Sport Simulation games are something of niche, that in recent years have become strictly PC-only releases. Football Manager is the king, and proves to be immensely popular each year without making any ground-breaking changes. For the US market, there’s Out of the Park Baseball as well as a plethora of Ice Hockey management sims which again, prove to be incredibly popular across the pond.
Cricket however, is something that I’ve never seen a massive market for, but it appears I was wrong as Cricket Captain 2016 is actually the latest in a series that goes back to at least 2006, with the 2014 iteration onwards being released on Steam. I played a lot of Cricket in my youth and, whilst my love for the sport has diminished under the crushing weight of watching Cardiff City go from blue to red, to the Premier League, and then back to blue, this game has helped kindle an old flame in a quintessentially British sport (of course, Cricket is a popular sport worldwide, especially India and the Caribbean)
Those familiar with Football Manager or Out of the Park Baseball will have a rough understanding of how the game works. You can pick from a good selection of English, Indian, Caribbean and International teams. I was torn between picking Glamorgan or Lancashire, but I betrayed my homeland and went with the latter, perhaps helped by the fact that Lancashire are a far better team, Glamorgan’s batting skill was dire, no word on how accurate that is as of yet.
From there, you’re presented with a daunting screen full of databases. I was a bit overwhelmed at this, and the fact that there is no tutorial whatsoever makes this game almost inaccessible for newcomers, resorting to Youtube tutorials in order to figure out how to play a game that costs £19.99 is ludicrous. Once you can get your head around it though, the game is fairly deep, you’ll need to sort out contracts, youth players, assigning coaching and physio sessions to players as well as pick your teams both before and during the simulated matches. The micromanagement goes right down to controlling your individual players’ aggression as well as their batting and bowling styles, it really is a massive task and the lack of tutorial will be sure to frustrate players.
The actual simulation works pretty well, and the match engine is better than I expected, it’s nothing special in terms of visuals but you can see exactly what is going on and the addition of a full commentary is quite nice. There’s clearly a lot of statistics going on behind the scene and unfortunately most of this number crunching is never given to the player as feedback, meaning that it can be difficult to figure out where you need to improve.
Perhaps the biggest problem of the career mode is the fact that there is no clear objective for yourself, and as such, no real progression. There’s nothing like board or fan expectations, no press conferences, nothing to give you any sort of feedback and give you an idea of what is expected, I have no idea if my finish at the end of the season with Lancashire County was good enough or not. Yes, these are systems taken directly from Football Manager, but there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from the best example of the genre in order to improve your own game.
There is a multiplayer component, though it didn’t seem to work for me at all, whether that was down to a lack of players or a poor architecture of the servers I’m not sure, but it was a shame as I feel multiplayer could be worthwhile and entertaining addition to the game. I’m especially aggrieved at this as multiplayer seems like a big part of the game itself, but there was just no way I could actually test it to see if would improve the experience of the final game at all.
Optimisation is fine, the 3D match engine is not going to cause any major problems for anyone with a half decent system. Crashes were prominent however, and the aforementioned online portion of the game hardly works which is a real shame. Sound is virtually non-existent during the menus, with only the commentary and crowd effects featuring during the actual matches, this may be a game to slog through whilst you’re listening to your own music.
Overall Cricket Captain 2016 is a game that will appeal to a small minority of people, if you have the patience and knowledge, you can really see the potential this game holds with its deep simulation and micromanagement, however for the casual Cricket fan this game is far too convoluted and menu heavy to recommend. Couple that with a career mode that lacks any real direction and you get a simulation game that just doesn’t quite fit the bill for me.
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