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International Cricket Captain

Publisher: Empire Sports
Sport: Cricket

Background Info
Before I go any further, International Cricket Captain (ICC) is NOT an arcade game. You do not at any stage bowl or bat using any combination of keys/joystick/gamepad like EA's Cricket 97: this is a management simulation. This game tests your mental rather than your physical skills. ICC is based on the current English Cricket Season. You get to manage/captain an existing team throughout a domestic season. You play in the County Championship, Sunday League, NatWest Trophy and League Cup. If you perform well during the season, you can be chosen to captain/manage the English national team. The game lasts for a total of 20 seasons.

The game is divided into text and animated portions. The game has not been written to take advantage of any of the new 3D chipsets; all it requires is a SVGA card. If your PC graphics card does not have 2MB of RAM you might have problems viewing the animated portions on the game. This game will not work without DirectX5. You are given an option to install DirectX5 drivers which are included on the CD. I’ve discussed the text portion on the game in the interface section below. The animated screens: Once you have told your batsmen or bowlers what you want them to do, you can choose to view the action in the non-interactive animated part of the game. You can set the level of animated highlights you want to watch. These range from none to every ball. It is the animation screen that troubles me the most in this game. The little sprites range from being realistically animated and almost life-like in their movements to downright goofy and strange. Animation of the bowler and batsmen is generally well done, with the bowlers run up and action looking very polished, the batsmen play some delightful looking shots, square-cuts cover drives and a lot more. It is the fielders that I find most troubling. They often just stand there as the ball passes them, very frustrating when you have just placed the fielder there and a ball passes beneath his legs to reach the boundary. Their throw in to the wicket-keeper looks awkward (and why do so many of them throw in with their left hands if they field on the right side of the screen). They often just run along and escort the ball to the boundary. They do not dive for the ball either. Catches also look unrealistic. Maybe we should get Jonty Rhodes over to give them some fielding lessons.

The view of the animation screen is also fixed, with a standard down the wicket over the umpire's shoulder look. This gets a bit tiring after a while combined with the fact that the pitch graphic is the same in every game regardless of which ground you are playing on. Players also wear white uniforms in one day matches. Where are the brightly coloured pygamas? With today’s high powered PC's and 3D accelerated graphics cards we should be able to zoom around the field and look at things from any angle we wish.

The interface is elegantly simple: everything is done with the mouse. However, there are some screens where it is not immediately apparent that there are areas on the screen that you can click on to get more information. For example, when you view the score card during a game, clicking on the player's name brings up a screen with information on how he has performed in the game. I think tooltips would have helped. The text portion of the game is very well presented. The screens contain a lot of information, including a wheel chart to show where a batsman is scoring runs off any one or all of the bowlers. A run graph is also available to see how fast he is scoring, as well as a section chart to show you how many runs he has scored in any particular section of the field. You can view all the player's statistics you will ever need. These include his photograph, debut year, matches played, innings played, runs scored, not outs, averages, high scores - you get the picture. Fortunately all of this information is presented in a neat, uncluttered style that makes it easy to access when you want to.

ICC gameplay follows the standard management type simulation style much like the king of football (soccer) simulations, Championship Manager (CM). This is not surprising as both CM and ICC share the same producer. Once you have chosen a club, a typical game proceeds as follows: Schedule coaching sessions for those players that you feel need it. Choose a team from your squad for the next match. You can then play through the match yourself or have your deputy do it. Empire warn you that your team will play much better with you in charge. After the coin toss, you either go in to bat or bowl. At this stage you become more a captain in the game than a manager. If your team is batting you can choose how aggressively the batsman responds to various bowlers. If you are sent in to bowl, you can set the field, aggressiveness and the line for your bowler. Sounds simple, but like most things in cricket it is not. Fortunately you get a lot of information on each player, including the opposition, so you for example know if a batsman is strong on his leg or off-side or prefers fast or slow bowlers. You can then set your field accordingly and instruct your bowler on the line he should bowl to. You can choose to adjust your field after every ball or do it once at the start of an over. One of your management duties is to keep an eye on the club's financial status. This part of the game only comes into play at the end of each season. You can then bid for the services of other players to join your team or extend the contract of existing players whose contracts have expired. You can also terminate contracts at the end of the season. Since the financial management aspect is only important once a season, some players who like financial micro-management (gate takings and burger sales) may find this a disadvantage; I do not. It leaves you to concentrate on playing your current season without the distraction of worrying about money. If only life were like this! Almost all of cricket's little nuances are included, such as a ball hitting the batsman and him either leaving the field, retiring hurt, or continuing on. I have not observed a runner yet! An English staple of rain interrupting play and delaying it. Players get injured in either practice or during a match. Which means you could end up with one bowler less during a crucial 1 day match (it happened to me). I then had to draft in a non-bowler to bowl some overs. All very exciting. Wides, no balls, dropped catches and misfields also occur.

There are however a few strange omissions. For example, you cannot bowl around the wicket or choose the length of your bowler's delivery. This is something Empire has said they will look into.

The commentary by the BBC’s Johnathan Agnew during the animated highlights screen is astonishing in its accuracy. I have never played a computer game where the commentary was as spot-on as this. Empire need to be congratulated. In all the games I've played so far the action on the field matched Jonathan's commentary. Whenever he said "the ball's in the air, this could be out," sure enough the batsman had just hit an uppish shot and my heart skipped a beat, or his "they have to be quick, this could be a runout" was shortly followed by the fielder hitting the stumps. By the way, the fielders are unrealistically accurate and always hit the stumps. Empire should fix this. As in all computer games, commentary does get repeated. This cannot be avoided. If only the animated graphics where up to par with the commentary, you could almost watch a game on your PC and it would seem like the real thing. There is always a pleasant background sound during the animated scenes of the crowd chatting away, but this is never intrusive. The crowd itself applaud wickets, half centuries and centuries. They do not do so for boundaries, a pity. It's simply not cricket, old chap! Jonathan's pleasant voice only appears once a ball has been bowled, so there is no play-by-play commentary like in FIFA 98. You don't get something like "Malcolm is bowling to Stewart..." Players' names are not mentioned. There isn't a lot of commentary but what there is, is first class.

This game is not easy to play and win. There is no beginner level to get your feet wet. You plunge head-on into the deep end. The save function is linked to the 'Save & Exit' button. You can not leave a current game without saving it. So if you start playing the game and are getting beaten badly, the only thing you can do is restart the season as a new player. You cannot exit a match, reload it and replay it. This all adds to the realism. No quitting if your team is doing badly! It takes time to get to know your team and choose the correct team for a particular match. The better you do in a season the more prize money you can win and this lets you bid for better players at the end of the season. This is no quick 10 minute game: to achieve the best results, you have to constantly reset your field to get the best from your bowlers. I think the level of difficulty is set just about right. Cricket is not an easy game to play on the field (ask Mike Atherton) and it should not be easy in the game. You are rewarded with patience and experience.

This game bowled me over. It's a thoroughly involving cricket simulation. You could easily spend hours playing it. It is so involving that I often found myself shouting at the umpire for a decision that didn't go my way. Although it is based on English clubs, it is easy to get involved in the game and you soon get to 'know' the various players. So, cricket fans from around the world should not despair. South African and Australian versions will be released later this year (if only we could have it all in the same game). Until then, the only time I get to see my South African team is when I play against them during international matches. Talk about mixed loyalties! Now that the World Cup is over and I'm taking a break from all my football (soccer) games, it is a thrill and a joy to play this game and get involved in more gentlemanly pursuits. With the Cricket World Cup approaching in 1999 I can only hope that it leads to more cricket games being released. Cricket fans have been short-changed in the gaming word. Until then I could easily spend my time playing ICC. This game hits a strong four and could have easily been a six if it wasn’t let down by the animated graphics.

Required Recommended Reviewer's
Windows 95
1MB SVGA Graphics
Windows 95
Pen 166
8X Cd Rom
AMD K6-233
6X CD Rom
4 MB 3D Card.

By: Yusuf Seedat- 7/17/98

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

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Graphics: 65
Interface: 87
Gameplay: 95
Audio: 93
Difficulty: 94
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