Some of our regular readers might think that a review of a cricket game is a little out of our wheelhouse, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. As a North American publication, we tend to cover sports that resonate with our readers, so reviews for franchises such as FIFA and Madden tend to get the most attention. That being said, I was intrigued when I heard that a new cricket game would be coming out on consoles and PC and decided to have a go at it.
Before I begin though, I should note that those who are looking for an in-depth analysis of Don Bradman Cricket 17’s grasp on cricket should look elsewhere. While I do know the basic ins-and-outs of the sport (thanks to my father, who regularly watched cricket matches as I was growing up), I (frankly) am unable to provide the most comprehensive look at developer Big Ant’s newest title. For those looking for a less casual critique at the game, there are plenty of Australian/New Zealand/Indian publications that have covered Don Bradman Cricket 17 in more detail. For a more informal take, however, read on.
What I immediately noticed about Don Bradman Cricket 17 was that, unlike most sports games which dominate the market, it’s an unlicensed cricket title, meaning that it doesn’t officially have licensed teams or players. Luckily, Big Ant has (smartly) provided the option to allow players to create their own in-game teams and rosters, and this feature works surprisingly well. Upon booting up the game for the first time, you’re given the option to download an updated roster, which will essentially replace the default one with a well-crafted fan creation which mimics real-world teams and players. It’s a clever way of circumventing the licensing costs associated with using official teams, and while the fan-created in-game models aren’t on the same level as facial-scanned players from (let’s say) the NBA games, it’s still a very neat substitute.
To be honest, it’s important to taper your expectations if you decide to jump into the world of Don Bradman Cricket 17. While I am a little less discerning when it comes to this sort of thing, it doesn’t take long to realize that Big Ant has crafted a more subdued game. If you’re used to the high production values, licensed soundtracks, and all around pumped-up attitude of your favorite soccer or football game, you might be a little disappointed. Sure, Don Bradman Cricket 17 does suffer from some performance issues and could use some more varied commentary or higher fidelity assets, but Big Ant has absolutely nailed the most important part of the package; the gameplay.
Even if you haven’t had any hands-on time with Big Ant’s first cricket game, Don Bradman Cricket 17 features a robust tutorial, which does a solid job of getting newcomers comfortable with the basics (and nuances) of batting, bowling, and fielding. Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of the sport, I’d recommend you at least give this mode a look, as there are basic feedback cues which will allow you to adjust the timing on your shots or how you bowl.
This time around, Big Ant has made some tweaks to the way batting works. Eschewing the more arcade-y feeling of Don Bradman Cricket 14, you’ll have to focus on things such as foot placement and shot type, and there’s a definite learning curve when it comes to making important decisions on the fly. While I’ve had very little hands-on time with earlier games, bowling feels noticeably more fluid this time around, and, if you can get a grasp on mastering how the in-game mechanics work, it provides you with plenty of opportunities to take down a wicket, as opposed to randomly and blindly bowling. Fielding does have its shortcomings (smaller plays/singles feel more difficult to counter), though the moments where you catch a ball from the air can be quite exciting.
For those who take to the revamped mechanics, an expanded career mode offers plenty of reasons to continually come back, as you craft a character and take him (or her) from the lowly ranks of a small-time cricket club all the way to the star of a country’s team. Also, that’s not a typo. Don Bradman Cricket 17 allows for both male and female players; a feature that’s sorely missing from most other sports games.
The addition of female rosters isn’t a quick patch job, either. As opposed to simply swapping out male skins for female ones, Big Ant has tweaked things such as body shape and animations, so that female players look and feel different from their male counterparts. Female players also handle and play a little differently, with less emphasis on speed and sheer force; a design choice that (I imagine) mimics how actual female cricket players play.
If you come at Don Bradman Cricket 17 with an open mind and are willing to look past its pared-back budget and bugs and visual glitches, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Thanks to a meaty career mode and an in-depth batting and bowling system, Don Bradman Cricket 17 has enough going for it to warrant a purchase, assuming cricket is your cup of tea in the first place. If it isn’t, you’d be hard-pressed to find another game to dip your toes in the water with.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Whether you're a veteran of the sport or a newcomer, Don Bradman Cricket 17 is one of the better cricket games you can get your hands on.