Several years ago I bought a game on the Playstation 3 called "Hustle Kings" by VooFoo Studios. Really dug this game, and it had a lot of different game modes (8-Ball, 9-Ball, Killer, Trick Shots, Snooker, Etc) and a nice jazzy soundtrack to go with it.
However what it also had that sold me on it was the gameplay itself. It was very well designed, there were no real flaws that I saw, and it's a game that I still pull out every now and then and play a few tables.
A few months ago I noticed on the PS4 Store that there was an entry for "Pure Pool" and that it was by the same people. I thought this was interesting, especially since it's been rumored that Hustle Kings is being brought over to the PS4.
I've been anxiously awaiting this game for awhile now, and as soon as it showed up on the store today, I bought it for $9 (PS+ Discount for the win).
Now several hours after I started playing it, I have mixed feelings on this and I can't help but feel a bit disappointed. I mean there's still the different modes to play and the soundtrack is awesome as usual but there are a few things that really stick out as problematic for me, that I'll list below.
I'll basically list the rest of this review as Pros/Cons of this and then give my final result. First though, check out this gameplay video I uploaded of my 1st full 8-ball game that I did after playing the Tutorial.
Graphics are very good. I am not sure if they're THAT much better than Hustle Kings which was already amazing, but I'm not a good judge of graphics, so...take that for whatever. Your miles may vary, depending on what your setup is. I'm using a 42" Vizio and I'm very close to the screen, but I'm not someone that really sees a lot of the differences in graphics quality.
Soundtrack. Nice jazzy soundtrack, and in a move that I wish they had on the Hustle Kings, they actually list the name of the track on the screen as it starts up. That's cool.
Accolades: Think along the lines of Little Big Planet 2's "Pins" that were introduced in that game. Mini achievements for things like potting a ball off the break, potting multiple balls in one shot, potting consecutive shots in corner pockets, etc. This brings a bit more fun to the game, I think, and gives you extra incentives to go for.
I like that while the opponent is taking their shots, which admittedly can take awhile sometimes, you can look through the options menus and the game can keep on going, and you can kill time that way, I suppose.
This is a cool feature that they've introduced for those who may want to play your friends, but you just can't get together. As you play, the game analyzes your game, how you play, whether you play it safe, or take risks, etc and then they will create this "Ghost" profile of you, and so when you're offline, your friends can play your "Ghost" or your "DNA" profile. Kind of cool, to be honest.
I don't play online very much, but this is a cool feature, I think.
The camera angle. This is my biggest gripe with this game, and that's that compared to the devs previous billiards iteration, the brilliant "Hustle Kings", the camera angles are a bit off.
In Hustle Kings you could hit triangle (I think) and basically go above the action to see where the shot would go to. You could angle the shot, and see from above, which direction and angle the shot would go, making it easier to line up your shots.
With Pure Pool, there is none of that. You can "stand up" which just basically allows you to do the equivalent of stretching your neck to get a slightly better view, but you can't see the angle of the shot.
When you go to line up your shot in Pure Pool, you see two trails. The WHITE trail, which is the direction the cue ball goes and YELLOW trail, which is where the solid or striped balls are heading.
However due to the camera angle, if you're aiming at a ball further down the table, it's impossible to see where the yellow stripe is heading, so if you're trying to line it up with the pocket, it's basically a toss up whether or not you'll make the shot.
This REALLY is irritating.
And I realize this is by design, as they're seemingly trying to make this more of a "Simulator" rather than an arcade title. I compare it to the comparison of Burnout Paradise to Gran Turismo. One is a "simulator" in which everything is made as realistic as possible, the other is more of a fun balls to the wall type game.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I despise the simulator games such as Gran Turismo, because I can't control the cars, and keep slamming into walls. The arcade titles though, such as Split Second, NFS Hot Pursuit/Most Wanted/Rivals are a ton of fun and I love them.
So while this was intentionally done by Voofoo/Ripstone, I'm not a fan and it makes it extremely difficult (overly difficult, IMO) to line up shots at the end of the table. Throw in my own issues with depth perception, and the unfortunate reality is that no amount of "Standing up and walking around the table" is going to fix that.
Merging of Online/Offline Modes:
I really am starting to hate these games that blur the lines between online and offline, most notably in Need for Speed: Rivals, where you can't even pause the game, because you're always online, even when playing single player. That also allows random people who you are not friends with, to interrupt your game and potentially wreck you just for the hell of it, and you lose a huge bankable amount of points.
Pure Pool does this in the form of a constant stream of random people showing up online that are able to be matched up against. I don't give a shit about these people. If I want to play online, I'll go to the online section and look for a match up. I don't want to see a stream of names popping up telling me they are online. I don't know these people, I don't give a shit about these people. Stop telling me about these people.
Also a byproduct of this is that games will occasionally lag something awful while playing a single player game against the AI. That should never happen, however with more of these games coming out that try to blur that line between on and offline, this is going to become more frequent.
No Option to Speed up/Skip Opponents turns.
Sometimes when you're playing against very good AI, you have to sit there and just watch them make shot after shot. Sometimes I don't want to see this. I just want to get back to my next turn, or start a new game if they're gonna run the table.
This does not have the ability to skip ahead or anything like that. Not cool.
Aside from a few little things and and there, I don't see a massive upgrade over Hustle Kings on the PS3 by the same devs. The Accolades are cool, and I dig the soundtrack, and the DNA profiles are a true step up, but their desire to move away from an arcade feel and more of a "realistic" simulator aspect, takes some of the shine off the game and adds a level of difficulty that I think many will be turned off by.
The true billiards hardcore players out there may embrace that tack, but for a lot of people, like myself, who are not really proficient, it just handicaps them from the start, and it can take them out of the enjoyment. Particularly if the players, like myself, has depth perception issues.
I think if there was an option to turn that aspect off, and have the top-down view again, that would be helpful, otherwise I don't know how much of this I will play if it gets to the point where I cannot make a good portion of shots at a distance, while the AI is superhuman..
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10