It’s pertinent to preface this review with a few facts. Firstly, I’m a sports statistics junkie. If it moves, I want to know how far it moved, who stopped it, and what the result of its movement was. Secondly, I’m Australian and, as such, am tragically supportive of anything related to cricket.
Now, on to Cricket Captain 2016.
Cricket Captain 2016 was developed by Childish Things, a UK-based development company who’ve been behind the previous two iterations of the game released in 2014 and 2015. The 2016 edition is another step up from last year’s version and has come with a raft of updates and inclusions as the world of cricket continues to grow.
In Cricket Captain 2016 you assume the role of the manager of your local cricket team. If you’re looking for the exhilaration of smashing ball after ball into the crowd or bowling bouncers at unsuspecting batsmen from the player’s perspective, you should probably stop reading here. This game is all about the behind the scenes action and don’t be fooled, there’s plenty of it.
Beginning by taking charge of a domestic team (which you can now do in both New Zealand and South Africa thanks to roster and kit upgrades) you control the entire management of the team. From gameday specifics like how and when to use bowlers and batsmen, how and where they bowl, how aggressive or defensive they should play, and so much more of the day-to-day preparation behind the scenes, there is always something to do in Cricket Captain 2016.
It’s best to go into this game with at least a bit of cricket knowledge. It can seem complicated on the face of it but if this is something that piques your interest, watching just a handful of cricket games should give you the information you need to at least make a start as a cricket manager.
You’ll begin by confirming your roster. You can terminate contracts, make offers, and extend contracts to players from all across the globe, and they’ll negotiate back at you. Operate within your budget to get the best squad you can. You’ll soon figure out ways of luring the big name players to your team, but money management is key as the game and contracts can span long periods of time.
Once you’ve confirmed your roster you can set a training regime, either improving in-form players or helping the stragglers keep up in case of injury to your first team. From there, it’s on to the pitch for a spot of cricket. Control of the game is mainly made through a screen-wide interface and you won’t be seeing much of the actual action. The game will show highlights when something interesting happens as you cycle through the overs and you can specify which events trigger footage. We found ourselves turning it all off after a few hours, particularly when you start a five-day Test match. You might think this sounds a bit boring, not seeing any actual footage of the game but again, that’s not what this game is about.
The menus can feel a little clumsy at times, but all-in-all the gameplay flows well and figuring out which combination of settings to use and how to use your players soon takes on its own form of exhilaration.
In 2016 we all see a sports game and expect it to have the budget of a FIFA or a Madden title and that’s simply unrealistic. Cricket Captain 2016 isn’t flashy and it isn’t the prettiest girl at the ball, but it is practical and in a managerial game that’s really all you can ask for.
The interface, the thing you’ll be spending 95% of your time looking at, is simple and easy to read. There are an almost endless array of graphs and statistical analysis aids to choose from which can make some of the menus feel a little bit like a maze, but once you find your way around you’ll realise that there’s so much information. The layout of the interface does its best to steer you in the right direction for the most part. If you’ve ever seen a graphic or diagram when watching a game of cricket, chances are that it’s in Cricket Captain 2016 among so many more you’ve never seen.
For the brief moments where you’ll see gameplay, it becomes clear where the money was spent. Childish Things boast an upgraded lighting and camera system, and that certainly makes a difference, but the on-field movement is simple even in relation to the rest of the game. Occasionally players will move in a way that seems physically impossible and no-look overhead catches while running away from the ball are commonplace. This certainly isn’t a detriment to the overall feel of the game, though. In fact, it almost adds to it in a slightly humourous way.
In-game sound is solid. Close your eyes and the on-field action certainly sounds like Cricket. The unmistakable sound of cork-on-willow and the screams of appeal are on point. Coupled with a solid, but not great commentary track and the cut-aways to gameplay certainly don’t get tiring in that regard.
If you’ve turned highlights off, however, we suggest you invest in some music because the menus are almost completely devoid of audio stimulation. Considering that this is where you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time, you’ll need a little third-party background noise to save your own sanity.
Cricket Captain 2016 introduces a lot of upgrades that may not be readily visible on the surface of the thing. Improvements to the shorter forms of the game, One Day and Twenty20 games, mean that they’re now great fun and properly competitive. There’s also been a raft of additions to squads with both the New Zealand and South African domestic leagues added to the game as well as general improvements to those already available in previous versions.
Couple these advances with a rejuvenated camera system which lets you take full control of your view and there’s a lot to admire in this game. You can zoom right in on your player as they defend a wildly spinning ball or zoom all the way out and take in the wholesome, buzzing atmosphere that you can only get at a game of cricket.
As we pointed out early on in this review, there is certainly a niche market at which this game is aimed. If you don’t know much about cricket or you aren’t interested in sports games beyond the surface level then this probably isn’t the game for you. If you do know a bit about cricket and you are interested, then stay tuned because this game may be for you.
We reviewed this game on Windows PC via Steam, and we had good fun. It can be a little daunting at first, but once you get into it and start flowing through the overs, seeing all the numbers tick over can become addictive. There are small qualms with the game but if you can find some background noise to keep you occupied then this could easily be a time-sink of a game.
We give Cricket Captain 2016 a 7.5/10. Improvements on its predecessors are good signs as the series continues to evolve and we’re looking forward to dropping quite a few more hours into the game.
Just bought Cricket Captain 2016. Time to get Dolphins to 4 day success. First game at Lions. Included 3 spinners, as sunshine 4 days.
— Chris Murtagh (@Murtiniiii) July 5, 2016