The countdown is well and truly on for Cricket 22, and with The Ashes fast approaching, cricket fever is sure to grip the nation.
With loads of new features, licenses, and additions to Career Mode, we can't wait to get our hands on the game later this month.
It costs £49.99 / AU$99.95 and includes the "The Nets Challenge" which gives you the opportunity to utilise the "iconic" MCG nets ahead of release.
Ahead of the release, Big Ant Studios Director of Development Mike Merren gave up his time to talk us through some of the brand-new features, and why he thinks this will be the best cricket game ever.
There are loads of new features coming to Cricket 22, with something for fans of each discipline of the game.
When quizzed on what new feature he is most excited for fans to see, Merren could not pinpoint just one element.
“I think there's a combination of things because we've revisited a lot of the gameplay elements in terms of the batting controls and bowling controls, done extra things in Fielding,” he said.
“With the batting, effectively we finessed what that was because it's probably one of the strongest points of the previous games.
“So we've got more batting shots embracing a few more things because of the licenses we've got in terms of the short-form game and maybe some of the shots that are more akin to that as much as you would with Standard Test cricket.”
Be prepared to see ramps, switch hits, helicopters, and the rest by the sounds of it! Who would want to be a bowler…
One of the most exciting new features we will see arrive this year is a brand-new direct hit mechanic when you are fielding.
“We've got a new Direct hit mechanic, which basically when you've got a chance of a run-out will give you a dynamic camera in slow-mo, kind of pressure, sort of shot aiming at the other stumps,” explained Merren.
“It's kind of trying to get that heart pumping as you think you might get a run-out chance.”
This should liven up and intensify the fielding aspect of the game, especially in the high-octane T20 competitions that are being brought to life in Cricket 22.
Access for all
Cricket games have a bit of a cult following in the sports game community, and we have seen some classics over the years with the likes of Brian Lara 2007 standing out.
Merren is keen to stress that Cricket 22 will cater not only to the experienced cricket gamers but also to those who may be more pick-up and play gamers.
“We've added a lot more bowling animations as well, and added what we call arcade control system, which probably harks back to kind of the older control systems and cricket games so that people are more familiar with that can be a bit more pick up and play,” said Merren.
“We're just trying to make sure that it's as accessible as possible to everybody.”
Cracking Career Mode
Anyone who played Cricket 19 will know about the Career Mode, and this year’s version of the mode looks to bring more realism and personality into the game.
Just like Cricket 19, you will start off as a lowly club cricketer, working your way through the ranks all the way to the national team.
But there is more to it than that...
Storyline – But not a story mode
In line with the gameplay, one of the key aspects of Career Mode was to keep it user-friendly for those who may not have played the game before, or not tested out the Career Mode.
“From an accessibility point of view, we kind of hold your hand through the first three matches and introduce you to kind of the characters that will be kind of showing up as the career progresses,” said Merren.
Merren was also keen to stress that this is not a story mode, but there will be a storyline that goes with the career mode.
“We have a beginning and an end of the career now. You can keep playing it after that end but there is a goal, which I won't say now but there is a goal to get to when you're playing your career,” he said.
“You can also carry on and keep going but the kind of narrative element of it will kind of stop at that point.
“I'm not going to say it’s a story mode. We still have the ability that you can be yourself, play through and try and be the best you can.”
Added to the immersive feel to the game is the introduction of media duties for the first time, with press conferences, Player of the Match interviews, and more.
“We've got press conferences now which is a big thing, which we did in our previous tennis game,” explained Merren.
“You’ve got press conferences as captain, but also man of the match and things on the pitch that you do, so it's all kind of bringing in more of the elements you'd have as a cricket player in real life.”
Hopefully, these press conferences aren’t repetitive, nonsensical, and altogether irritating like a certain high-profile sports title…
There are also mini-games being introduced to the career mode to help you improve on your skills, but it won’t be straightforward.
Performing well in the mini-games will help your player, however, there is the risk that poor performance will impact fatigue, something that has not been featured before.
“It's all about adding to your skill levels effectively,” said Merren.
“Each of the mini-games has a boost to certain things and you’ve got a risk and reward with it, if you do it badly then there's potential it’s going to affect fatigue.”
Whereas before you could jet off around the world playing in all sorts of global competitions, Test matches, and whatever other commitments you had, this year you will need to manage your player more effectively.
With more focus on your player’s career, there is that added element of realism of managing your time and commitments properly.
It is about time we had some proper competitive cricket online, and Big Ant looks set to deliver it this season.
Rise up the ranks
There is a proper competitive element to online play in Cricket 22, with grindable leaderboards banished.
Win a certain number of matches, move up the leagues. It really is a simple concept, but one that should make a massive difference.
“It’s all done on a shorter form version of the game rather than trying to play test matches online,” said Merren.
“It's making sure that people go in and have a reward for playing those games because most the stuff we've done before has been just kind of almost grind leaderboards.
“This is going to be benefitting people that actually win the matches.”
Possibly one of the most exciting parts of any game is creating your team and taking them onto the field, and that is exactly what you can do in Cricket 22.
With a vast array of authentic players to choose from, you can assemble your team with a limited number of points available.
This means you can’t just assemble the best, so choose your marquee players carefully! It is not the end of the story once your team has been selected though,
“You will be able to swap players out as you go through and as you progress leagues, you’ve then got the ability to actually improve,” explained Merren.
So, as you improve, so will your team. You will need those top players in your side the higher up the leagues you go.