Jeremy Jastrzab
20 Aug, 2009

Ashes Cricket 2009 Review

360 Review | The greatest rivalry of all time, now playing on a console near you.
Here at PALGN, we make no secret of the fact that we like cricket. Shame that this great sporting past time hasn’t always made a good transition to games consoles, with neither the EA efforts of Cricket 2005 or Cricket 07 helping us get through the rain breaks. Codemasters on the other hand seem to be onto something, judging by Ricky Ponting Cricket and Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007. And as the epic battle for cricket’s greatest prize, the Ashes, winds down for 2009, we finally get to chase the famed urn with Ashes Cricket 2009.

Two years and a change of developers may have passed, but Ashes Cricket 2009 is a rather familiar experience. In fact, it’s not that much different from its predecessor. There have been a few minor tweaks and changes, but nothing to set the core gameplay apart. This doesn’t prevent Ashes Cricket 2009 from being good. However, it doesn’t explain why the game continually missed the designated shipping date either.

While gameplay has steadily improved, the Codemasters cricket games seem to have lost features throughout the years. In Ashes Cricket 2009, you have the option of playing through the 2009 Ashes itinerary, playing a test series, and mini-knockout tournaments for limited overs and Twenty20 matches, as well as exhibitions for all three. Twenty20 matches can’t have the length changed but do have specific rules such as the Free Hit. You don’t even have the option to play a World Cup or even any sort of extended league. Such a sparse selection of modes doesn’t make for good replay value and are regrettably meagre compared to the previous games.

Bowling, Jimmy!

Bowling, Jimmy!
You also have Legends training, where Ian Botham and Shane Warne walk you through the details of cricket and gameplay mechanics. The batting training is very deep and informative, though the bowling and fielding sessions get the job done but are quite basic in comparison. Previous Codemasters cricket games had fascinating historical recreations, which are somewhat covered in the Legends challenges. However, these are incredibly basic and don’t rekindle the same nostalgia and excitement as previous games.

Ashes Cricket 2009 has made a few good advances in the core gameplay, but overall, the feel is similar to its predecessor. Batting has revolved around three shots: defence, attack and loft, with the success of each depending on your timing, as indicated by a timing meter. These shots are directed with the analogue stick and you have almost 360 degrees scoring capability. The main addition is the ability to play shots off the front or back foot, using the left trigger for back foot and left bumper/button for front foot. Holding both together will charge the bowler.

Again, the success of your shots depends on your timing and how well you read the bowler, though playing off the front and back foot allows for your shots to be more precise. The majority of the time, you’ll have the AI bowling at your mercy if you play aggressively yet sensibly. Occasionally, your timing will read ‘perfect’ but you’ll only get a single and sometimes you’ll play a back foot shot when you wanted a front foot one, but overall, the batting gives you the chance to score at an unbelievable rate. This can be good fun for a while.

Johnson's pitch map seems to be a little generous.

Johnson's pitch map seems to be a little generous.
Bowling still remains an intuitive task, thanks to the button layout, though it can become thankless. The bowling metre still dictates speed for fast bowlers, but now it dictates flight and trajectory for spinners. Hence, a ball bowled from the light green zone of the meter will have maximum pace and movement for pace bowlers and maximum flight, drift and spin for spinners. However, it seems that the developers have made bowling much harder, as the AI batsmen can almost take you to school as badly as you take them. This can definitely get quite embarrassing on higher difficulties. So while the bowling is functional, the superior batting often renders you feeling hopeless when in the field.

Fielding has had some changes as well. Changing the field is much easier now, as you can do so in-game without going into the menu. You now use the analogue stick to pick which end you want to throw a return to, which you can change at the last split second to try and confuse the batsmen. Catching is a little different though, where the action will slow down with a skied ball. A coloured ring will appear around the ball and pressing A/X when it’s green will guarantee a catch, while on orange you have a chance of dropping it. On red, you’ve missed your chance and down she goes.

While Ashes Cricket 2009 is a game that is heavily skewed towards the batting, Test Matches are actually playable in a reasonable time frame. Oddly, often shorter than a full 50 over game. The opponent AI can be very trigger happy, especially on lower difficulties. Thankfully, if mercilessly slogging the AI gets boring, you can always head online or find a friend to play on the one screen. This helps even things out a little, so long as you can find an opponent online. With a limited audience, this can be difficult when searching off the whim. So even though Ashes Cricket 2009 may be a little sparse of your usual sports features and though it’s quite similar to its predecessor, it can still be a fun game.

He's gone!... Or is he?

He's gone!... Or is he?
Staple player customisation features such as changing attributes and looks are basic in comparison to sports games with higher budgets, they get the job done. The most interesting addition is that as you play with the different teams, players will earn skill points for making runs and taking wickets and catches. These skill points can be used to enhance them later. While this addition is welcome, the fact that the game has only snagged the Australian and English licenses is disappointing. Especially when you find that there isn’t enough space to enter the real names later. Also, the player ratings and stats don’t really seem to make much of an impact, though playing and upgrading players goes a little way to help this.

In two years, the visual presentation of the game hasn’t made much headway either. The animations are stiff, limited and repetitive and player likeness is a long shot. There are a few noticeable glitches that sometimes affect batting, and occasionally fielding animations, but nothing game breaking. Weather effects are noticeable, as are the various stadiums. However, the dynamic presentation is poor, with limited replays and 3D umpire replays showing you terrible angles. Still, at least things like Hawk-eye and pitch map are accurate. Commentary is provided by Jonathan Agnew, Tony Grieg, Ian Bishop, Ian Botham and Shane Warne. The quality is actually very good, though there aren’t enough lines recorded, so it becomes repetitive very quickly.

Ashes Cricket 2009 doesn’t disappoint with the glitches and lack of glamour when compared to bigger sports titles. It’s the fact that Codemasters have previously provided more substantial experiences in the past and that this one is so familiar. Despite the room for improvement though, Ashes Cricket 2009 is an enjoyable cricket title. Arguably, the batting is the most important aspect and apart from the occasional timing issues, it strikes a good balance between playability and reality, while multiplayer matches are quite evenly based. So while it gets the style, just manages to trump the substance and it is a fun cricket game, the next game will need to give a bit more.
The Score
It would have been nice to see some more modes, licenses and improvements, but Ashes Cricket 2009 continues the Codemaster cricket dominance by providing a fun and functional game. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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11 May, 2009 Marvellous.
4 years ago
5 or 6 at best to be honest.

Too many bugs, laughably wonky animation, inaccurate controller response and robotic scripted commentary.
4 years ago
6 is what the official PS mag gave it.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  13/08/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Year Made:

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