April 17, 2011
Snooker, as John Virgo constantly reminds us, is a gentleman’s game developed by the British army back in the day. Suffice it to say that it's yet to become much of a global phenomenon and its brash alter ego - namely Pool - is much more widely known. Still, for those of us happy to spend a few hours on the baize knocking balls around - steady! - this is quite simply the perfect way to accomplish that from the safety of your own home. After all, when your real life highest break is 20, down at the dingy local club, then this is the only way you can get that elusive 147 to brag about – though you can keep the fact that is was on a virtual representation a secret, it’s just between us.
Luckily WSC Real 11: World Snooker Championship caters to fans of all ball potting games, with snooker, pool and even some billiards on show. Sadly, they seem to have ditched the rather fun trick shot mode which is a bit of a shame as there was always something hugely satisfying about pulling off one of the outrageous shots. That aside, the package here is pretty well thought out and the addition of some online quick play and throwing tournament options into the mix is hugely welcome too.
The interface from the off is very welcoming, as you can edit your player, assign skill points to their attributes and browse through your impressive array of trophies. Once you are suitably suited and booted you can head over to the tutorial for a quick refresher or dive straight into a career. To be honest, it might make sense to dabble with the tutorial regardless, as the controls can seem quite unwieldy when you first start. In fairness though, the changes from the previous titles are subtle and do make sense. The analogue sticks control aim and shot power and then you can use various other combinations to set up spin, elevation and alter your viewpoint to line up those tricky long range efforts. It soon becomes second nature and you'll feel in total control of every aspect of the game.
It's safe to say that the commentary here is woeful though, with only a few lines that seem to be repeated about ten times a frame – all in the same monotone voice. In fact, what starts out as a few interesting facts and anecdotes soon becomes increasingly frustrating. In direct contrast, the game has never looked better, with some lovely lighting and reflection on the balls. The players no longer look like automatons either and the arenas are accurate representations of the real thing. There's not much more that you could ask for to be honest and aside from a rather static looking crowd, everything is spot on. Obviously the most important part of the game will always be the physics and things are perfect in this regard, with pots and positional plays working as they should, and tables and bank shots running without issue.
Obviously the more talented your player is then the more precise everything becomes as well, so while it may seem unfair early on, it really boils down to training up your pro in order to cut down on the margin for error with each shot. After each match you snag skill points to put into improving yourself, so it won’t be long before you have the ability to reel off shot after shot.
One aspect of the game that has sadly made a return is the fact you can only start either a snooker or pool career at any one time. If you are halfway through a career and then start up another in a different discipline then your initial progress will be lost – which seems nonsensical. Thankfully the career modes are satisfying to play through and see you progressing through qualifying rounds on your way to the big events. If anything, the pool tour seems a bit too light on content, but the challenge posed by the pro players certainly makes up for that fact. In fact, the A.I. is pretty well balanced this time around and it never feels like every player will clean up the table if you just make one small mistake. This will still happen now and again, just as it would in real life, but it never feels unfair and if you're at the top of your game in terms of potting and safety, then you should be the master of your own destiny.
The best counter to the A.I. is the new 'Rewind' option, which not only lets you save your favourite shots and matches for future prosperity, but also allows you to retake any shot in your current frame at any given point. At times it can be a major help, as a carefully crafted break can be destroyed by one careless shot leaving your opponent to clean up. Instead you can chose to replay the shot for a more favourable outcome, though success or failure will rest on your mighty cueing arm. It can't be overused either, as the amount is limited depending on the difficulty level... so choose when to use it wisely!
Achievement wise this game is fairly similar to past titles, as you will have to battle through the season mode to win all of the trophies and get to number 1 in the world, all of which will no doubt take some time. There are also some neat achievements for using certain skill shots in pool or amassing high breaks in snooker, so you'll always have a nice mix of progression and skill-based tasks. You'll also need to spend some time online in order to rack up a bunch of wins, which will not be as easy as it looks due to the niche nature of the game, although thankfully, there are a few regulars there to test your wits against.
Your enjoyment of WSC Real 11: World Snooker Championship though will depend largely on your love for the sport and how quickly you pick up the controls. Once you are sucked in though, it's amazingly satisfying to play and the physics and attention to detail make it the best in the series by a long way. Clearing from the break in pool or amassing a painstaking century in snooker both require different skill sets and a high level of concentration, just like in real life. Throw in a fun 'Golden Cue' event that mixes the two together, and the online arena as well, and you have plenty to occupy yourself with. As John Virgo always used to say, “Pot as many balls as you can.” Words to live by.
That classic snooker theme cannot mask the frankly woeful commentary, although the main issue is one of repetition.
Beautiful looking tables and balls, plus some spot on physics, make for a perfect rendition. The players are better too, though not perfect, and it has to be said that the crowds could do with some more effort.
A great rendition of snooker, and when you throw in pool and billiards as well, it covers all of the bases. The controls seem bewildering at first, but the helpful tutorial and a few practice frames are all it takes to get you on the right track.
Pitch perfect physics and a satisfying career mode will keep you coming back for more. This is easily the best snooker game to date.
A good mix of lengthy progression tasks and skill-related challenges to tide you over. The online aspect might be asking a bit much, but at least you can count on skill being enough to oust your rivals.
WSC Real 11: World Snooker Championship is a superb recreation of ball potting and one that any fan can soak in and enjoy. It certainly looks a lot better than the last offering and has plenty to offer for new players and series veterans, while the 'Rewind' option is a superb addition too and helps remove some of the frustration that players may have had in the past – without ever feeling overpowering. Time to pack away your cue and pick up a pad, snooker's back on consoles and it's as good as it's ever been!