Problem: Snooker games on the PC have never been a huge hit, largely because the game play that they provide often gets bogged down with detail and is far to fiddly for most gamers to bother with. Solution: Codemasters enters the arena with ‘World Championship Snooker’, fully endorsed by World Snooker, and offering the chance to play against 20 pros from the real game and work your way from local club level to the world famous Crucible theatre.
Playing snooker on a computer is a very difficult balance to strike. It is always a trade-off between having realism, which brings with it many options that many gamers don’t wish to get bogged down playing with, and fast play, which brings with it a lack of realism. Have Codemasters potted the long black to secure the frame, match and title, and found the balance that has yet to be struck?
World Championship Snooker boats very realistic and detailed visuals with an audience that stands up, claps and gasps at all the right moments, a referee that runs around the table re spotting potted colours, players’ faces that are drawn to be like their real life counterparts, and even the ability to customise your payer’s face, shirt, and waistcoat. The price to pay for this level of visual detail from Codemasters is quite a high system requirement, especially in the area of memory, both in terms of on board graphics card RAM, and system memory. That said, World Championship Snooker will run on a lower than minimum specification graphics card, as long as the chipset is supported by the game, and not much is lost in terms of visual quality and speed.
As far as the game play in this venture is concerned, a system has been employed to cater for all. For those who have tried playing it, snooker is a very difficult sport, and the large 12′ x 6′ tables can be very unforgiving. World Championship Snooker, like its real life counterpart, has re-created this difficulty successfully to keep the high standard player happy, whilst easing the novice into the game at their own pace. It does so by having an interesting aiming aid, which shows both the path that the cue ball will travel in both before and after contact with the object ball, and that of the object ball after being struck by the cue ball. This option can be on all of the time to help complete newcomers learn the angles and spins, on only in 1st person view for mediocre players, and turned off completely for the hot shots.
World Championship Snooker provides a very good longevity factor. The complete novice who may not have played the game at all is not forgotten. As well as the previously mentioned aiming aid, there is a section in the game entitled ‘Masterclass’, where skills can be honed, and this covers all aspects of the game and so could be of use to those already competent at the game. Areas of the game covered are; Basic Skills, Understanding Spin, Advanced Shots, Positional Strategy, Safety Play, and Trick Shots. These tutorials give a good insight into what is required in each area, playing demonstration shots, and then inviting the player to try the shot for their self, sometimes being allowed the aiming aid, and especially later, sometimes not.
The flow of the main section of the game involves the player starting out at club level, playing against players whose highest breaks are around the 30-50 mark, and working their way up to the climax of the game, which is set in snooker’s most famous venue, the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. The players there are the world’s best players (Williams, Hendry, O’Sullivan and co.), and the matches there will be anything up to best of 39 frame affairs, compared to the best of five (first to three) matches played at the lowest level of the game. The game can be saved at any point, though, even part way through matches in between frames, so there’s no need to worry about having to set aside a whole day in front of the screen to play 30 odd frames of snooker at a time.
The sounds of a snooker match are all re-created wonderfully in game, including the sweet sound of a pot, the ball striking cushions, the referee announcing the scores, the audience both applauding and gasping, and Dennis Taylor adding his own informative comments. The comments by the former world champion are a little sparse, and soon become quite repetitive, and turning Dennis down a little may be preferred.
Network play, now a must in most games with home networks now being more viable than ever, is supported in the game. This takes the usual forms; modem-to-modem or IPX/TCP/IP network. If you have the capabilities to run this then it will increase the already high longevity of the game still further. It is always so much more fun to tuck the cue ball up behind the black to snooker (and annoy) someone that you know, rather than a CPU opponent. If you have not got the hardware to have a network match, then equally good fun is the tournament mode, which allows 2,4,8 or 16 humans to fight it out in their own tournament, with CPU players on hand to make up the numbers if necessary. A great option for parties where large numbers of snooker fanatics will be present.
The defects in the game are thankfully not terribly important as well as being few in number. On the visual side of things, the referee will not visit the pocket to remove a potted ball before approaching the table and replacing that ball, leaving us to assume that he has an infinite supply of the colours hidden in his trousers. The cue action of the CPU players can also be a little quirky, with the rest occasionally being used for shots involving the cue ball being right next to the cushion, and the tip of the cue not always lining up exactly with the cue ball, sometimes appearing to be striking another ball close to the cue ball, but contacting the white. As far as the sounds are concerned, there is a little detail that has gone unnoticed by the Codemasters team. This involves the referee calling the size of the break at present after a colour is potted, but before that colour is re-spotted, unlike in real life where the score is only called once the table has been made ready for the player to continue their break. All of these factors do not detract from the game, though.
To conclude, Codemasters have superlatively struck the cue ball from the top cushion to pot a long red into the bottom pocket, and represented snooker brilliantly on the PC. It’s about time someone made use of the blinding visuals and sound that the PC has to offer and it hasn’t come a moment too soon. World Championship Snooker is sure to be a hit on the PC, as it was on the PlayStation, and can do no harm to boost snooker’s already high profile in the sports scene.
- Visuals 9
- Longevity 10
- Sounds 9
- Realism 9
- Game play 10
- VFM 10
- Overall – 9/10, must buy