Is there anybody out there who doesn’t like to bang some balls around? Pool is loved by all and the addition of Pure Pool on your next generation console should be something that excites many.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain the basics of the game, but in case there are some out there who have only just arrived on this planet, I will indeed do just that.
Take one table with six pockets, a human being or two, a stick and a load of balls and you’ll find probably the most fast paced, highly exciting, yet super skilled table based sport in the world, albeit one that has been on a bit of a decline just recently.
If we go back 20, 30 or maybe even 40 years, we’d find our local pool hall filled with smoke, stinking of alcohol and frequented by riff raff. Those days are thankfully long gone but with many halls closing at an alarming rate, the few that are still available are in no way as busy as they once were. Much of this is due to the rise of videogames and so the arrival of Pure Pool on your brand spanking new powerful games console should be a welcome one….maybe not to those struggling pool halls the world over, but most definitely to you, me and many other gamers around the globe.
VooFoo Studios have a rather decent games background that has seen them produce some outstandingly beautiful titles in the past. This is however their first foray into the world of Xbox One, but from the very first instance in which the camera slowly pans round the pool hall, taking in a bustling vibrant atmosphere, accompanied by some superb ambient tunes, you understand that their previous beauty has been brought over to the latest console brilliantly.
That attractiveness is carried on into the game itself with pool balls that sparkle and shine as they catch the light and numerous table baize available, all which whilst seem simple from a distance, scream with a quality weave once you get down to take a shot. The inclusion of super slo-mo shots with a sprinkling of blue chalk whenever the winning shot is homeward bound show off the visuals to an even greater extent.
Whilst many pool games (at least the ones I’ve played previously), attempt to portray the unique experience from a top down view, Pure Pool has gone about things in a different way, giving you a close up, down-the-cue view that brings about a sense of ‘being there’, helping the player develop a skill that couldn’t be done with any other view. Yes, you can ‘stand up’ to take a look at the table in preparation of your next shot or two, but for the most part, the camera shot VooFoo have chosen works extremely well, making the easy shots easy and the more difficult long range pots just about punishing enough!
Pool (and indeed snooker) titles live off the back of not just the visuals and ease in which they can be picked up and played, but also need a physics engine that is unblemished and a control scheme that is easy to initially get to grips with, but essentially difficult to master. Pure Pool has this in spades with no power or spin meters present, instead letting you rely on the feel you get through your right stick as you power on through the pot. It’s much like you’d find in a golf game (the recent The Golf Club is a prime example) and is the real key to the Pure Pool delightfulness. There are times when you’ll miss-cue or slightly mishit a shot but that will never be the games fault…concentration is the key to success and a bad workman always blames his tools.
The two pool modes which provide the staple of the game; 8-Ball and 9-Ball are both present and these make up the vast majority of the huge career mode that is on offer. I say huge, because that’s exactly what it is; pretty damn mammoth and although casual players may well find a bit of tedium creeping in by the time they’ve reached the end, pool fans will love what has been included. Split across six differing sections, 8-Ball Amatuer, Pro and Master and the same with 9-Ball, each sub sections consists of at least seven (and normally more) matches, or special mini-games that will need completing in order to move on. With up to three stars available for each match, all of which are acquired by completing a task throughout the frame in hand, the more stars you accumulate, the further you can progress into the world of the professional game. There will quite possibly be tens of hours of gameplay involved if you wish to complete the entire career and so Pure Pool is something you will no doubt be going back to a good few months down the line, even if only for the odd 10-20 minutes at a time.
Aside from the career and you’ll get the chance to compete in a number of other game modes; Speed Pot, Checkpoint, Perfect Potter and Royal Rumble all encompass the challenge area of the game. These are spot on for a quick five minute blast whenever you are bored and give you the chance to compare your potting skills and trick shots perfectly with the rest of the online world via a number of leaderboards.
And that brings me on to the online side of the game…something where Pure Pool excels once again. Quick matches are all available and give you the chance to pit your wits against others around the world in one-off matches of US 8-Ball, 9-Ball, Blackball, Killer or Accumulator modes (all of which can see you throw a rematch request out easily enough). The online play is flawless, with a fairly quick pace about it. In fact, if you didn’t know you were playing a friend or stranger, then you could easily mistake it for the single player game….of which the two kind of crossover.
Much like the Forza series has its Drivatar system, Pure Pool runs with a DNA code that allows you to play against anyone and everyone, no matter whether they are online at the time or not. DNA analysis’s each and every shot, picking up on the traits of the real-world player and brings them straight into your living room, giving the impression that you are indeed playing the person for real. It’s an ideal situation for those rare times when the matchmaking system can’t find anyone online for you to play against and keeps things fresh.
Failing that, the inclusion of a two-player, one-controller sofa mode should just about satisfy any real multiplayer hunger.
Being ever so picky, possibly the only thing that annoys me very slightly with Pure Pool is the accolades system. Initially a great idea (you earn badges depending on how well you play, how many balls you pot off the break, how many snookers you get out of and the like), they quickly pale into insignificance due to the sheer number that are gained through every match. Sure, there are a few that are going to be super tricky to get but for the most part, you’ll see yourself getting 5,6,7 or more of the simpler accolades in each game, which in turn makes the whole set slightly worthless.
But other than that, there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about Pure Pool, especially if you’re a fan of the game. VooFoo Studios; the kings of the hustle, have brought together all their expertise and know-how to release a game that is as near as damn it, perfect.
It’s pool, it’s cheap, it’s bloody brilliant and it’s something you should be buying on Xbox One right now.