Snooker. It has to be said that over the last couple of decades the enthusiasm and draw of this rather slow paced sport has died down. Gone are the days when a World Championship final would be drawing in the crowds, and even though the powers that be have tried in vain to spice things up with rule changes and game variety, it’s not currently the most appealing sport for this fast paced world we live in.
But hey, that doesn’t mean we don’t want a decent snooker title on our consoles and with a collaborative effort between Ripstone, Lab42 and World Snooker themselves, Snooker 19 is trying to draw in the crowds. Does it succeed in that long pot, or has it left itself snookered behind the black?
Well, I’m pleased to say that it’s not a bad effort at all and any fan of the baize should be more than happy with what Snooker 19 is able to deliver.
Playing host to the majority of your time on Snooker 19 is a career mode which comes with a great deal of depth to it. With the choice of 3 AI difficulty levels, and 4 aiming aids available, allowing you to easily pick a setting suitable to your skills – although annoyingly this can’t be changed once a season starts – Snooker 19 will easily appeal to a range of skill levels. That said, I’m not sure exactly who will be up for running through a long match with zero aiming aid, but hey, if you are a cue-wielding masochist then the option is there.
The Career itself is a considerable one, with it pushing you through a simple season calendar in order to try to lift as many trophies as possible. With the World Championships being the main goal, there is plenty to aim for, with you competing in the likes of the Indian Open, the European Masters, the Paul Hunter Classic and more. With qualifying rounds to partake in, plus the main events themselves, you’re not going to be found blasting through the career in a hurry.
However, aside from that, and the game variety options are minimal at best, seeing you only really left with a quick match option, providing the chance to compete in standard snooker, the Six Reds variant and a shootout. Whilst you can knock the match length up to a giddy 35 frames (seriously, anyone got the time to do that!?), and more than 25 venues are available for hosting the events, at the end of the day, your time with Snooker 19 will mostly consist of moving from event to event in the career.
For all this to play out nicely the visuals that Snooker 19 run with work well too. The arenas look great, the table viewpoints are well considered – with a free roam letting you nail the various angles – and the balls look real enough. I’d like to see a bit more of a shine and glare coming off the spheres themselves, but visually it does the job. It’s nice to see a bit of effort gone in to the stars who play this wonderful game too and with no less than 128 of the world’s best pros included, alongside a ton of amateurs – each of which look remarkably like their real life counterpart – anyone who wishes to see themselves playing out proceedings as Rocket Ronnie, Mark Selby or even the new wonderkid, James Cahill, can do so. Personally, I’d have been more than happy with just the biggest names included but with World Snooker on board it’s great to see some of the lesser names get a run out. That said, they do all come across as a bit robotic and wooden; you’d expect a much higher level of realism in this day and age, but hey, this is a game that is mostly about what happens on the table, not off it.
Of course, not only do you get to play as these guys, but you also get to play against them and a bit of TV style presentation really does drop you right into the game. From there the AI that dictates your opponent’s shot choice and skills is decent too and even though your computer controlled opponents can go from zero to hero in just a few shots – leaving you wondering what exactly they’ve taken whilst you’ve been building a bit of a break – for the most part the AI works well.
Accompanying all this is a decent audio system too – well, as decent as a few ball on ball hits allow. Thuds of cue ball on target colour are good, as are the referee calls. The inclusion of some fairly decent commentary allows for a bit more immersion too and even though their scripted words don’t always correspond to what is going on on the table, and repetition is rife, it’s never really anything to get too worked up about.
Playing Snooker 19 alone is all well and good, and partaking in the deep career will no doubt keep you going for some time, particularly should you have chosen to take an unknown newbie through the ranks. But the real joy of any game like this is found in putting your wits and snookering skills against other real world opponents. It is here where Snooker 19 allows for both local and online play.
But it is also in here where the game lets itself down a little, with the draw of online match ups causing frustration. See, local play is all fine and dandy and should you wish to lay the equivalent of a snooker smack-down on a family member or sofa based mate, Snooker 19 allows for it brilliantly.
It is however in the online scene where things go awry though and constant matchmaking issues are a cause of concern, leaving you to second guess whether or not any online play will be happening. Should you get in then the community is pretty toxic too, not in a verbal way, but with many making use of specific break-offs that never keep in the spirit of the game. I guess early foul points against you in any match shouldn’t be too much of a worry and a clear mind will see you being able to bring your A-game to the baize, but it’s frustrating that little cheats and glitches have crept into the game.
Yes, it’s not particularly the fault of Snooker 19 on Xbox One – nor the development team for that matter – it’s just the way of society which will see those frequenting the online world taking any advantage they can. As a clean player, the occasional interruption is a worry.
If you manage to find yourself matching up against like-minded snooker aficionados though then Snooker 19 can be a great game to sit down with. The online situation plays out exactly as if you were nailing pots and plants offline, and a clear concise countdown clock keeps any slow play to an absolute minimum. It would be nice to be able to choose time settings for both individual shots and overall match length though, particularly if both parties were to agree beforehand.
This all comes together to see Snooker 19 deliver a decent ball potting experience. Yes the character models are a bit dodgy in their movement, and occasionally you’ll think that you’re playing a game from a good few years back, but the tables look decent, the balls roll well and the physics holding things in place are nigh on perfect. A few more game modes would be appreciated as, much like in the real world, the whole snooker vibe can fast becoming tiresome, but if you’re a massive fan of the snooker scene, wish for nothing more than potting balls, working out angles and thinking ahead, then Snooker 19 is for you.
Is it the virtual definitive edition of the sport? No, not quite, but it’s a pretty good effort.