“A packed audience here at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield sits in hushed anticipation waiting for this first round match between the Irishman Ken Doherty and Player One.”
Ah! Snooker… The knowledgeable crowds, the lights, the cameras, the titles, the pressure… How well all the players of today handle it all. Indeed, they make it look so easy!
(Cough.) Quite. And very soon you’ll be able to enjoy that same atmosphere big snooker match atmosphere snooker on your PC.
I’m chalking my tip in anticipation. Any good, is it?
We’ll say so. Already out as a widely acclaimed PlayStation title, as a sim, World Championship Snooker is so spot-on people have been saying that it can actually improve your real-life snooker. And we’re inclined to believe them.
Marvellous. I could do with some work on my cue action.
Hmm, well. WCS won’t actually teach you how to hold a bloody cue properly – but it might help with your positional play because the ball control options and the physics are that good. Apparently Codemasters got in a real pro in to work with them closely on the game, and it shows. Multiple simultaneous collisions, miss-cueing, those flashy masse shots like Dennis Taylor bangs on about, flying balls like you get down the pub, accurate table behaviour – it’s al been expertly and lovingly reproduced.
It’s as difficult as the real game then?
Ah! Now then. One of the major thing to report about WCS is that while it has a learning curve and a competitive World Championship mode that rewards practice, WCS is specifically designed to let you in score high breaks in a realistic manner, just like they do on telly. Thus WCS isn’t just a good sim for a free SimCash, it’s also fun.
Very wise that they’ve made it this way, I’m sure. After all, missing a series of one foot pots in your local snooker hall when you’ve got a beer in your hand some mates standing round saying, “Unlucky, mate; difficult this, innit”, is all very well; but to miss 10 sitters on the bounce in your own bedroom would be enough to drive you down to your local, err, snooker hall to play the game proper.
Just so. And the other thing that adds to the feel good factor of WCS is it’s televisual presentation, which is so fabulous it’s almost hilarious. When you first fire up the game the BBC snooker theme tune blasts out (at great length) against pictures of a galaxy of today’s snooker stars (as well as John Parrot); and when you start an actual match you’re treated to players chalking-up their cues, a referee who keeps score and replaces the balls, and realistically tedious commentary by Dennis Taylor. And then there are the venues; and crowds that react to the progress of a match…
Venues like that pressure-cooker, the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield – the home of snooker?
Indeed the ‘home of snooker’ certainly is featured – in all its minor glory – along with Wembley and a rack of other major arenas. And there’s even local snooker hall where you can knock a few balls about.
A local snooker hall? What, you mean booze, smokes and a tab at the bar and all that?
Almost. There are some very nice carpets on view, anyway. But the main point about the local snooker hall feature is that World Championship Snooker takes you through a club-based qualifying league, where you face, younger, lesser-known players before progressing to the Crucible itself to complete in the World Championship against the likes of ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And these AI players reflect their real-life counter parts, do they?
But of course (we are talking Codemasters here). An advanced AI system mimics the characteristics of the real professional players, simulating their behaviour under pressure, their tactical play and their positional skills. Thus Higgins’ all round game is tediously solid, White blows hot and cold and O’Sullivan takes the piss. 20 top-ranked player feature in all.
What other options besides World Championship mode are there? Any multiplayer possibilities?
Besides the full Championship you can play single matches against a friend or an AI opponent, as you would expect; multiplayer competitions are catered for with a set-up your-own-tournament option for up to 16 players.
Look okay, does it?
The venues in particular look lovely, the televisual presentation works really well, and the camera options and clear interface help keep you on top of your game intuitively.
But the players look a bit ropy, don’t they?
Mate, it’s the ‘physics thing’ you should be minding about most of all. And besides, this is snooker – not bleedin’ modern art.