Finally, after slogging through sub-par offerings for years, Codemasters have produced a cricket title for cricket fans that does the sport justice. All the expected game options are here - Exhibition, Tournament and The Nets - as well as Create Your Own Player and Challenge Mode.
When starting a match, you have control over everything from weather conditions to ball brand, pitch type, ball condition and fielding restrictions. In The Nets, you can choose which bowler or batter to practice against and determine where you would like the ball to be pitched, allowing you to hone skills in your weaker areas. And when you create a player, you have control over their bowling, fielding and batting statistics as well as their general appearance (although more depth here would have been nice) and even bat type.
Then there's the Challenge Mode that sees you face off against World and Classic XIs or compete in classic games: for example, you can play a Bodyline test, complete with black and white graphics and models dressed to the times.
Unbelievably, Codemasters has made bowling as much fun as batting, brought some skill into fielding and added strategic importance to every single ball delivered. It's up to you to out-think the opposition on every delivery whether it's in their field settings, type of delivery, timing of stroke or stroke choice.
When batting, you have block/deflect, lofted shot and standard stroke options with control over the direction and in-turn the type of stroke played. The engine reacts impressively to your combination of these options allowing you to drive, hook, pool, leg glance, guide past the slips and whatever else you can think of with relative ease. However, you can't head in with any preconceived shots and you must play each delivery on its merits.
This is thanks to the awesome variety and unpredictable shifts of bowling. There are a couple of difficulty settings to try out, starting at "Club" level and moving through "State" to "Test". You will notice plenty of difference when playing against the AI.
So where does RPIC fall down? Well the graphics aren't crash hot. They are acceptable and there are some excellent animations, but you're unlikely to be blown away. There are other good points to the presentation however, like good commentary from the likes of Tony Greig, hearty "Howzat!" calls, hawk-eye, a video referee and ball tracking which does add that TV presence to the gameplay. Overall, this is the game that cricket fans have been awaiting.
Visuals: Graphics could use a bit of sprucing, but some of the historic modes are a nice touch.
Audio: Tony Greig commentary and enthusiastic vocals from the fielders.
Gameplay: Wonderfully balanced gameplay, great game modes, fun and challenging AI.
Score: 4 1/2 PC World Recommends