Having previously published VooFoo Studios’ Pure Hold’em, Ripstone have now made their own poker game in the form of Poker Club. It comes promising all the glitter and sparkles of 4K, HDR and ray tracing technology, but is it more a case of style over substance?
Poker Club – if it wasn’t immediately obvious – is a poker game. After creating your avatar, you can sit down at a variety of tables and jump straight in, or those less familiar may take the Poker 101 tutorial.
Once you get the basics down, you can jump into online cash games or a wider tournament game, but Tour Mode is the biggest draw. Starting in the basements of a local pizzeria or in a boxing gym, you must complete objectives in these settings to earn stars and advance through the Tour mode. As you progress, the settings get more lavish, but so do the buy-ins.
Texas Hold’em is the format of poker you will be playing, but Poker Club does offer some variations to just this one mode. There are tournaments to try and win, cash/ring games that you can drop in or out of, and even just straight match-up games where it is just the two of you going head-to-head. Still, a few other types of poker wouldn’t have felt out of place.
But don’t expect any AI opponents you can bully around. Even in the Tour mode, remaining seats are populated with online players to give you more unpredictable opponents. Poker Club is also cross-play, which does mean that tables fill up pretty quickly and you aren’t waiting around too long.
However, even with a full table of six attentive and on the ball players, the gameplay here is just far too slow. Any impetus players have to speed things up is negated with uncomfortably long pauses and transitions between player turns, and it is even longer between rounds.
Then, at the end of the river where the winner of the pot is revealed, things get very confusing. If using the default first person view, it switches to a top-down view, which forces you to take a moment to regain your bearings. It also doesn’t show the entire table, cutting off the edges and potentially hiding cards. Worse though, there appears to only be one male voice in Poker Club with one exalted “Yes!” when winning a pot, so it is anyone’s guess which avatar it came from. And even when multiple players go all-in, the camera angle doesn’t show all revealed cards, making it a mystery how you’ve done until the results screen.
You can make your avatars stand out by unlocking customisation items through levelling up. Almost every action in Poker Club – checking, betting, raising, etc. – awards XP, along with bigger rewards the better your hands. This XP goes into a progression system where additional avatar items are awarded as you level up. As well as new clothing, you can also add table ornaments, and alter chip and card designs to your liking.
At launch though, Poker Club has a number of graphical, aural and gameplay issues. A hotfix has come out that has fixed the gameplay freezing issue – initially the game would randomly stop cycling through player turns and the only fix was to quit out of the game. However, there are these odd flickering lights that appear at the edges of the screen when in first person view. And then, when coming back to Poker Club after a period of time, the sound crackles like an old wireless radio. Together, these issues make it look and sound like your TV is breaking down in front of you.
And with the promise of cutting-edge visuals, character models look alright but are nothing to write home about. With a grand total of ten different types of faces across masculine and feminine face types, chances are relatively high you will encounter someone looking very similar to you sat on the same table.
Even the environments themselves are fine at best, although the first few dingy environments do not showcase everything this game has to offer.
Clubs are available in game, as the title would suggest: reach Level 5 and you can start or join a club. Chips you earn can be donated to the club to unlock exclusive customisation items and daily payouts, and you can see stats of fellow members. There isn’t an option to jump into the same game as a member of your club, which would have been useful for those joining clubs where every member isn’t on their friends list.
And about those stats… they are completely unreliable. Those that pop up at the end of a session – number of hands won and return on investment – make no sense whatsoever and are generally incorrect. There is a Statistics screen where you can view a more detailed breakdown of your actions that is slightly more reliable, but still isn’t perfect.
Poker Club on Xbox does promise long-term updates and new features coming soon, but it has launched with a few too many issues to consider a purchase right away. Patches are incoming for the bugs and glitches, but the whole package needs tightening up in multiple areas in order to make it a bit faster and less laborious in its current guise. It may be best for you to hold on for a bit before going all-in with this one.