"What is life but a game of cricket," asks the opening screen of Brian Lara International Cricket (BLIC) 2005. You may agree with that, but unfortunately, this game is no substitute for the real thing.
To be fair to the Codemasters, the creators of this game, no cricket game has been able to emulate the true feeling of playing cricket, but BLIC 2005 comes the closest so far. The graphics are great, as is the gameplay, but the player details and commentary leave a lot to be desired.
Before you can actually start playing a match, you have options to choose from… lots of options. Choose between a Challenge Match (England v Australia, 1887), World Series (multi team ODI Series), World Tour (Test and ODI series) and World Cup. We decided to pit India against Australia in a four-match Test series and six-match ODI series. Incidentally, six is the maximum number of ODIs you can choose in this mode.
That done, another options box popped up asking about the level of matches. Your choices are 'Village', 'County' or 'Test', with 'Village' being the easiest and 'Test' the toughest. In this box itself, you can also define the conditions for the match (Good, Warm, Humid, Cloudy), pitch (Hard, Damp, Dry, Crumbling) and the condition and make of the ball (Kookaburra, Dukes and Club).
The next choice lets you pick your playing 11. All Test-playing nations are included in the game, and there are 16 players in each squad. The names of the players have been garbled-perhaps due to licensing issues. So Glenn McGrath is G MacGirth, Shane Warne is S Worde and so on! You can, of course, edit these names to put in the actual ones, but it's a cumbersome task. Finally, it was time to play.
The match starts off with the toss, and an unidentified match referee accompanies the two captains to the pitch. Ricky Ponting called wrong, much to his chagrin, and India chose to bat.
That's the start of your challenge...
Field settings can be altered, but you cannot move one fielder from a preset. You need to set the whole field
All along, the commentators (David Gower and Ian Botham were voices we recognised) are apprising you of the conditions and how "they are happy to be in the commentary box".
J Guisseppe (Jason Gillespie) was the first to mark his run-up. Among all the players, his was the face that had the maximum resemblance to a real player. As he runs up to bowl, we are scurrying to find the controls. By default, [W], [S], [A] and [D] are the controls during the game, and are also used to manoeuvre back and forth between screens when setting up the game.
There are three vertical bars on the bottom left that tell us about the bowler's confidence level,the batsman's confidence level and the timing of a shot.
Confidence levels for bowlers and batsmen change throughout the over, depending on how many dot balls are bowled, or how many times the bowler beats the batsman. Similarly, for the batsman, they rise with every run scored or every boundary hit. Normally, as one rises, the other falls.
Match settings can be adjusted in relative detail
Scorecards are good and detailed-batting, bowling and summary
Like your shot? Take another look. At least five angles are available
Catch the throwing meter in the middle for a flat and fast throw
You can create custom teams of your choice and play against friends
Create a new player and decide what he's going to be good at
Gillespie lets the first one rip outside the off stump and Sehwag connects pushing it through the covers for one, getting India off the mark.
The ball is picked up in the deep and fired in straight to the 'keeper right over the stumps. To throw, there is a meter that has to be met right in the centre for a flat, fast and accurate one. By default, if you don't interfere, the throw will be a looping albeit accurate one.
We realised that judging a run takes some time since the default (and only) angle of viewing the match is not the usual 45-degree angle that shows you the field at large. Rather, the cameras are at a 30-degree angle, from where you can only see the umpire and 'keeper. And Sehwag ran three batsmen out. Oh well!
On the whole, batting is not tough, and once you get used to reading the three different meters, you can easily judge what to do. Another little marker in the middle of the pitch shows where the ball is going to pitch and the general direction it will move in. There are times, though, when this can totally bamboozle you. It can show 'good length' and suddenly be a half tracker. Watch out!
Look And Feel
The graphics look good, and the interface is rather well done. But although details on the ground are good, stadium layouts are not very realistic. An appeal for an LBW that is turned down is explained in the replay using Hawk Eye. The same technology is also used to show a bowler's performance after every over. This is indeed realistic. Replays are also shown after every boundary, using about five different camera angles.
Bowlers are the most animated of the characters on the field, and also indulge in the occasional banter or sledging. Batting skills deteriorate as you go down the order, and the tailenders are prone to the odd swipe across the line leaving them vulnerable to the swinging ball.
Create A Player
BLIC 2005 also lets you create a custom player that you can add to any team. The player can be customised to be a batsman, bowler or all-rounder, and his skills with the bat can also be customised. You can then give him a face, choose his kit (good choice here) and define if he is stronger on the off or the on side.
Considering there are only two real options available for the cricket fanatic-EA Sports' Cricket 2005 and this-we would recommend you choose BLIC 2005 for the graphics and smoother gameplay. While most other features would match, this game is a tad better than the competition. None of them, however, are up to scratch, and we hope they get a lot better.