Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 - PS2 Review
With the Cricket World Cup now around half way through there was probably no better time for distributors Atari, and developers Codemasters, to release Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007. Interest is peaking and despite the off field tragedy of Bob Woolmer's death, the series has been one of massive upsets and surprises. With Electronic Arts surprisingly not offering a new game to coincide with the current World Cup (which probably isn't a bad thing given the quality of their Cricket titles) we are left with Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 (or Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 as it is know in other parts of the world.
|In-game with HUD on display.|
Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2005 was a solid title an Codemasters have wisely left much of that game intact while making several improvements in many areas. In terms of game modes there are a couple of options. The biggest of these are the ICC World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy however you can also compete in Custom One Day Internationals, Custom Test matches and Custom Twenty-20 matches. The game also includes a great training, or coaching, mode so you can learn the skills required to perform with competence in the game. If you're a bit of a cricket novice then this is a good place to start.
|A defensive shot.|
Batting is certainly the most enjoyable part of the game, with a wide range of shots available. As the bowler comes in you will see the general location where the ball will hit the pitch giving you a few moments to move the batsmen left or right on the crease (but sadly still not forward or back). As the ball is bowled you can press the analogue stick in the direction you would like to hit the ball, and then a button corresponding with the amount of power be it a defensive shot, normal shot or powerful shot. It's easy to master, intuitive and very entertaining.
Bowling in RPIC 2007 remains similar to previous titles. After pressing the button to start your run up you need to press either the square, X or circle when the power meter is near it's peak (unless you want to bowl a slower ball in which case you bowl the ball earlier). Depending if you press the square, X or circle button you can determine which way to cut or spin the ball while pressing one of the shoulder buttons allows you to adjust the aim at the very last second in the hope to fool the batsmen into a wayward shot or a miss.
|Can he take the catch...|
On the easier difficulty levels the marker showing where you ball will land will turn green for a perfectly pitched delivery, orange of an average pitched delivery or red for one that is way off the mark and unlikely to take a wicket. It's a great way to get used to where to pitch the ball for the best delivery. Finally it is now possible to return the ball from the field to either end of the wicket - the bowler's or keeper's which is great for increasing your chances of getting a run-out.
Unfortunately the developers really did need to increase the difficulty. While EA's cricket title is near impossible to bat, Codemasters is quite the opposite. It's far too easy to obtain massive scores by slogging at almost every ball. In most six over matches on easy difficulty I score well over 140 runs, while even on the hardest difficulty level I could still score 80-100 with ease - and that was only after a couple of hours play. Given that I was then bowling the opposition out for under 10 runs frequently on the easy difficulty level, and limiting them (but not bowling them out) for about 50 on the hardest there are some inequities in the game. Don't get me wrong though, the game is extremely enjoyable batting or bowling, but it needed to be toughened up a bit.
|Real bats are also in the game!|
Sadly the biggest problem with RPIC 2007 is the fielding and catching. When your player is about to gather the ball (to either return it to the wicket, or take the catch) a small meter appears on screen and you must press the button at the exact moment or you'll drop the catch or have a poor return to the stumps. The problem is that the meter is on the screen for such as short period of time (around a second) that it's almost sheer luck if you time it just right. Sure, in real life players have a fraction of a second to react, but reacting to a ball coming off the bat is a bit easier then looking at the TV, having a camera angle change, readjusting your eyes to your fielder and then having to respond to the on-screen marker to catch the ball. If you're in the slips or close into the batsmen the reaction time is even less, only fractions of a second, and even if the ball is heading straight for you at chest height for a 'simple' catch the odds are that you'll miss it.
There are other things that could have been improved prior to release. While the game supports 4-players on a single console there is no option for online play. The save system is a bit cumbersome to in terms of needing to manually save in the tournament, and your profile - I would have thought this could have been set to happen automatically this late in a consoles life.
|Going for the pull shot.|
Finally, yet another of the big disappointments in this game is that real player names only appear in the ICC World Cup and Champions Trophy. No other modes keep the player names, although their likenesses are kept in the team so you can tell the players apart. As for the names, instead of Brett Lee you'll see B. Leap and for Matthew Hayden you will M. Hayder and so on. Fortunately the developers have given you the option to manually rename the players to whatever you want - including their real names. Despite all these negatives I really can't stress enough just how entertaining this title is. In multi-player especially (the game supports 4-players offline) when it's a slog fest the matches can be very close.
Graphically Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 is good but not great. The stadium and fields look wonderful, the menus are polished and the animations also pretty good. The developers still haven't got the likenesses of players right yet, some are quite good whereas some still require a bit more work.
Audio is certainly a mixed bag as well. We are quite disappointed that none of the player names are called out, not even in the main tournaments however commentary from Tony Greig, Bill Lawry, Jonathan Agnew, David Gower and Ian Bishop is generally pretty accurate although even when you're chasing a low score (eg 7 as I was on a couple of occasions) they would still say that we need not throw our wickets away or similar crazy statements. The game could have also done with some more variety in the music however the on field and crowd effects are fine.
|Graphics really are quite nice.|
We have to admit that if you have a XBox 360 then that is the version of Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 to get due to improved graphics (the PC version looks great too, but misses the analogue sticks to direct your shot accurately), but the gameplay and features in this PS2 version are all intact and cricket fans will have a great time with this game. Sure, it's still not perfect, and to be honest there could have been another month or two's polish put on top, but this is still a very entertaining title and still way ahead of Electronic Arts' dire titles.
Review By: Dave WarnerOrder your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
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|GRAPHICS||Stadiums and animation are great, player models could be better.||72%|
|SOUND||Solid commentary, sound effects and crowds, needed more music.||70%|
|GAMEPLAY||Well the developers have certainly improved the game but it's simply way to easy, and catching way to hard. Needed more balancing.||73%|
|VALUE||RRP is only $AU79.95 which is nice, and there's quite a bit of fun to be had, just not much challenge.||70%|
|OVERALL||Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 is the best cricket game we've ever played, however it's still not perfect and to be honest we expected more improvements over the last version. Cricket fans should check this out - it's a good way to waste a few hours.||73%|