a new batter comes in with a lack of faith in themselves. Much like when you play yourself, find yourself a rhythm and get settled and you can bat away for hours.
Whether batting or bowling, the controls are easy to follow. For batting, pick a direction you wish to hit the ball and then choose one of the four ways to hit it. The type of ball, bounce and speed needs to be taken into account when choosing your shot, but even cricket newbies can easily grasp the concept after a few overs.
Bowling is slightly trickier, partly due to having a much larger repertoire. As well as which direction to bowl from – known as over or around the wicket – bowlers can be fast, medium fast, leg spin, off spin or more. Many of these terms may initially be alien, but the tutorial and through simply playing you can begin to pick it up.
For the most part, bowling looks and plays well rounded. There are the odd stutters when the ball gets hit straight back to the bowler, as it is pot luck whether they will react to it or not.
Batting provides more quirks though, and this feels down to the lack of animations within Cricket 22. There only appears to be four or five different animations when it comes to hitting the ball so shots such as the reverse sweep and scoop are non-existent. But if you want to knock the ball over the head of the wicketkeeper, just aim that way and the ball will unnaturally ping off the batter still.
This is a licensed game, so many of crickets’ biggest stars are recreated, to varying degrees of faithfulness. Coming out just in time for the start of The Ashes is no coincidence, as it is clear the most work has gone into recreating these stars. They are still far from perfect, but at least somewhat recognisable.
Cricket 22 is far from perfect, and patches for some of the bugs are on their way, but it is a fun recreation of the sport itself. And primarily, that should be the only thing that matters. I don’t think there’s much here to entice non-cricket fans, but for those who love the game, no matter what their preferred format, there is a lot of fun to be had with Cricket 22.