Thursday, 05 May 2005
Arron readies his cue and delivers a trick shot into the corner pocket. Which means, of course, that he has reviewed a new snooker game!
Snooker is a 'Marmite' sport. You either love it or hate it - whether you're playing it or watching it on the TV. Though the game of snooker is relatively easy to play, the game itself is time consuming, especially to watch. Remember watching Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan vs Peter Ebdon? Still, we're holding out for a decent videogame alternative that can do the game justice while eliminating all of the boring elements. Bear with us.
While out here in the 'Real World' (wherever that is) it's quite easy to set up a game of snooker (provided you have access to a table), it’s a tedious challenge in WSC 2005 as you navigate your way through the menus. From one menu to the other, you have to play very close attention to the mountains of options availible. The over-elaborate menu design feels a little awkward and unfriendly - it may be quite a while before you can actually settle down to a game.
Once you’ve found your way through the menus, you have the chance to do an exhibition match and get your skills up to scratch before going head to head with the top 100 snooker players in the world - including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davies, Stephen Hendry and Paul Hunter. The game is very easy to grasp but difficult to master, with more intelligent, tricky shots requiring a lot of forethought.
The heart of the game lies within ‘The Tour’. This is where you’ll be taking on the best snooker players from around the world. The tour consists of all the locations the official snooker tournaments takes place, from the ‘Welsh Open’ to ‘The Masters’. The AI seems initially quite harsh, but you soon discover that you're only losing the game through your own careless shots - leaving the white ball on line for an easy pot is normally the issue among beginners - you have to develop your skills pretty quickly in order to progress.
Potting the balls on the table is easy thanks to two guidance arrows that show the direction the ball you are attempting to hit will go and which direction the cue ball is heading. There are two different ways you can take your shot: the right analogue stick and the face buttons are both viable options, and you can opt for the control method that suits you.
You wouldn’t expect much from a snooker game in the graphics department, but the whole look of the (small) playing area is very slick, with a special mention going to the snooker balls themselves. However, beyond the table things take a turn for the worse. The snooker players in particular certainly could have looked much better than the drab, sometimes disturbing creatures prowling round the virtual table. Although this is only a minor gripe, as you’re playing you do begin to wonder what might have happened if Blaze put as much effort into the surrounding areas and players as they did on the table. In all seriousness, the game often looks rather shoddy at the best of times. Some effort has obviously been made with the balls and play mechanics, but everything else feels quite lazily and hastily thrown together.
Anyone familiar with the snooker tournaments on the TV will no doubt recognise the vocal stylings of the commentary team. Although they’ve got the talent, their remarks are nothing to do with what’s just happened on the table (laughable you might think, but it brings down the realism tenfold). The music (if you can even call it that) is absolutely boring and annoyed me to the point of muting the TV and slamming a CD into my stereo. Who really wants to listen to the opening theme tune of the snooker on BBC2? Although the game does sound rather dire at times, the realistic knocks and, well, clunks of the snooker balls sounds real enough. Still, a decent tune to play to would not have gone amiss.
Still, at least we can rest assured that WSC 2005 is a competent snooker title in its own right. It’s fluid and entertaining to play, and feels scarily realistic at times. Like in real life, perfecting the game takes some time. The official licenses, some great gameplay and the replayability of this title all come together to form an enjoyable enough way to waste your time. If you're a snooker fan, you can't go wrong with this - but if not, you may want to have a crack at the real sport first.