Don Bradman Cricket '14 June 15, 2014

A hardcore fan's delight

Probably the first cricket video game to make the controls easy and satisfying, and its custom preferences will test your imagination - but only if you give it time

Cricket video games have had a chequered history. The Graham Gooch cricket titles during the Spectrum era were reasonably decent. EA sports took a couple of stabs (that were mostly rubbish) before giving up. Codemasters had the Brian Lara (or Shane Warne, depending on where you lived) games that were fun but not spectacular. The more recent Ashes games were pretty good without being fantastic. Footy fans have their FIFA. Tennis fans have Virtua Tennis and Top Spin. Racing fans have all sorts of great titles. But us cricket fans? Some middlingly entertaining titles at best.

The problem, at least for me, has always been the rather dodgy controls. Cricket has a strange problem - unlike football or tennis or racing - of three separate complex activities that need to be simulated. Coming up with convincing and usable control schemes on the PC or on consoles for batting, bowling and fielding has been a challenge that no cricket game design has been able to crack so far. It's always been a bunch of fiddly on-screen reticules, meters, dials and needles, and weird combinations of keystrokes and timed clicks.

And this is the problem that Big Ant Studios tries to solve with remarkable success with Don Bradman Cricket '14. But many caveats prevent it from being an outright classic.

The heart of this game is really the controls. Big Ant has made some bold design decisions with batting and bowling controls, completely ditching convention and reinventing the way you interact with the game. It has removed or minimised most of the weird on-screen aids and focused player attention towards what the character is doing on the screen. And it works wonderfully well.

For batting, one thumbstick controls foot movement, the other determines the direction of the shot. Shoulder and face buttons act as modifiers, allowing you to play attacking, defensive, lofted, or even trick shots like the Dilscoop and reverse sweep.

For bowling, one thumbstick controls the type of delivery, line and direction of swing, cut or spin. The other controls the bowler's jump and delivery arm. Face buttons control length. But pace bowling is easier and more fun than spin, which is weird.

Once you get used to it, it all works quite beautifully. Batting feels natural and satisfying. Instead of watching some stupid on-screen pitch indicator and speed meter (there are some visual assists, but you can turn them off once you've mastered the controls), you're actually watching the ball itself, and instinctively choosing a shot to play. It's exactly as it should be - and is great fun once you get the hang of it. Bowling is similarly fun - it feels great plotting a batsman's downfall and then executing it using the subtle variations and sudden surprises in a bowler's arsenal. Fielding is a bit meh. But hey, it's fielding. It works well enough.

All this gameplay sweetness does come at a price. This is not an easy game to learn. It's not a pick-up-and-play casual experience by any stretch of the imagination. To truly enjoy Don Bradman Cricket '14, you will have to invest a lot of time practising and learning its controls (the game offers both net practice and stadium practice). But if you do, it pays off.

Once you learn the basics, an almost bewildering range of gameplay modes and customisation options await. Want to play a two-day, single-innings match with five-ball overs? Because why not? You can also design your own tournaments, series, and entire tours and seasons featuring multiple kinds of matches.

There's a career mode in which you can play as a single player throughout his career. (I spent half an hour padded up and twiddling my thumbs in the pavilion as a one-drop batsman in a county game, watching Michael Carberry and his opening partner put on a century stand. Easily one of my most bizarrely fun videogame experiences.)

You can design teams, players and even umpires (the game does not have licensed players out of the box, but it's a snap downloading all your favourite teams that the player community has created online. In fact, it's the first thing the game prompts you to do).

It's a hardcore cricket fan's delight, and should keep you entertained for years.

Is Don Bradman Cricket '14 an instant classic? The holy grail of cricket videogames? The FIFA for cricket fans? Sadly, not quite. The game has many flaws that you need to be willing to look past if you want to enjoy its undeniably fun gameplay.

The graphics, while serviceable, are nowhere in the league of modern sports games like the FIFA series. Player likenesses are inconsistent (since most of them are user-created, admittedly), animations are sometimes weird and jerky, and the menu screens don't look like a slick ESPN broadcast. The commentary is extremely limited and quickly becomes repetitive. The overall presentation feels a little rough around the edges. However, the gallery of Don Bradman photographs and old authentic scorecards from Bradman's games is a nice touch. It makes me wish that some major publisher sees the potential in the game and funds a big-budget sequel where these things can be ironed out and spruced up. Now that game could truly become a classic.

So while I cannot recommend the game to a casual fan looking for a quick, easy and fun experience, I can heartily do so to a serious fan looking to play a deep and engaging game of cricket. If you're willing to take the time to master the game's controls and look past its patchy presentation, Don Bradman Cricket '14 offers many hours of great entertainment.

Don Bradman Cricket '14
Developed by Big Ant Studios
Published by Tru Blu Entertainment

Platform reviewed: PS3
Platforms available: PS3, XBOX 360. Coming June 26, 2014 for PC

Anand Ramachandran is a game designer and writer based in Bangalore. @bigfatphoenix

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arun Virat on April 5, 2015, 1:57 GMT

    superb I am waiting for the next game

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2014, 14:48 GMT

    finally a new cricket game, been waiting for so long

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2014, 1:54 GMT

    @Danny Burke - I encourage U/everyone to simply check the teams in the top 50 *there 'cos teenagers on the Planetcricket forum voted on each other's teams PRE-release of the game, since they were using the BETA version and then froze their voted-for teams at the top* & after you have 'downloaded the best' (an inaccurate statement in the extreme), then compare the teams you KNOW/LIKE/USE (or ALL) to the ones by Chunnster_Lives_ or by IndianCricketYES (though they are just chunnster_lives_ teams re-shared and fewer)... Then CHOOSE the ones YOU PREFER! Top 50 have weak likenesses & not fully edited though. Just so you know, I was sent gifts by the distributors of the game in NZ, for my efforts on the created teams. Yes, they tracked me down and couriered me two PS3 games for my 'work' (which did free for the community as an artist and an adult / cricket expert, hence my teams are better than a 14 year old's). The 'best teams' you get to download aren't in the top 3 of each one. FACT.

  • Daniel on June 16, 2014, 23:54 GMT

    Downloading "real" players is easy. You open the game and click "get best".

    That way you get the best, as voted by other players, and not the ones advertised by someone on this page.

    I would recommend anyone who loves cricket to get this game. This series is only going to get better.

  • Ashok on June 16, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    For all the hype given by the developers and the attitude of Bigants Studio representative on their forum. The is mere average with glitchy graphics and animation at most location. The commentry is quite irritating to bear qftef some time. Also Pricewise is only the higher side as well.

  • Grand on June 16, 2014, 12:22 GMT

    DBC 14 (Don Bradman Cricket 14) is the best cricket game out there. Period. Once you play the game it's clear it's made for cricket fans by cricket fans as the nuances of cricket have been captured like never before. If you are a cricket fan and into gaming, DBC 14 is a must have and I would strongly recommend the game to genuine cricket fans. Price point may seem a tad on the higher side but it pales into insinificance when you start playing the game and see how close the gameplay is to the real thing.

  • Danish on June 15, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    Why didn't anyone tell me earlier that there was such a game? Really want to play it

  • Android on June 15, 2014, 17:26 GMT

    spin bowling is too complex. Other wise it fantastic.

  • Android on June 15, 2014, 11:49 GMT

    aside from the glitchy fielding and difficult batting, the best cricket game by far! I love the career mode, it really keeps you playing!

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    For a small, independent company such as big ant, licensing would immediately destroy their budget. I had loads if fun playing Super International Cricket with players who were imaginary, more than when Codemasters used sound alikes like Chindarpool. The game is easy to learn on amateur but once you step up to Pro or higher it becomes quite challenging. I would give it 8/10, the commentary is a bit repetitive and a few graphic additions would help, like better statistic charting or easier identification of fielders when looking around.

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