Indian cricket is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons. Players, ex-players and administrators at every level are at the centre of controversy involving accusations of betting, match-fixing, and conflict of interest. While the ICC World T20 tournament continues, India's cricketing machinery has come to a standstill, with the president of India's cricket board likely to step down or be removed. The participation of two of the eight teams in this year's IPL season is at serious threat. This year's IPL is itself in doubt. Amid all this, the Indian cricket fan's faith in the sport and those that run it is at an all-time low.
The perfect time, then, for us to take our love for cricket away from the real world.
April will witness the release of two cricket games that, based on what we've seen so far, look far less likely to disappoint than the real-world sport itself. On consoles, there's Don Bradman Cricket 14 (PS3, Xbox 360) – perhaps the most accurate simulation of cricket we've ever seen in a game. There's also a PC version set for release in June. For mobile gamers, Real Cricket 14 from Hyderabad-based Nautilus Mobile also seeks to bring a cricket simulation experience, but to a wider audience on Android and iOS. Between them, they offer months of cricket entertainment minus the nonsense.
Don Bradman Cricket 14
It almost seems like another lifetime when gamers were spoiled by the likes of Cricket 97 and Brian Lara 99, but Don Bradman Cricket 14 looks set to raise the bar for cricket games, which quite frankly, is pretty low right now. Developed by a small team in Melbourne, Don Bradman Cricket 14 doesn't have the financial backing of an EA, so you won't see officially licensed teams in the game, but it more than makes up for those with its customisation options. You can create your own teams, players and competitions and share them with other players.
The community has been at it for a year now, creating real-world players and teams for the game, and when you first fire up Don Bradman Cricket 14, you'll be given the option to replace all the fake players and teams with accurate recreations of real-world players and teams created by the community. And that's just the beginning of the customisation options Don Bradman Cricket 14 offers. You can create your own tournaments, devise your own match rules, set any time-of-day and pitch conditions. The possibilities are limitless.
In terms of gameplay, Don Bradman Cricket 14 plays unlike any cricket game before. It makes extensive use of both analogue sticks for batting and bowling, and you're no longer just a passenger when it comes to fielding. There are no pitch markers or on-screen indicators to tell you how to bat or ball; as in real life, it's all about observation, timing, and skill. You can choose to play five-over matches or five-day Test matches, and you can even play lengthy matches online with or against a friend. You'll even have the option to save online matches mid-way and continue them at a later time.
In a first for cricket games, Don Bradman Cricket 14 features a lengthy career mode that will focus on one young cricketer as he progresses from a domestic league nobody to the very pinnacle of the sport – national team Test captain. It's a 20-year career that will see you guide your player through domestic and international competition across T20, ODI and Test disciplines.
This depth of content and level of customisation, combined with gameplay that goes beyond simple button-mashing, means that Don Bradman Cricket 14 is a game you'll be able to enjoy for months on end, both solo and online with friends.
Real Cricket 14
Unlike the PC and console platforms, which have been starved of cricket games, there has been no shortage of cricket games on mobile, with companies missing no opportunity to cash in on some tournament or the other every few months. But while most of those have been shallow experiences that won't hold your attention longer than a few minutes, Real Cricket 14 is designed for longevity and targeted and cricket lovers who seek a deeper gameplay experience.
Real Cricket 14 is a curious mix of simulation-based gameplay and a hand-drawn 2D art style, and the combination works surprisingly well. As with many core sports games on touch devices, Real Cricket 14's controls are driven by an on-screen virtual analog stick, but what sets it apart from other mobile cricket games is the amount of control it gives the player over both batting and bowling, and in the accuracy of its execution.
There are 27 strokes in your batting arsenal, and which one you pull off will depend on your choice of shot (defence, stroke, loft), the direction you choose to hit it in, your positioning in the batting crease, and most of all, on your timing. Similarly, in bowling, you have spinners, medium pacers and fast bowlers to choose from, along with the ability to choose your line, length, pace, as well as the spin or cut/swing on the ball.
There are several international teams to choose from (to our knowledge, there were no IPL/domestic teams), and while they aren't licensed, they do have at least the players' real initials and surnames. The game does, however, have licensed cricketing gear from Gary-Nichols and SS. The one aspect of Real Cricket 14 that doesn't quite match up with the rest of the game is the fielding, which is completely automated. There don't seem to be any field setting options, which is at odds with the amount of control the games gives you over batting and bowling. UPDATE: Nautilus has informed us that there are, in fact, 15 field presets to choose from, selectable by tapping the field mini-map. So that takes care of pretty much the only major concern we've had with the game.
Real Cricket 14 promises to be the ideal cricket gaming fix on the go, and one that Nautilus hopes to keep expanding in the future. Best of all, it's free to play.
Don Bradman Cricket 14 releases in India on 4th April for PS3 and Xbox 360, with a PC version to follow in June.
Real Cricket 14 for Android releases on 31st March, and an iOS version of the game is scheduled for release in April.
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