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International Cricket 360 goes first person and creates an authentic experience. These, and other, impressive design decisions are well delivered but without the finesse that would make this a really stand out cricketing game.
International Cricket may not simulate everyone's sport of choice, but from a technical standpoint at least this is an impressive game. If you add in even a modicum of enthusiasm for leather on willow and you have a surprisingly compelling experience.
Although International Cricket has changed names a few times in its history, gaining and losing a variety of cricketing endorsements, the underlying mechanics have stayed pretty much the same. What has gone unnoticed though is that each year the game has been taking strong strides towards competence.
This year they bring a technical innovation that makes a real difference not only to the play mechanics but also the way the game feels as a whole. The first person over the shoulder view may sound like a simple tweak - but the work that has obviously gone into accommodating this new style of playing is impressive and far reaching.
It's a trick we've seen recently in Tiger Woods - and in a different genre in Mirror's Edge before that. But unlike Tiger, where it doesn't make a big difference to how you interact with the game, here the new view alters play substantially.
Bowling has an added sense of pace and direction to it. I found myself better able to place the ball and select an appropriate pace. Itís hard to put your finger on it because in many ways the view doesnít change anything - but intangibly it changes everything.
What has gone unnoticed though is that each year the game has been taking strong strides towards competence.
But more than bowling, batting is where I found the greatest benefit from this camera innovation. Before receiving the ball you can take a moment to look round the field in first person. Not only does this give you a sense of where you want to get the ball when it arrives, but also enables you to more easily orientate yourself.
At first it is a little restrictive, but like any new technology or technique in gaming with a little practice it really starts to make sense.
There seems to be more attention to timing in this year's game as well. To really pick off a side drive or leg-side hooks you really need to nail the timing now. Along with this there is more flexibility to go for last minute adjustments - even being able to advance down the wicket if you spot the incoming spin early enough.
Maybe because of its videogame context I found the 20 over matches to be about right - although I prefer the long game in real life. But here is the rub, cricket on a console is always going to be a tricky game to get right. Make it more realistic - like this year's game - and you are in danger of becoming too pedestrian for the audience. Make it more gamey though and you will lose the cricket fans.
Admittedly it struggles more in single player but I'm willing to forgive this for all the other technical progress.
Coming from the gaming side of things, rather than with a passion for cricket, I think they manage to pull it off - certainly erring towards the cricket aficionados but with enough of a video game feel for people like me who are after something with a bit more action.
I would have preferred a little more flexibility in some areas though. Fielding at times feels a little disconnected with the player - at times taking on a life of its own. You can press a button to catch the ball and choose the end of the wicket, but beyond that it's a little lacking.
I was a little surprised that the game didn't look better, technically, on the 360. It perhaps gives away its multi-platform development approach that looks to have hamstrung the more powerful consoles. It's just the little bugs and glitches that give the game away and make it feel a little unfinished.
I enjoyed the game much more playing with friends but was frustrated I couldn't do this locally - but let's not get into my split screen multiplayer hobby horse. If you don't have someone to play with online the AI is good for a practice, but lacks that spark on invention that a human player brings.
At the end of the day International Cricket 2010 won me over with its innovations that granted me many happy hours of cricketing fun with friends. Admittedly it struggles more in single player but I'm willing to forgive this for all the other technical progress.
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