Review: Don Bradman Cricket (PS4)

don-bradman-cricket-ps4

Title: Don Bradman Cricket
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (Great Britain) (2.1 GB)
Release Date: February 11, 2015
Publisher: Tru Blu Entertainment
Developer: Big Ant Studios
Original MSRP: £59.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
Don Bradman Cricket is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by PS Nation.
PS Nation Review Policy

After EA dropped the Cricket series from its sports portfolio at the end of the PS2’s lifespan, Codemasters attempted to fill the void on PS3. However, they released only three (largely unlicensed – bar Australia and England) games. In comparison, EA put fifteen soccer titles (and counting) on store shelves in the same timeframe. When the dearth in quantity combined with the relatively low quality, it’s no wonder cricket-loving gamers were furious.

At the tail end of 2014 a new night watchman stepped up to the crease. Don Bradman Cricket was deployed by a small Aussie developer to defend a difficult ball on PS3. Having enjoyed a comfortable innings, Big Ant Studios’ title has moved up the order with an early PS4 entrance.

Gameplay:
Don Bradman Cricket on PlayStation 4 plays very nicely indeed. There are no significant flaws with the on-field play at all and the core mechanics have been absolutely nailed like a plum LBW (Leg Before Wicket). Both the batting and bowling play as you’d expect with realistic outcomes to all control inputs. Said controls are the core problem however. The complex nature of them means the game is devoid of any immediacy.

This is, of course, a double-edged sword. If you love Test cricket and easily imagine yourself sinking hours at a time into a single match, you’ll likely have the necessary investment of patience to inject into your Don Bradman Cricket experience. Those who fall into this category will find the game extremely rewarding. In fact, I’d go as far as to say no other sports game provides a greater sense of improvement and such natural depth in its core gameplay.

Unlike past cricket games the batting and bowling controls are purely analogue, replacing the easy (but ultimately limited) button presses. When batting, the left stick controls the player’s feet, whilst the actual bat is mapped to the right stick. Even on the lower difficulties batting is not an easy task. Adventurous shots are almost completely off-limits until you’ve put in the time (which, unfortunately, many gamers don’t have) to fully master foot placement in combination with shot timing. Placing shots around the entire oval is possible, but realistically not against top international bowlers within a few days of cracking the game’s seal.

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Bowling is similarly challenging. At first I found all wickets taken were in the form of catches in the outfield – taking the stumps was nigh on impossible. It’s another mechanic which requires a lot of practice. Thankfully, it must be said that the game is never frustrating in this respect. You immediately realise the game is not ‘broken’, just demanding.

The bowling controls simply feel right, somewhat mimicking real-life actions. Using spin bowlers, for instance, requires three full turns of the left stick. Seam bowlers meanwhile, have a more aggressive motion for the control scheme – a simple push back then forward to select release timing. It’s all very natural – far better than Codemasters’ old button setup – and retains a feeling of the player being in charge of the situation with no assistance from the computer.

… lends itself incredibly well to Remote Play …
Once comfortable with the system it’s clear that Don Bradman Cricket is the most realistic and well-polished game ever based on the sport. Whilst challenging, its technical competence cannot be questioned. There is no sign of the bugs which apparently plagued the last-gen version.

The only question though, is whether it’s actually any fun. At times the game is incredibly boring, with a lack of incentive to keep playing. This mostly comes during the Career mode (akin to EA’s Be a Pro), where you create a player and control only him. You can simulate until the next Over where your man is bowling, but an option to automatically do this (i.e. to avoid continually opening the menu and selecting the option) would have been appreciated.

When donning the Test whites in your early County exploits the game can be particularly testing and monotonous. Players will be forced to channel their inner Geoffrey Boycott, spending a full day hitting singles and defending, just to keep those stumps in pristine condition. Thankfully, even hitting rather standard shots will gradually improve your pro’s stats, meaning unlike many other sports sims, one is not railroaded into flashy and spectacular shots. In a similar vein to the stats, the difficulty is progressive, adapting to your career level pretty well.

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The modes are plentiful, covering the various formats of cricket in different tournament variations but it lacks a wow factor. Career mode doesn’t carry any narrative – it’s nowhere near the bar set by NBA 2K. Fun side-shows like the Skill Challenges of FIFA are absent too, whilst an Ultimate Team competitor has not been attempted. The team selection has a nice feature though in that international sides have a ‘current’ or ‘all-time best’ roster. The pitch options before starting a match (which may well affect the outcome) include the minutiae any fan would expect, such as how worn or cracked it is.

For Remote Play enthusiasts, Don Bradman Cricket is probably the game which best uses the functionality. It actually maps the buttons differently, switching L2 and R2 to the Vita’s shoulder buttons (which normally equate to L1 and R1). On the controls menu, it also displays a Vita with the layout map, rather than a DualShock 4, so one can clearly see how to play on the handheld. Cricket – not requiring unbroken attention like soccer or hockey – lends itself incredibly well to Remote Play where you can feasibly spend hours playing through a match while casually glancing up at a TV show between deliveries.

… commentators are unheard of outside Australia …
Visuals:
As already mentioned, the game is completely unlicensed so no real kits or stadiums are present. More disappointingly, the cricketers don’t even look like their real-life counterparts. Players have the correct skin colour but that’s as far as likenesses go. Admittedly, with batsman wearing helmets and most players not being in view of the camera this isn’t a deal-breaker, as it might be in NBA for instance.

All the bells and whistles of modern day TV coverage – such as Wagon Wheel graphics and Hawk-Eye – are present. The HUD is ok and provides some visual feedback (red, green or orange indicator around the ball). Lighting is very impressive, suitably so for a sport which takes all day in which one would expect to see the sun casting a different shadow over proceedings depending on the time. It runs at 60fps and generally looks ‘good enough’ but nowhere near great. The smooth, high-res, on-field action is certainly let down by the aforementioned licensing issue alongside cardboard cut-out scenery and fans.

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Audio:
Like many sports games, the audible aspects of Don Bradman Cricket are let down by the small budget. The commentators are unheard of outside Australia (who knows, maybe even in Australia) and frankly put in a rather poor performance, lacking oomph. It never sounds like a real match.

There are nowhere near enough lines either with many repeated on an Overly basis whilst many comments are simply not applicable to the event which they’re reacting to. With the lengthy nature of cricket, this lacklustre commentary is a cardinal sin. The only way to play Don Bradman Cricket is by muting your TV and listening to your iPod (a PlayStation-centric, tangent-loving podcast, perhaps?).

The menu music grates pretty quickly – again this is due to budget. The actual on-field sounds are not bad at all however. The impact of ball on bat is pretty good whilst the thwack of a pace ball hitting a stump is satisfying.

… will require a sizable investment of time …
Online/Multiplayer:
Unfortunately, this falls into the niche category of sports titles whose online presence is quieter than a County Cricket crowd. Finding a match is difficult, which is obviously not helped by the scarcity of physical copies – Don Bradman Cricket on PS4 and Xbox One is pretty rare right now and I doubt another production run will be called for. However, once a match is found, it runs very nicely. The ‘quick match’ option is a hugely truncated form of cricket, dubbed Five5. It works well overall. Unsurprisingly for a game so slow-paced, lag is not something you’d have to worry about either.

Perhaps the best online feature is the way Big Ant Studios has navigated the licensing issue. Upon booting up the game for the first time it asks whether you’d like to download the ‘best rated’ custom teams which ensures all the players are correctly named. This simple implementation is something Konami could learn from with the kit situation in PES. If the soccer sim were to auto-download community-created imagery it would negate the licensing advantage of FIFA with no effort from the user. The Aussie developer has done well to find a solution to an issue the aforementioned Japanese team has struggled with for years.

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Conclusion:
Don Bradman Cricket is an extremely solid sports sim on the PS4 but one that ultimately falls short in being worthy of the name on the box. The gameplay is at times superb, nailing the core mechanics of cricket in an almost flawless recreation. However, the complex control scheme means the game lacks any immediacy. Like an RPG, it will require a sizable investment of time to fully appreciate the game, which is arguably a by-product of the sport’s format.

This is also a very plain and mundane affair which is crying out for some bombast in its presentation almost like in real life a decade ago, where the Test format needed T20 to ignite a wider fanbase. The available game modes are comprehensive, but again, lack a fun, unique distraction like FIFA’s Skill Challenges. Overall, the price of the game (which will certainly not dip, for the physical copy at least) will not be justified for most gamers. Hardcore cricket fans should seriously consider Don Bradman Cricket, but this is not the game to convert anyone else.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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  • Kumar Gaurav

    can I play offline on the same ps4 with 2 remotes against another player(posing as a team). Every where the mention is of online. I do not want to play online with random players.

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