Cricket 24 returns with the series’ signature gameplay, but we can’t help but feel like we’re watching a replay during a rain delay.

Cricket has always been Big Ant Studios’ crowning glory in the Melbourne developer’s roster of niche sport adaptations. The foundations of batting and bowling have been solid since it debuted without any official teams almost a decade ago as Don Bradman Cricket, and it’s continued to refine gameplay and expand its roster ever since.

In that regard, Cricket 24 is at the top of the best cricket game series. But it’s not quite that simple; it also brings the least improvements over its predecessor, as the seams start to show in the Marge Simpson Chanel suit of sport videogames.

As with December 2021’s Cricket 22, Cricket 24 keeps its proven but ageing batting, bowling and fielding formula intact, and focuses its additions off the field. The series has carried over the same gameplay since it bore the Ashes name in 2017 with mostly positive tweaks, but this time around, it’s barely done that. After nearly 3 years, Cricket 24 keeps things almost identical to the 2021 instalment – there’s only so many times it can run through the sewing machine for minor alterations.

Instead, it prioritises more alami player movements through new motion capture, a more intuitive menu, finally including licensed Indian franchises and adding some more minnow international teams.

Eight of the 10 Indian Premier League teams are now fully licensed, including full player likenesses and a bunch of real world Indian stadiums – with livelier crowds than the start of the 2024 World Cup.

The IPL joins most of the world’s other major T20 leagues, including the men’s and women’s Big Bash, Caribbean Premier League, Pakistan Super league and New Zealand’s Super Smash – as well as English’s not-T20 competition, the Hundred.

On the international stage, licensing is anchored by the Ashes as it has been for years. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse for Cricket 24. It’s well and truly missed its marquee 2023 event, and I’ve struggled to care about playing through a series that ended long ago. Perhaps England fans still basking in the glory will feel differently.

Instead, it’s launched alongside the 2024 Cricket World Cup in India – which isn’t officially licensed.

You can setup a 50-over World Championship in India easily enough. But it lacks the prestige of a proper license, and by default, most international teams don’t feature their real players. The likes of Australia, England and New Zealand retain their proper squads, but your fake World Cup in India won’t include the real Indian team out-of-the-box.

It’s understandable, as cricket is a notoriously hard game to license, and I imagine India’s cricket board, the BCCI, effectively makes it impossible. But most players won’t connect the dots and it’s confusing to see Indian ODI captain Rohit Sharma playing for the Mumbai Indians, but imposter Ravi Sura taking his place in the national team.

It’s unfortunate that Cricket 24 brings more licenses than ever before, but not the flagship international tournament its release has coincided with.

That’s where Cricket 24’s worth starts to be questioned, more than previous instalments. On the field, it’s effectively the same game as Cricket 22, which was very similar to Cricket 19 before it – head back to my review from over 4 years ago, and the gameplay that matters remains very similar.

Both of those games were improved considerably through a stream of patches following release – especially Cricket 22, which in many ways felt like a step backwards at launch but ended up regaining form. We don’t take a massive step backwards to go forward this time around; Cricket 24 feels like a continuation of Cricket 22 out in the middle. But that’s just it – it’s more of Cricket 22, not a full sequel.

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