Cricket games are hard to make. Batting, Bowling and Fielding are 3 completely different acts that function considerably different from each other. While most cricket games have tried to simplify this and bring a unified control scheme across the three fronts, Big Ant Studios decide to make all 3 of them as different as possible.
Its like the Dark Souls of Sports game, unforgiving but extremely rewarding.
(+) Its not always about the runs
Don Bradman Cricket 14 is perhaps the best Cricket simulation you will ever play. That’s including all the EA games, all the Codemasters games and all the other stuff that comes in the middle. The reason : they knew Cricket is much more than batting. Every cricket game in history, is so heavily biased towards batting that it impossible to appreciate the dying art of bowling. A game between the player and the AI becomes a joke; and a game between 2 players becomes a run-fest. Don Bradman cricket tries hard to balance that out. Know your bowling, get good at it and it becomes an actual usable skill in the game. I played frequent T10 matches with my brother (who had been playing the game since it came out) and just after a week I was able to compete with him mainly on the basis of my bowling skills.
(-) Spin it this way, turn it that
Don Bradman Cricket 14 is difficult. The controls are not intuitive, and not everything is well explained in the tutorials. Infact, this was the first game in years, for which I had to actually download a manual so that I could learn the nuances of the game. You can survive through an entire career of FIFA without ever learning trick moves or first touch, but its almost impossible to get a test selection in Don Bradman until you know how to bowl an arm-ball, and bat on both feet.
Having said that, once you spend enough time on the controls, they become easy to relate. For eg. turning the left analog during spin bowling determines the revolutions on the ball, while pulling the analog stick back during batting means playing a shot on the back-foot.
(+) The Career that I always wanted
Don Bradman Cricket also does a very good job of offering perhaps the best career mode. Earlier games have either decided to relieve memorable games, or have allowed for you to create a monster of a player and let him walk into any squad. Don Bradman on the other hand, tries to replicate the struggle of a cricketer as close as possible. You can start off from the age of 16 and play on till the age of 29. During that time, you will be asked to select a county to play for. Every match will earn you XP, which will in turn add to your overall abilities and gradually make you a better player. According to your performances you will be offered various contracts from different clubs across the globe (Australia, and India) before finally getting a call up from your nation’s cricket team.
Unlike other career modes in other sports game, Don Bradman actually attaches a value to the struggle. It provides you with goals, instead of just asking you to win matches upon matches. It encourages you to spend time in the game, improving you every match and taking you nearer to that ultimate goal of representing your nation’s cricket team.
(+) Custom this Custom that
Don Bradman Cricket 14 does not license any official tournaments, players (except Don Bradman) or teams. And yet they are able to provide perhaps the most comprehensive roster available. Part of it is because you can create teams, edit player names, produce kits and what not to closely match the current cricket eco-system as closely as possible. Similarly you can create tournaments with different stages and rules to replicate probably any tournament on the face of this earth.
The good part is the fact that you don’t actually need to do the hard work. Just connect your system to the internet, update the teams, and poof the most recent version of most teams are now available for your playing pleasure.
(-) Just one backlift
With all that custom goodness, you would think I was a happy bunny. Yes you can create your own player, tweak his face, his features, his pads and his bats, but the real customization especially in a Cricket game comes from body language. Virat’s stance is visually different from Ponting’s. Brett Lee celebrates a wicket a lot differently than Ravi Rampaul. Having generic motions for all these activities, made the game much more bland. This is all the more accentuated by the fact that Don Bradman delivers everything else that I want from a cricket game but this. Just a bit more motion capture, and you never know what this game could have become.
(-) Bugs or Human Error
Make no doubt about it Don Bradman is glitchy. Fielders are normally superhuman, able to cover impossible distances with amazing speeds and keeping the threes down to singles. But there are times, when the fielders and the wicket keeper are caught in an endless loop of overthrows. Dives which comically fall short of the crease, and bats that hang precariously in the air while you are run-out, are some other bugs that make for some frustrating times. But they do make for hilarious moments especially when you are not on the receiving end, and sometimes just make the game feel more human.
While most such bugs can be taken in stride, the wicket keeper though is a different case altogether. He is extremely lethargic, and there is a better chance of me baking a cake before him getting a stumping. Also the unexplained delay between the wicketkeeper/fielder collecting the ball and removing the bails is something which stood out like a sore thumb in an otherwise very fun game.
|(+) Balance Between Bat and Ball
||(-) Fielding is buggy
|(+) Fleshed Out Career
||(-) Controls can be better explained
|(+) Options to create custom tournaments
||(-) Low variety in player mannerism
I think its a good indicator, when most drawback in a game are what you want to see in the game, instead of something actually wrong with the game. I sincerly hope that Don Bradman Cricket 14 comes to the next gen so I can play it on my PS4. I also hope that Big Ant Studios keep on making such insightful, and deep Cricket games.
Don Bradman Cricket 14 is the best Cricket experience you can get right now.