Published on September 10th, 2014 | by Joseph Saulnier0
Unless you play professionally, or in one of your local pool leagues as I do, a lot of what constitutes a good game of pool relies on circumstance and atmosphere. A pool hall, which gets its name from places where people would make bets on sports and then play pool to pass the time, is hard to find these days. Most places to play pool are dive bars: dilapidated rooms with coin operated pool tables, which present issues more than they operate correctly. That is not what you will see in this game.
Pure Pool (“PP”) aims for a more refined environment. The bar is spacious; there’s a lot of glass and subtle mood lighting; and it’s busy, but not so busy that there’s more than a background buzz. The background music is pleasing, if not a little bland (which can be seen as good thing in a real game of billiards). This is very different from a real life pool experience, but definitely more pleasant.
This backdrop is important, because PP takes an approach where it acknowledges that it’s a videogame interpretation of the sport, and trying to be a real pool simulator. Shots are laid out for you (aiming assist line), at least on the lower difficulties, but it doesn’t extend to shots off the rail and kind of fades in longer distances. This is pretty standard for most pool games. Attempting to sink a shot that would be pretty simple for even a beginner in real life is a piece of cake, but trying to pull off any of the more complicated shots is almost impossible.
A lot of this is due to the limited views of the table that PP offers you. For the majority of your time in the game, you have a narrow first-person field of view, looking down the line of your cue. This view definitely has its place, but you are only offered limited options for other views. If you want to get a better overview of the table, there’s no videogame-esque top down view to go to. Instead, you have a “standing up” button that emulates a little walk around the table.
This is an interesting approach, but it is very limiting. They attempt to make the view from table realistic, but they fail in this respect. If they are truly trying to make a simulator, they should give the option for you to rotate the “player’s head” to glance at a pocket without realigning the shot. Instead, in PP you need to stand up or rotate your cue all the way around the cue ball. I understand this is to support the model of distant, or elaborate, shots being harder to pull off than straightforward, close-up shots, but it makes these shots far harder than they would be at a real pool table.
Shot power is simulated in a natural way, and I am quite fond of this system. Controlled by pulling back on the cue by pushing down on the right analogue stick, you push forward on the stick to simulate the forward stroke. There is no power bar, so the only visual indication is how far you’ve pulled back on the cue. It takes a little getting used to, but does really well in representing how little things can affect the shot power in real life. Also, although it is possible to add english and spin to the cue ball, don’t expect to be doing any of the more complicated or monumental tricks with ridiculous swerve. PP keeps insisting on inverting the x-axis, which gets quite frustrating.
Table physics seem pretty on par with would actually happen. It took a little getting used to not having what is dubbed as “table roll” in most leagues (this is where the bar may swerve slightly off course or roll a little further based on the condition and level-ness of the table), but once I got past that it was very easy to see how my ball would react in short distances, and that it did (for the most part) react that way. Perhaps a little skittish at times, the sound effects help give this a real feeling. When the pressure’s on to make the winning shot of the game, the lights dim (making it intentionally harder to aim) and a heartbeat softly thuds. Make the shot, and you are rewarded with a cinematic remarkably reminiscent of Color of Money.
If you are looking for a vast selection of pool game types, PP is not the game for you. It puts an emphasis on what is referred to “U.S. styled” 8- and 9-ball modes, with the single player career mode presenting options like Killer and Accumulator. The career structure itself has higher levels of difficulty (master and pro) that are unlocked by winning multiple tournaments. These tournaments are judged on a star system, with three stars being the maximum. The stars are awarded for completing challenges and winning the game.
When you tire of single player, the obvious route to take is to take your game online. At least that would be the obvious route, if PP’s servers were actually consistent. I have not been able to consistently connect with other players as of this writing. Even when I was in, I was disconnected in short order in most circumstances. As a result, I cannot give an accurate review of the online features.
With the limited views, and the lack of the (consistent) online functionality, I would not call this game a “must get”. This may be the enthusiast in me, but I would honestly recommend going to pick up a $20 cue at your local sports store (or billiards shop) and get out to a bar and shoot a real game. It’s far easier.
2 stars out of 5