If the title doesn't give it away, then spoiler alert: we're about to review a game about snooker. When you think about sports games, it might not be the first sub-genre that comes to mind. However, we here at Gamereactor have delved into this latest title to see if it's just for snooker fans, or whether there's enough here to get the neutrals putting chalk on their cue as well.
Well, we're pleased to tell you from the get-go that this officially licensed Snooker title is a pretty solid effort, although sadly it comes with one or two issues that impacted our enjoyment a little. It's definitely fun to learn and play, but there's a couple of things that snooker the effort. So, let's get to the heart of it.
While there are a few different modes to choose from, the majority of your time will be spent in career mode. Here you take on the mantle of a seasoned pro like Ronnie O' Sullivan or John Higgins, or a rising star from a selection of real players that only avid fans will know about. The aim of the game here is to go through a full season, qualifying and playing in competitions such as the European Masters and the Paul Hunter Classic. After qualification, you play through each round, usually containing more and more frames, until you win or get kicked out, collecting the prize money as you go. The better you do, the more your rank increases. And, that's basically it. If you play as a pro, you have to maintain your rank, while rising stars need to... erm, rise. You'll visit famous venues along the way such as the Crucible, which has been beautifully recreated in digital form.
One problem is it feels like there's a lack of variety in terms of the modes. Sure, there's only so much you can do with a game based on snooker that wants to be realistic, but it just seems a bit shallow. There was some variety, such as the number of starting reds were reduced to six from the standard 15 in certain competitions (such as the Paul Hunter Classic), but apart from that, it was just frame after frame of snooker.
That said, it is strangely addictive even for a relative novice. We found ourselves playing for hours, trying to better our score or increase our maximum break. We were desperate to get that coveted 147, but it turns out we are only slightly better in the game than we are in real life.
The reason behind our budding addiction comes from the spot-on ball physics. You have to think not just about potting a red, but the position of the cue ball afterwards, and thanks to the realistic mechanics, you really can plan your shots around the table. The more we played, the better we got and we always felt like we were learning, which made us feel proud of our efforts when we beat our previous best or went up in the ranks.
There are three different difficulties and a number of levels of aim assist. With the help set to maximum, you can see where the white is going to roll after striking a red or coloured ball. For the sadists out there, you can turn this off completely and put it on hard, but we found it challenging enough on easy. The difficulty is a little bit gruelling at times, which left us feeling a bit frustrated when our opponents wiped the floor with us.
The cueing action work pretty well, as you can dictate the spin, power and angle of your shot with ease. Once you line up your shot, you pull back on the right stick and push forward at the correct time to hopefully pot your target ball, or maybe even snooker your opponent. One mistake, though, can destroy your frame, so it pays to be careful.
The AI, even on easy, can sink ball after ball, racking up scores that can kill the match. What's more, they can pull off trick shots that would make John Virgo giggle. The game seems to recreate our annoyance with our player sitting there drinking sparkling water, watching the game slip away. Then, out of no-where, even the most seasoned pro like Ronnie will miss the most basic shot and give you a chance to get back into the game. On the whole, the AI seemed pretty good, but it did have moments of being a little irritating or even feeling flawed.
The final point we'd like to address is the commentary, as it's almost comical at times. It's quite repetitive and often doesn't seem to marry up with what's going on during the match. "Great shot" might be declared as our white ball rolls into the pocket and a foul is given. You'd have to say that this is a low point, even if we enjoyed the comedy of it at times.
Other than the main game, there are quick match options, an online mode with a world tournament, and a local multiplayer option (and we really enjoyed the ability to play with friends in the same room). Another highlight was the look of table and balls. The visuals are excellent and everything is highly detailed, which only adds to the overall atmosphere. Alas, the same cannot be said for the snooker players who could have down with a bit of a makeover.
On the whole, this is a solid attempt at a snooker game. More ways to play would have been nice, and the AI can be too difficult at times, but with both online and local play included, as well as some realistic ball physics, it quickly becomes a lot of fun, especially once you've got the hang of the various gameplay systems. Novice or inexperienced players will enjoy learning the ropes, and fans of the sport will certainly get a lot out of the campaign as they line up against some familiar faces from the world of snooker.
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