You wouldn't think cricket games made by Canadians would really work. It sounds a bit like hip hop made in the Shetlands or Buddhist Monks making tanks. But, thanks to EA Canada's new 'Century Stick Control', this is a superior version of our second sport. OK, it's a hideous marketing moniker, but EA's latest gimmick of moving the batting control to the right analogue stick achieves what the swing-stick did for Tiger Woods and what Total Punch Control has done for Fight Night - and it makes you wonder why it hasn't been done before. It feels right, giving you more precise control over your shots than ever before and making a more natural cricket experience.
By mapping the shot buttons to the right analogue stick, you're able to smash balls through the covers, hit quick singles and use the pace of a fast bowler to edge the ball down to the boundary. It's not perfect, since you'll have to really nail the timing to truly pick a spot outside the default eight directions, but it's a massive step in the right direction. Hit L1 and you can add height to the shot, while holding down R1 will see you dance down the wicket. Smashing Warney out the ground has never been more satisfying, especially once you're playing at 'real man' level on three stars and above.
LEADING THE FIELD
But the problem with cricket games has always been trying to make the fielding and bowling any good at all. With the former, it's like they've more or less chucked the towel in - pretty much everything's handled for you, and there are some very dodgy animations and more or less useless AI, which spoils the realism.
The bowling is better, but limited. Consistently hit good length and line and you'll be able to select different pitches - like bouncers - to mix up your attack. However in single-player mode - without the sledging you can give to your mate in a multi-player game - it becomes as much a test of your skill as your patience. Yes, it's satisfying when you take wickets, but it can also be dull and leave you heading for the auto-play function. In a way, it feels like you're getting half a game. But it's a deep, absorbing half that'll let you right the inevitable wrongs of this Ashes tour. And that's got to appeal.
The new batting system doesn't quite hide some of its other flaws, but there's plenty of value here.
- Brilliant new batting
- Tons of licenses
- Loads of game modes