By John Walker on November 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am.
The sorry saga of 505 Games’ Ashes Cricket 2013 continues apace. Beginning with one of the dumbest trailers in gaming history, it was supposed to appear in June this year. You know, in time for the Ashes. It didn’t make it, except they got lucky. For reasons my brain cannot work up the energy to care about, rather than the usual two year gap between the Australia Vs England bat-to-ball grudge series, they’ve started another one already, just a few months later. A fortuitous one-off anomaly allowing the game to slip five months and not suddenly be enormously out of date. So now, in time for the latest Ashes, it’s been released on PC alone. Except, it’s all going a bit wrong. Just a few days later it’s been mysteriously pulled from Steam, the Facebook page has vanished, and there are lots of rather cross customers. And an increasing number of excellent videos.
By the mysterious magics of Steam, Ashes Cricket 2013 still remains playable on RPS’s Central Computer. And by crikey, it’s quite the thing. Well, just take a look at a completely unspectacular moment I recorded:
As well as looking like it’s from the early 2000s (check out those crowds!), the choppy animations and weird skips aren’t YouTube or editing – that’s how the game plays, all the time. Trying to follow the ball is quite the thing, as each fielder sproings from one glitchy animation to the next, pinging from one place to another, while the camera chops and changes at all the wrong moments. It is, immediately, a bad game. Then take a look at this incredible footage from player Matt Whitehorn:
The issues go deeper, of course. Despite being PC only for the moment (rumours are that it hasn’t successfully passed the consoles’ certification processes) there is absolutely no mouse input at any point, from menus to playing. And while there are keyboard controls, there’s no way to know what they are, nor to edit them. You just have to stab at keys randomly until you stumble on the right ones. Control options are only available for a 360 controller, with which the game was obviously designed to be played, but amazingly the on-screen instructions for accessing them are only shown for the keyboard. Commentary is all over the place, the ball seems to teleport itself about, and the statistics are broken.
Forums are filling up with stories of the absolutely abysmal AI, which allows spectacular scores to be racked up in a single ball. This lucky customer managed to score 16 in one go. While that’d certainly be a version of cricket I’d enthusiastically tune in for, it’s not perhaps too realistic a portrayal of the world’s slowest sport. And it proves to be one of the dramatically lower scores the game can offer.
The game’s official forums also make for quite the reading, and rumour has it that 505 have pulled the game’s Facebook page because of all the bug-displaying videos players were posting. It’s certainly vanished. On top of this, the game’s Twitter account hasn’t been updated since September, which is odd for a game that’s just come out. Here’s some more stunning footage, sped up 16x, from Whitehorne:
What has happened here is not yet known, and I imagine it’ll be a long while before we hear the stories from behind the scenes. Clearly the game must have been in some sort of development hell, if a bonus three months’ miraculous grace still wasn’t enough to get it into a fit state for release. Whether it’s been pulled by 505 or Steam we don’t yet know. We’ve contacted 505 and Valve to see if we can find out what’s going on.