The International Cricket Captain series is a long running one now, and is the cricket equivalent of the Football Manager series. The 2010 edition was one of the most eagerly anticipated by cricket fans as we were promised a much improved match engine as well as more realistic gameplay. So the question is, did this game live up to all of the hype?
The game was initially priced at £30 when it was first released, and due to my eagerness foolishly paid the full whack! (Never do this for any computer game; it's really not worth it) It is still available on the high street for around the £15 mark, but can be picked up in the usual places online, with better deals available with a little searching. The game doesn't require a particularly powerful machine by today's standards to run, with the basic specifications being a 1GHz processor, 256MB RAM and 7.4GB of hard drive space. I have run this game on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 with no issues, and I would suspect that virtually everyone would be able to run this game with very few problems. The installation process is very straightforward as for most programs nowadays, and it's simply a case of placing the disc in the drive and following the onscreen instructions. The whole installation process should only take 5 minutes or so to complete and then you are ready to get going with the game itself.
The game itself places you in charge of either an English county cricket team, a domestic Australian team or you can go straight for the International team option. The usual way of playing is to pick a domestic team, and if you earn success you are offered the England job after a couple of years, but you can choose whichever game option you prefer. You don't actually physically play any of the matches and just pick your best players and send them out there. You control things like who bowls, the batting order and the level of aggression that is shown on the field but the computer controls the actual action. You have the options of arranging training sessions and physiotherapy sessions with your players to get the best out of them, and also have the option of terminating contracts and buying new players at the end of the season. If you have an international job, you get to select the team for home games and also touring parties for away trips. The same principle of arranging coaching and physio sessions then applies and the game proceeds in a similar way. All forms of the game from 5-day test matches, 4-day county games down to 50 over and 20 over formats are all there for you to enjoy, and each game type requires different selections and tactics to be successful.
So first off lets look at the graphics and to be honest they are quite impressive. The basic in-game screens are very similar to previous games in the series and although a little boring show off all the information that you need in a clear way and as such do their job well. The graphics really come into their own during the actual games where you can see little clips of the action. The shots and bowling actually looks quite realistic, and the fielding is much better than in previous games. Batsmen actually play shots that end up with the ball going the right way, and fielders generally attack the ball rather than run around aimlessly, which were 2 major flaws of a number of the previous games in the series.
Sound quality is also pretty impressive with a good array of cricket commentators drafted in to provide suitably droll remarks during the live clips. This does a pretty good job of livening up the action, and the remarks generally do actually relate to the action on screen and aren't just a pointless badly placed sound bite.
So does the gameplay live up to the promising look of the game? Well sadly the answer is not really. Don't get me wrong this is by no means a bad game, and as far as cricket simulation games go, it's the best one in the series by some margin. The only problem is that it still has the same flaws that the original did all those years ago. The major issues have never really been sorted out, which leaves you slightly annoyed and bored after playing for a while.
On the positive side, they have greatly improved the Twenty20 cricket. No longer do you set a score of 175 to win, and the computer bats its way to 55-1 after the 20 overs and loses by a massive margin. The AI tactics are much better making it a more realistic game and more challenging. The addition of the Australian domestic competition adds a new dimension to the game, and gives the player something different to try, and the International management section has been improved, with no obvious bugs which previous games have suffered badly from, and as you can manage different International teams it adds an extra dimension to this aspect of the game too.
The negatives that need mentioning are firstly although the Twenty20 game has been vastly improved; certain players don't work well with it. I totally understand that a defensive minded player will not be as effective as a big hitter in the shorter version of the game, but many players around the world have developed different games and strokes, which are suited to the version of the game that they are playing. As a result, simply pigeonholing a batsman as "defensive" or "aggressive" doesn't really do them justice and devalues some world-class players, as they just don't perform in certain situations. Secondly, if you skip a match for any reason, such as to get to the next important International match, or to save some time, the AI captaining of your team is still rubbish. You can have a world-class squad, be top of the league and still lose by an innings to the bottom team when the match is skipped. Whereas I can understand its not as good as personally taking charge of the game to encourage you to play all games, its ridiculous when you check out the scorecard at the end, and the computer has had your opening batsman bowling 30 overs, and your top strike bowler just 5. Things like this should have been improved over the years, but sadly the same issues keep cropping up. Transfers at the end of season are still problematic at times, especially with the new allowance of back-up overseas players and Twenty20 players. Its all a little hit and miss - A player will turn down your offer on the basis of too little money offered, then sign for another county for £10,000 less which is really frustrating.
You can also play this game against other people over the Internet, but I've noticed that not that many people seem to play online, and it can make the game very slow indeed if the other person isn't on the ball. I would personally suggest that this isn't a game to be played in a multiplayer format, and is better suited to individual play, but the option is there should you wish to use it.
So to sum this game up I would say that it's still a good option for a serious cricket fan if you can pick it up cheaply form somewhere. There are many good things with the game and its certainly the best one that they have released, its just a shame that there are still flaws present in the game which have the unfortunate effect of reducing the longevity of the game, as you will eventually just get fed up of the little niggles. To be honest a good way of summing up my disappointment here is that I wrote some years ago a review on the 1999 version of the game, and the advantages/disadvantages section is virtually identical with this too.
Thanks for reading this review and it may also appear on Ciao under my same username.