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Its summer time, and no football tournaments means it must be time for the Ashes. So have Codemasters struck a six, or fallen for a golden duck with Ashes Cricket 2009? Now, for those of you that are not familiar with the Ashes. The Ashes is a test cricket series played between England and Australia.  It is one of international cricket’s most celebrated rivalries, and dates back to 1882. It is currently played biennially, switching hosts from Australia and England each time. Since cricket is a summer game, the venues being in opposite hemispheres means the break between series alternates between 18 and 30 months. A series of “The Ashes” usually comprises five Test matches, but this number of matches has varied from one to seven. If a series is draw, then the country already holding the Ashes retains them. Now the contents of the Urn are said to be the ashes of an original stump or bat from the first game between the two sides way back in 1882. When the Aussies claimed to have killed the English game and the ashes were symbolic.

Now that we have the simple rules and history of the game out of the way, let’s talk about the actual game. The game is licensed by the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board), Cricket Australia and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), owners of the Ashes Urn. It includes all the official players of the Australian cricket team and the England cricket team. There are ten other teams such as the West Indies, Pakistan and South Africa, just to name a few. Now, these teams are in the game from the get go, but are not fully licensed, so players are not listed under they’re real names, like England and Australia.

Visually the game isn’t much to look at, and the animation can be clunky most of the time .The graphics are ok – but for a next gen game, I have come to expect better. That said the 18 stadiums that appear in the game look the part, and weather tends to make the game feel more realistic. It is always good when you see the pitch wearing as the tests progress. It is such a shame that the licensed players do not look like their real life counter parts.  Player likenesses are hit and miss as some players are spot on and others you will be wondering who they are meant to be.

As you would expect, game play in Ashes cricket 2009 is split up into three parts, Batting, Bowling and fielding. Batting is undoubtedly the most fun early on.  You have three basic shots at your disposal – defend, attack, and loft – that can be either played off the front or back foot. Depending on you’re timing you will either hit the ball in the center of the bat, clip the edge for a fielder to catch or miss it completely. It is a decent system that begins to feel natural after only a few over’s, with all the shots proving useful.

Unfortunately, bowling is not so well balanced.  There are many different bowling options depending style and speed. But the success of a delivery entirely depends on placement rather then the type of delivery chosen. It is painfully difficult to cleanly bowl a player out, even if the delivery is perfect and set to hit the stumps cleanly, it almost always results in the AI defending the shot. It is alright at first, but after a few over’s it gets very tiresome. This leaves it down to you’re fielders to turn the game in you’re favor with either a run out or catch.

Ashes 2009 PS3 screenshot

Fielding is rather easy, as it’s mainly automatic and only requires you to take notice when making a catch or choosing which stump. Catching is handled with a quick time event, where a circle around the ball changes quickly from red to orange to green, illustrating when you should press the button.  Press it when it’s red and you will always drop the ball; green will always result in a catch, and orange is the middle ground where the outcome is 50/50.  Though I found it’s pretty evil, and the green only appears once and for a split second, which almost always means you have to go for orange, and hope that lady luck is on you’re side.

As well as the Ashes series itself, you have the choice of playing in single tests, one day internationals and twenty over games. This will be where you get to use the other 10 teams in the game.  The game also delivers a tutorial mode which I suggest you go and complete before taking on the CPU.  Tutorial mode is accompanied by commentary from Sir Ian Botham and Shane Warne, which can sometimes chuck up a funny line.  My favorite mode though has to be the actual Ashes series as whooping the Aussies at different venues again and again never gets boring. Though when you have had enough playing the current ashes you can Re-live historic turning points and take on new challenges in the Classic Ashes moments. And let’s not forget you can also take your chosen side online and battle it out with other cricket fans in your chosen number of over’s.

All in all this is an alright game but lacks in certain places.  That said Cricket is a hard sport to carry over into the gaming world, so for that, I will let certain things slide, the fact they got the official Hawk-Eye tracking into the game is a nice side feature. Commentary is also a good feature as Ashes Cricket 2009 has the voice talents of Jonathan Agnew, Tony Greig and Ian bishop. If your a cricket fan you will – like me – be happy with the game and enjoy the simple pleasure that is cricket. So if your not into Cricket and have also avoided the Ashes on telly, then this also is not for you.

7 Ninja Heads Out of 10

7 out of 10 rating