EA Sports Cricket 2007 : My Impressions

EA Sports Cricket 2007 LogoEa Sports Cricket 07 is the latest avatar of the long running cricket game series. In the past Ea Sports has received a lot of flak for the poor quality of gameplay in their cricket games. Cricket 2005 was a complete disaster as far as gameplay was concerned. So, what most people were asking for is better gameplay. Like always EA made a bagfull of promises before release. So, did they deliver? Before answering that question I shall highlight the major changes/additions in this edition.

Whats New?

i) The first major new feature is Century Stick. Unfortunately I don’t have an analogue gamepad. So I wasn’t able to test it myself. According to Ea Sports those of you having an analogue controller will be able to play different shots by just pushing the stick in the desired direction. The power of strokes will depend on the amount of pressure you apply on the stick.

ii) Ea Sports have lost the licensing rights from ICC. Hence there is no Worldcup (however there is world championship) or Champions Trophy. They have retained the rights for England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Players from other countries have goofed up names, and they have no face resemblance.

iii) Another major new addition is the Ashes series. You can take part in the Ashes 06-07 Downunder or relive the 05 Ashes in England. You can also relive several situations from the previous Ashes series. These mini challenges put you in a given scenario with a given set of objectives eg. scoring a half century with Pietersen or getting a hundred run opening partnership. You are introduced to each scenario using real clippings. Once you complete the challenge you unlock the same video in the Theatre. (It would have made more sense if the videos unlocked were different.)

iv) Twenty20 Cricket has also been introduced. You can play Twenty20 Championship with either Australian or English domestic teams. Although in Twenty20 format 2 runs were awarded for a no ball, free hit was not awarded.

Here is a full list of various Tournaments you can play

International : World Championship ( i.e Worldcup) in West Indies,
World Series in Australia, Knockout Cup in region of your choice, Test series, ODI series
Australian Domestic Cricket : Pura Cup, State Season, One Day Domestic Series, KFC Twenty20 Big Bash
English Domestic Cricket : County Season, Liverpool Victoria County Championship, Natwest Pro40, C&G Trophy, Twenty20 Cup.

v) One of the longstanding complaints of gamers has been that the pace of the game is too slow. Ea has finally listened. Now you can change the game speed (slow, medium and fast). This time around there are 5 difficulty levels instead of 3. You can also choose the number of overs of field restriction for 50 over games. There is no Powerplay though.

vi) Semi automatic fielding system similar to BLIC.

vii) And finally, there is no Jim Maxwell this time around! He has been replaced by Mark Nicholas.

Those were the major new features/changes. Now, let me do a bit of nitpicking


Graphics and Presentation :

The overall presentation has definitely improved. The various navigation menus are similar to previous versions. EA Sports have added 10 rocking tracks to get you in the groove. The ingame tv overlay has been drastically improved and looks cool now. EA Sports have managed to pack in a fair amount of info in the HUD without making it appear cluttered. This time around you don’t need to switch to your mouse after every over and click on a stupid continue button. Now, you can also play with a behind the batsman camera if you want. This is a nice addition (making the wicket keeper and batsman translucent was smart), and it makes gameplay more challenging and fun.
As always there is fair amount of stats available, but there is no Hawk Eye.
Commentary is slightly improved. Mark Nicholas sounds much better than Jim Maxwell. Unfortunately Richie Benaud still puts you to sleep. The commentary starts to get repetitive after playing a couple of matches. And off course they still make stupid errors like calling a six a four or mixing up the off stump and leg stump (see the video). Due to licensing issues no name commentary is available for players from unlicensed countries. After every innings there is a Fall of Wickets package which is a welcome addition. The option to save replays is still missing.
Now coming to the graphics part. In one word its average. They are a bit more polished but still leaves much to be desired. Most of the players from licensed countries are recognizable. However, players from other teams have generic faces. For PC users there is hope – there is an active modding community for the game which should come up with faces for other players also soon. While fielding all the players wear sunglasses which is stupid. This also hides their facial features making them look somewhat generic. Like always crowds looks disgusting. The bowling actions havent been touched upon. Outfielders still throw the ball in a wierd manner. There are 36 stadiums and again they appear almost unchanged. I found the stadiums bit too small (especially the Australian stadiums when you consider their actual sizes). Eden Gardens is the only Indian stadium present in the game. And yes! like always there are the bugs!


Screenshots
(Click to enlarge)
Faces
Faces

TV Overlay
TV overlay

Behind the Wicket View
Behind the wicket view

Crowd
The ugly crowd

McGrath
McGrath bowling with a multi coloured ball.

Gameplay

Now coming to the most important part. The gameplay. I am stating it again; I don’t have an Analogue gamepad so I couldn’t check out the Century Stick. I have read a few reviews about Century Stick and they are quite varied. While some people didn’t find any major improvement others were very satisfied with it. I will give my thoughts based on the classic keyboard controls.

As I mentioned earlier, there are 5 difficulty levels. However, the
first 4 levels are a piece of cake. You can hit sixes on virtually every ball. Level 5 makes things a bit more challenging. You need to be precise with your timing. However, it’s much more balanced this time. The confidence meter has been tweaked to make things more balanced. You will also find it much tougher to time the ball with a tailender or a lesser batsman. But many of the old problems are still there. It’s very difficult to hit a boundary without using the six hit button. Most of my boundaries were actually mistimed six-hit shots that fell short of the ropes. The normal ground strokes don’t have any power at all. This severely hampers normal gameplay. One simple way to counter this would have been to add a separate four hit button that would have resulted in a powerful ground shot. The shots are pretty much the same; they have been just tweaked a bit. Against the spinners you can now reverse sweep.
I found that the AI is smart enough to alter field settings according to my stroke play. After I slogged a couple of sixes over mid-wicket it moved a fielder from cover to midwicket. However, when it comes to bowling or batting AI disappoints. Sometimes even after getting smashed around the part the bowler keeps bowling at the same place. The AI bats according to a set pattern. It attacks in during field restrictions and then slows down. On one occasion even though it needed more than 15 rpo the AI went defensive once the field restrictions were lifted.
Bowling and fielding has been improved. Now you can fix the ball marker using a separate key. Although this is a small change, it made bowlling much less painfull. Basic bowling controls are similar. Slower bowl, bouncers, yorkers etc are special deliveries which are not always available. This is a bit unrealistic. A bowler should be able to bowl any kind of ball when he wants to – with his accuracy depending on his confidence and abilities. The seam movement is quite realistic but the swing movement is way too much. I got the ball to swing wildly on a hot sunny day in Kolkata! But overall it’s still an improvement. Brett Lee feels a lot faster than Glen McGrath. The bounce and spin are realistic. Another good addition is the ability to change field settings on the fly at the press of a button.
Overall playing the game is a lot more fun than before.

EA Sports Cricket 07 : Gameplay Video (Batting)


[ Please note that the video was recorded after applying the Planet
Cricket Correct Names Roster v1]

The final verdict

EA Sports Cricket 07 is definitely a significant improvement. It’s the best cricket game till date. However, it’s still flawed in many respects. Ea Sports 07 is all that Cricket 04 should have been able to achieve. EA has taken 2 extra titles and 3 more years than they should have. If you can wait, it may make sense to wait for a few more months and check out BLIC 07 before buying the game. BLIC will include multiplayer mode, which should make things more interesting and fun. But if you are a diehard cricket game fan you will probably want to get it anyway.

NOTE : Please dont request for cd-keys or download links for the full version of Cricket 2007. Such details would not be provided here.

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