Cricket 19 (Switch) Review
After walking off for a duck with Big Bash Boom, Big Ant has regrouped after the tea-break to deliver Cricket 19, the best representation of the sport to date. While there are the rough edges to be expected of a studio lacking the budget of EA and 2K’s sports games, Cricket 19 regularly astounds due to its strong capacity to replicate the nature of the sport. It just feels like cricket.
Firmly placed in the hardcore cricket fan category, Cricket 19 picks up where the Don Bradman and Ashes Cricket games left off, packing a wide range of modes and customisation options. Some of the personalisation tweaks you can make include toggling between standard and classic control settings. Standard employs the face buttons for both bowling and batting, where you use the left-stick for direction and press a button to perform the corresponding delivery or shot. Alternatively, the classic control scheme does away with the face buttons, focusing on the right-stick for input instead. Personal preference will dictate what works best; I found the approachable standard controls to work just fine.
Featuring the upcoming Ashes tour of England, plus the current One-Day International World Cup, Cricket 19 includes a packed slips cordon of ways to play, including a career mode. There’s also a decent training and practice section, allowing you to learn the basics and fine-tune your technique in the nets. Especially for the licensed competitions, Cricket 19’s presentation is slick, without being spectacular on the Nintendo Switch. The graphics aren’t as pretty as its console counterparts, but the ability to play in handheld is brilliant – other than a graphical downgrade, the performance remains strong. While the visuals aren’t as sharp, the player animations are smooth – timing a cover drive to perfection late in an innings with a cherry-covered bat looks glorious.
Most importantly, Big Ant has nailed the moment-to-moment nature of cricket; the tactics, the tension, and the thrill of a breakthrough wicket or scoring vital runs feels fantastic. When playing the Ashes mode, I sunk several hours into the opening session without even realising. Attacking the English batting order felt true to life, as the opening batsmen played tentatively to the new ball, resulting in a couple of early wickets. However, because Cricket 19’s AI displays a high degree of intelligence on the default difficulty settings, the next few batsmen knuckled down and forged some strong partnerships.
Following this, I had to enact a deliberate strategy to snare some wickets. Not only did I have to change up the bowling attack due to fatigue, but I also had to manually change fielding positions to entice risky shots in an effort to get the batsmen out – just like the real sport. Eventually, an inspired spell of bowling from Nathan Lyon sent the Poms packing and the lower order proceeded to realistically collapse at a rapid rate for very few runs.
As if the lifelike nature of the batting AI didn’t impress me enough, the bowling impresses in equal measures. After hopelessly flailing at a well-directed bouncer one delivery, I was nearly undone by a toe-crunching yorker the next. Irrespective of the occasional bugs and glitches along the way, nothing can take away from how genuine Cricket 19 feels to play.
Despite how much it does to impress, Cricket 19 isn’t perfect, mainly from a technical performance viewpoint. Loading times between games are long, commentary cues often don’t accurately reflect the state of play, and fielding is clunky. Particularly when playing local multiplayer, I found that the fielding prompt for catches – where you need to move a slippery cursor into a small circle before pressing a button – would trigger at odd moments, even when the ball hadn’t come off the bat, causing a lot of confusion. Some of this has been addressed in post-launch updates, but a few bumps still remain.
Some other areas of improvement lie predominantly in the career mode, which can feel like a bit of a grind at times. This mode offers you the choice to play as either an established star or a rookie starting from the lower-level competitions. Unfortunately, I found levelling up my leg-spinning all-rounder to be a slow process, as you receive points based on performance, but it’s difficult to perform well and make an impact when your starting stats are low. That, or Cricket 19 is ultra-realistic to the point of accurately representing my short-lived career for the South Gambier C-grade team.
Additionally, the career goals that impart further bonuses are arbitrary in nature. For example, one of my first goals was to score 684 runs, which is a bit of a slog starting from a low base. Perhaps a better way to approach goals would be to dangle incremental rewards for milestones, like taking your first wicket, and then five wickets, first boundary, first half-century, and so on ensure that the goals remain at a steady pace to your player’s level. However, one thing the slow rate of progression promotes is a focus on playing slowly with precision.
Despite a few streaky edges through slips along the way, cricket fans will appreciate Cricket 19‘s dedication to the sport’s idiosyncrasies without a trading card pack in sight – a rarity for sports games. With the World Cup on now, and the Ashes series coming soon, playing Cricket 19 in handheld with the real deal on the big screen is a tantalising prospect.
+ Feels authentically like cricket
+ Intelligent AI employs real-life tactics
+ Cricket in handheld, you ripper!
- Long loading screens
- Clunky fielding
- Career progression can be slow