Cricket 22 – A Short Run
PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC
Pure video game adaptations of the great game of Cricket are sorely lacking in number. Sure there are the Stick Cricket’s of the world, or the hilarious Cricket Through The Ages to give us all an arcade-inspired laugh, but the FIFA or NBA 2K styled simulation doesn’t exist. Big Ant, have long been trying to give us that kind of title though, and for years have worked to gradually refine their formula to create a Cricket title worthy of the game. Cricket, especially the oldest forms of the game, requires patience, and just like the game that inspires it, the adaptations have also required patience. With their newest Cricketing title, Big Ant has been talking a big game, but talk is cheap, actions are what matter, and in the case of Cricket 22, it’s a case of all talk, but very little action unfortunately.
Let’s get this out on the table early. Cricket 22 is the best simulation Cricket title the world has seen thus far. It includes everything that players have come to expect from a modern sports sim, from career modes, to several other standalone ones, online play, and a whole lot more. For Australian/English fans, there is a dedicated Ashes mode that further fuels the rivalry as well. The feature set is excellent, and the Career Mode in particular is a real highlight. Players can, as always have a great deal of agency over the player they create, from their look to the many intricacies of their playing style. Of course, as always, it’s far more enjoyable (and much easier) to be a batsman, as the art of bowling, regardless of whether you’re quick, an offie or a leg spinner, is just not that enjoyable to play outside of really short bursts. The pathway for your burgeoning career as always starts at the local level, and especially for their home soil, Big Ant has toiled away to represent more local clubs than ever before, best highlighted to me when I saw my own little regional/rural club represented, and we’re hardly a blip on the state’s radar typically. From there your ascent is a rapid as you may it; perform well from match to match and your efforts will be noticed by recruiters, and your climb from the local leagues to state level, and then the international stage. As you rise through the ranks, more and more opportunities will become available to you, from the many T20 competitions around the globe, where you and your manager work to make you available for as many matches as possible, to then representing your country in the T20, ODI, and Test scenes.
While the journey is fascinating, and the options for each mode are equally great, where Big Ant’s Cricket titles have always fallen short of the other sims is in the moment-to-moment gameplay and the presentation of the game. On the gameplay side, clear refinements have been made to improve many aspects of the game, and they’ve paid off, various batting strokes, look and feel better to execute, and fielding, while it can be boring assuming the role of one person in the field in career mode, watching on as the ball is flayed to all corners except the one you’re occupying, gives players numerous opportunities to take spectacular catches or throw down the stumps, and as always, it feels good to do so. Bowling, as always, is the major sticking point. While the options are vast, and it’s easy enough to execute, just like it is in any T20 game, Cricket 22 really favours the batsmen. As a batsman it’s far too easy to manipulate the bowling, and I quickly found it was easy, no matter the match difficulty, to take a stance outside off and heave everything to the leg side. Fine Leg and Square Leg fieldsmen will get an absolute workout as everything then gets pulled or hooked in their direction, and the runs flow freely. When you’re in a test match, and your opening partnership is scoring 500+ runs off just 30 overs, the two core Cricketing disciplines clearly aren’t well enough balanced, to provide equal opportunities for batter or bowler to succeed.
In terms of the way the game presents itself, Cricket 22 is the best looking and sounding game yet, but when compared to its peers in the same space, Cricket 22 is a game of beach cricket to FIFA’s international stage. Obviously, the financial scope of the studios that work on the respective sports are significantly different, but it’s still hard not to look at Cricket 22 and wonder “what if?”. The animations of the players look brilliant, with standard shots all playing out as you would expect, even the unconventional helicopter shots introduced by the likes of Rashid Khan or Glenn Maxwell, let alone the various ticks displayed by Steve Smith are rendered surprisingly well. A great deal of care has clearly been given to representing the players as accurately as possible, so beyond that, it’s still a shame that in 2021 we’re seeing such bland crowd activity, and lack-luster commentary. The commentary teams seem to have the memory equal to that of a goldfish where several consecutive sixes struck in an over can be completely forgotten after a single dot ball, and so the bowler has apparently completely tied the batsman up. I took this as a personal insult and would always smoke the next ball into the carpark just to put the team in their place should they ever doubt me again. It’s clear that commentary has been recorded where the teams responded to a single ball, as opposed to a collection of them, or even the overall state of the game, so the team can often feel disconnected from the reality of the situation. It can go quite tiresome, and might often lead to your TV’s mute functionality being utilised.
Big Ant had talked a big game leading up to the launch of Cricket 22, promising numerous big improvements, and while some are most certainly here, and absolutely lead to a better final product, the time and financial resources need to shift to different sectors of the game going forward, namely to bowling and the presentation. Cricket 22 is without any hint of doubt, the best representation of one of the oldest, and best, sports around, but if Big Ant want to take the next step, to reach the summit and join the sporting sim elite, there is still more to be done.