Cricket World Cup 99
The lack of decent cricket games on the PC is as criminal as Geoffrey Boycott's infamous fisticuffs in a certain French hotel. Until now, willow-heads have been stuck with Empire's International Cricket Captain, a creaky management simulation, and Codemasters' action game Brian Lara Cricket. Clearly the sport is seriously under-represented on the PC, possibly as a result of its staid and boring reputation (let's face it, we all played cricket at school and it was only ever fun if you were batting, or snogging that girl from 5E in the outfield).
Undeterred, EA have stepped in with the official game of this year's World Cup which they've presented with Sky Sports-like production values. Although Cricket World Cup 99 offers less diverse cricketing opportunities than Codemasters' effort (CWC99 is restricted to representing the World Cup), EA have included the full-blown tournament, a genuinely useful training mode and a One Day Match option. Regardless of which you opt for, the game engine animates the players in spookily lifelike fashion courtesy of the Hollioake brothers, who allowed themselves to be motion-captured - but there are a few rough edges. These include the infamous Voodoo 'flat crowd graphics', bowlers who face the wrong way but still catch the ball, and fielders who perform heroically with their backs to the action.
Back To School
All praise though to the ball physics - they're a beauty to behold. It's supremely gratifying experimenting with the varying degrees of spin and pace you can apply (although England fans will bemoan the lack of a 'rub grit into the ball' option). Taking wickets involves clicking the left mouse button to set pace and run-up parameters, while holding the right button and dragging the mouse to apply spin, cut and seam. If all that sounds ham-fisted, then think again, because after ten overs on the training ground you'll be blasting those stumps out of the ground.
Batting is even more fun. Again, the mouse controls your player's movement at the crease, and a circle in the grass gives an indication of where the ball is likely to pitch - a simple mouse click sends bat after ball. Timing is crucial though: play a stroke prematurely, or too late, and you could end up cutting the shot or, worse still, edging it to the slips. Thankfully you can also opt to play a defensive shot or back off entirely (practising that desperate never touched it' expression employed by successive England openers over the last decade). Fielding can be either manual or automated, and is handled in similarly sensible fashion.
Tough As Old Boots
The joy of this game is that perseverance brings tangible progress, and with it genuine satisfaction. It's so challenging that you will remember your first six, your first outfield catch and your first century - because you'll have earned them. As a result, this isn't a game for 'hit and hope' heroes, although undeniably they'll have a limited degree of success against the poorer teams such as Kenya (and England), who can be slapped around the grounds like Boycott's aforementioned ex. Rather, it's the plodding David Gower style of play (reflected in his contemplative commentary) that pays dividends and wins matches. Which means that although Cricket World Cup 99 is fun and instantly accessible, only those who can endure the sustained lack of pace will really appreciate the depth on offer.
Download Cricket World Cup 99
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode