Don Bradman Cricket 17 is the most authentic cricket sim to date. On one hand this seems to be a compliment; the depth of gameplay allows players to take control over everything, resulting in a satisfyingly challenging game. Yet on the other, when you consider the lack of competition, it’s a bit like saying Happy Gilmore is the best Adam Sandler film.
At times the game can feel overtly demanding; not usually one for sticking around for long during tutorials, I got the idea that this game was different shortly after noticing the number of gameplay lessons offered. With bowling for example players first have to learn the basic controls of aligning the bowler, beginning the run up, jumping into the action and then releasing the ball. Sound complicated? Add in deciding from 8 skills to put in your bowl depending on which bowler type you are (off-cutter, slow ball, leg-break etc.), how fast it will be and the length of your delivery, and all of a sudden you’ve bowled 9 wides, been hit for six sixes and your short career is over. It’s as close to real life bowling as you’re likely to find in a video game, but its complexity means you need to understand the ins and outs of the game prior to having played this. Even with this knowledge it can take a considerable amount of time to reach a level at which you can genuinely compete, even on easy mode.
Feedback on your batting and bowling technique is provided, and allows you to monitor and help improve your game. For this, batting takes into account footwork, timing and shot decision. Execute any of these poorly, with mediocrity or perfectly and each bar will be highlighted with red, yellow or green respectively. It does help most of the time with recognising where you went wrong, especially when you first get started. Yet on several occasions I still found my world-class rated batsman chip the ball to the fielder at mid-off when the game had given me an all green review. Batting is probably the easiest part of the game, but that said you’ll probably still find the need to return to the lessons time and time again. It’s a credit to the developers for designing such a realistic sim, but they haven’t allowed for the times when you just want to slog a few sixes and break a few records. In this respect games can feel mundane in Don Bradman.
Reward is the game’s main offering. A lot of time and patience needs to go into mastering these kinds of skills, and for fans of Cricket it is worthwhile. But ultimately it is just they who will reap the benefits from putting time and effort into learning the ins and outs of the gameplay. As someone who enjoys watching and previously playing the sport I felt a lot of reward for sticking with it, but I struggle to see how a person who dislikes Cricket – or even one who just doesn’t understand it that well – will find enjoyment in this game. With this the developer has alienated a huge number of potential players who could want to try a Cricket sim. I first found an interest in the sport playing the Brian Lara series, and still have fond memories of them being fun to play and easy to get into. I’m sure others would be looking for a similar experience with this game, but they’re likely to be disappointed.
However, if you are a fan of the more serious Cricket game then it is by far the most precise and accurate sim out there. Being able to start your career playing at local club level means that the achievements you feel in mastering your own game are matched by your player’s progress. There is a sense of elation and pride when you take your first non-fluked wicket or hit a four; your skills are improving, and as is your player’s career too. Begin locally and very soon you can progress to domestic and then international level. Having goals set for you like the number of dot balls bowled and runs made also ensures that the more fastidious player will be constantly after their next accolade.
Through the standard ‘Tour’ and ‘Competition’ game modes players are able to take charge of international and domestic teams in whichever mode of the game they like, be it test, one day or T20. A real plus is the addition of women’s competitions, with as many to choose from as with the men’s. Unfortunately the developer still hasn’t gotten a license for the official player names, so you won’t be playing as your favourites. This isn’t a huge issue as you have the option to download ‘user-created data’ and swap the names over, although this was admittedly too slow and cumbersome for me to apply.
Other modes include online and cricket studio. The former can be un-enjoyable depending on your experience (I’m sure it was great fun for whoever bowled me all out for 4 runs), but luckily a tidy 5 over mode has been included in case you just want a quick game. The cricket studio allows players to design logos and stadiums which I found difficult, time-consuming and somewhat pointless. Enough time has to be spent getting good at this game, let alone with the distraction of creating a nice logo for your bat.
Perhaps if less time was spend adding in this padding then the graphics could have been sharper. Understandably visuals aren’t everything, but the looks and style are disappointing for a PS4 title. The fielding in Don Bradman is also shocking at times. One moment a fielder with a rating of 40 playing for a local team can pull off a Superman style catch, but the next they throw the ball miles wide of the stumps to the boundary. I don’t know how my own player manages to aim one way but throw the ball the other either. All of this whilst the wicket keeper runs into and impales them self on the stumps. It’s comedic at times, but mostly frustrating.
As far as Cricket video games go Don Bradman 17 can be enjoyable, but it’s a game that represents limitations of what Cricket can bring to the medium. As such a complex sport, in making an honest sim the developers have inadvertently created an extremely hard one. It’s likely to thrill Cricket lovers with its impressive array of controls, but it won’t win any new fans.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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