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December 19, 2003
EA Sports Cricket 2004 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
15/12/2003EA SportsHB Studios1-4GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
3835KBStereoYesNoNoneNo

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The LBW decision replay.
For the majority of people in living in Australia cricket is their preferred summer sport. You only need to look at the TV ratings during a big match (or tournament) to see how popular it is. There was little doubt then that EA Sports' first cricket release on PS2, EA Sports Cricket 2002, was going to generate a lot of interest, and indeed the game remained near the top of the sales charts for almost a year. The game wasn't without its problems however, but was still a lot of fun. EA Sports Cricket 2004 looks set to remedy many of those problems, add a lot of new features and generally have a lot more spit and polish.

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Our friends from over the Tasman.
The developers, HB Studios, have packed this game with features. As well as all of the international teams and bonus squads, EA Sports Cricket 2004 includes domestic teams from England and Australia (it seems that New Zealand and South African domestic teams were dropped at the last minute) thanks to licenses from their corresponding cricket boards. These licenses have allowed the developers to include all the real players likenesses and names. The game includes several modes of play. As well as the one-day and test matches the game has several modes including test series', knockout tournaments, tours to countries and much more. Basically, all types of tournaments are covered in the game.

The number of stadiums included also deserves special mention with over 75 from around the world being accurately modeled (although their names aren't used but rather their locations). Rather then seeing MCG as one of the ground the game simply lists it as Melbourne, instead of Gabba we get Brisbane etc. The developers, however, have also included much smaller grounds from each country to make up a wide variety. The conditions of the ground have been suited to their real-life conditions. For instance Perth is an extremely hard and fast pitch.

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Creating a player.
Of course it is possible to edit your cricket team, and indeed you can select the Australian team from several hundred Australian players from state teams. If you wish you can also enter the create-a-player mode, which allows you to set the looks and attributes of the player. This is especially useful with the exclusion of Shane Warne from the game. Sure he was banned for 12 months, but was that the reason for his exclusion as he'll be back in a couple of weeks. Strange.

Actually controlling the players is a joy. Battling allows you to play a normal shot, front foot, or back foot and depending which way you press the analogue stick the batsmen play the shot. If you want more power the L1 button increases the power to your shot, although this will often sky the ball to a fielder. Bowling is also intuitive with a marker showing the accuracy and a movement of the analogue stick will determine the swing/spin to put on the ball. One area which has improved is the running between the wickets. While the players can take a little long to turn around they are generally responsive to your commands, something that previous games have struggled with. Fielding cab be automatic or manual, and while getting a runout on automatic is nigh on impossible, it is the better option for novices. Multi-player is also supported (but no online gameplay sadly), this time with up to 4-players in the game. When two humans are controlling the batsmen both must want to go for the run so there are no mixups. This game really is a joy in multi-player.

BUGS...

This game certainly isn't as bad as Cricket 2002, but there are still several bugs worth mentioning:
1. If a fielder takes a catch on the boundary and throws the ball in the air in celebration if it lands over the rope the catch is canceled, and a 4 is awarded to the batsmen.
2. The umpire seems to call Leg Bye for almost anything.
3. The commentary sometimes has incorrect scores etc.
4. The game incorrectly calculates run rates during overs.

As you can see from the box-out, there are a few technical faults with the game that should have been remedied before release (although none will make you re-boot the game as was the case with EA Sports Cricket 2002). As a game in itself the ease at which the opponents can hit 4's and 6's off good balls becomes annoying, especially as your big shots often head straight for the fielders. One of the biggest downfalls of this game is the lack of catches from slip fielders and the wicket keeper. It's not that they won't take catches, just that the batsmen never snick the ball through to them. I can see that too many catches behind the wicket would become annoying, however with no catches behind the wicket it removes a lot of realism in the game.

Another annoyance is the save file size. I think this game sets a new record with a save size of 3835kb. Sure it has to store a lot of data such as all the player stats, but other games with similar storage requirements use much less space. This almost makes you require a new memory card (especially if you get Sims Bustin' Out which requires almost 1500kb as well). Surely the data could have been compressed or reduced.

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Take a hike son!
It is quite clear that the graphics in this game have been beefed up considerably from EA Sports Cricket 2002. The players faces still look very average, but are certainly improved while the overall look of the game is a lot crisper. Animation on the players has also been improved. Using motion capture the game looks a lot more realistic, and while at times the game jumps from one animation to the next (umpires giving out LBW decisions for instance) overall it's an acceptable package. The crowds, and their animations are the most disappointing aspect of the game. They are blurry, too animated when not cheering, and lacking home team support colours etc. Go to an Australian match in Australia and look at the sea of green and gold for instance. Go to India and you'll see a sea of blue.

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Smashing the ball for six!
Sound has also been improved significantly for this title. The effects from the crowds and players are realistic, although at times the crowds are a little bit "on of off" if you know what I mean. The commentary from Jim Maxwell and the legendary Richie Benaud is fairly good, and while a little broken is much better then the original game. At times, however the scores can be incorrect. I guess that's just like Richie in real life though!

There is little doubt that this game is far superior to EA Sports Cricket 2002. It is a shame however that the game was rushed out in time for Christmas as there are still some flaws that become somewhat annoying. Still, they are nowhere near as drastic as the previous game and cricket fans should love this title. EA Sports Cricket 2004 is highly recommended for cricket fans.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSGraphics are certainly improved, but still not up to EA standards.
76%
SOUNDCommentary is passable, just, the music and effects are also adequate.
80%
GAMEPLAYThis is cricket for sure, but the bugs can distract from the game.
75%
VALUENumerous teams, game modes and stadiums will keep you hooked.
89%
OVERALLEA Sports Cricket 2004 is certainly better then the last game from a couple of years ago. There are still some bugs, and a few other things should have been fixed, but this is a game that cricket fans will love.
77%

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