It’s set to be a cracking virtual summer for cricket fans as Cricket 22 hits the shelves and the southern hemisphere is treated to an Ashes series and the 11th edition of the Big Bash. In fact, with this latest cricket sim release the only excuse you should have to go outside is to actually attend a cricket match!
Coming up to bat is pretty straightforward, and by far the most fun experience in Cricket 22. Everything that you hit is a single, a boundary, or it goes straight to a fielder. Twos and threes are almost non-existent and, unless you completely mess up the timing (which happens frequently), wickets are even rarer. For the most part, you’re hitting your shots along the ground, because most aerial shots will spoon straight up in the air for the easiest of catches. Early indicators in the bowling run up can give you a hint whether the ball will drop in short or up on your toes, meaning you can line up multiple shot options based on field placements in preparation for the delivery and your batsman’s individual strengths. It takes a few overs to really dial in to what’s happening here, but the visual clues are loud and clear once you know what to look for.
Cricket 22’s bowling is more of a mixed bag. You select a delivery type, choose the target spot for the ball to land, and then punch in a combination of options that could launch the next SpaceX shuttle. So many things go into making a delivery perfect, that by the time your opposition is so exhausted from smacking boundaries that you trap them with a peach, it’s hard to remember exactly what you did. Even the arcade style of bowling can be overly complex, so that you really do feel like you’ve earned the wickets that you take. You can bowl to a plan and set up batsmen with a series of short pitched deliveries and then drop in a toe crusher with satisfying results.
Controls across the game, including the quick time fielding minigames, range from a challenging combination of sticks and buttons to simple arcade solutions. It means that you can really tailor the experience to exactly your skill or interest level. For the most part, the arcade options are perfectly fine and allow you to focus on enjoying the game rather than agonising over a complex series of movements that makes Steve Smith’s preparations look tame.
The highly customisable solo career is plenty of fun, where you can build up your ideal cricketer from your boot studs all the way to your trashy neck tattoos. You take control of an up-and-coming superstar all the way from their regional club team roots to the national squad. It has some satisfying sports sim RPG-lite elements to the experience where your character builds stats in specific areas of strength. Scoring a strong cover drive boundary or bowling a sharp delivery that rattles the batsman will boost your stats in those areas. It rewards players for trialling multiple options and not just spamming one technique. You could do that of course, but it means that as the opposition gets progressively more difficult, you’ll start to struggle in the big matches. You can also choose to play as the whole team for the full game or just experience your player’s moments, which means careers can grow in a much more video game accessible timeframe.
The commentary plays a bit of a light touch to this game, allowing the atmosphere of the crowd and the crack of the ball on willow to do most of the talking. And while it does break a little bit of the realism factor, it is great hearing the legendary Isa Guha and infamous Mike Atherton commentating on a regional Victorian match between Box Hill and Warrnambool. Mind you, it’s a step up from Cricket 19’s Michael Slater, who seemed to be attending an entirely different match.
“What Cricket 22 lacks in polish, it makes up for with heart.”
We encountered a lot of glitches in Cricket 22, and it’s hard to tell really where the issue is. Mostly it revolves around the fielding, which is problematic at best. In some instances, fielders get to a firmly struck shot, dive on the ball for a great save and then casually walk across the boundary rope. Or they might take a shot at the stumps which misses the wickets, backup fielder and most of the pitch entirely for massive overthrows. It’s more than clunky, and threatens to break down the experience entirely as you hope and pray that you don’t have to rely on one of them actually catching the ball.
What Cricket 22 lacks in polish, it makes up for with heart. Big Ant is a much smaller studio with the fraction of the budget that the big names like EA and 2K play with. This is a lovingly curated cricketing experience on the virtual stage that can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels. It definitely feels on par with other Big Ant releases like Cricket 19 and AO Tennis. Cricket 22 is the perfect summer time companion, which will fit in nicely between viewings of the Ashes or the Big Bash.
Cricket 22 is available now on PS5, Xbox and PS4, with Switch coming January 28. 2022.