Pure Pool Review – Eight Ball, Corner Pocket (PS4)
If you’ve been pining to play a game of pool on your shiny new PlayStation 4, your choices have been non-existent up to this point. Enter Pure Pool. Developed by the same teams behind the well-received Hustle Kings, VooFoo Studios sure talk a mean game, promising to deliver “hyper-realism [taken] to a whole new level.” But can they deliver what they claim with the power of the PS4 at their disposal?
I can say, wholeheartedly, yes. If you played and enjoyed Hustle Kings, then there’s plenty to love in Pure Pool. It looks and plays just like its predecessor, with some slight tweaks here and there. When the game finishes loading, you are presented with a new game of 8-Ball, and are free to play as many solo games as you would like. It seems that VooFoo Studios went for complete immersion, because there is no overhead camera view. If you want a good look at the table and where all the balls are currently located, you hold square to “stand up,” where you can then rotate the camera. You also cannot take your shot while in this mode, which is true-to-life as well. Some more casual fans may complain about this lack of a shooting mode, but the purists will likely appreciate that difficult shots remain difficult.
Pure Pool boasts a ladder-based career mode, ramping up in difficulty as you progress. Within each tier, there are also side missions that involve you performing some small feat of cue ball trickery before a time limit or within certain constraints. This can include such goals as pocketing as many balls as you can before missing, clearing a table before time runs out, among other challenges. For each game, you can earn a maximum of three starts depending on your performance. Rack up enough stars, and you can unlock the next tier. This take a while, and requires that you earn most stars in whatever tier you’re currently on. It is actually quite the challenge.
As you play, you are given accolades for anything significant that you do, such as performing a “plant shot,” where you hit one of your balls to knock in another, or trap your opponent in a “snooker,” where you set up one of your balls between him/her and the 8-ball, or simply for finishing a game. The game tracks all of these accolades, and they add to your end-of-game XP. Earn enough XP, and you level up. Level up enough, and you gain a rank title. Rank up enough, and you can unlock a new cue stick. This, unfortunately, appears to be the only real unlockables in Pure Pool. Since there is no chalk management, there are no new chalks to unlock, and all decorations for the pool table are available from the outset. It seems in that creating a realistic simulation, VooFoo forgot to tend to the completionists out there by giving us unlockables.
A game like pool just begs to be played in multiplayer, and thankfully you have options, both online and off. There are quick games, challenges from other players, leagues which you can both join and create, and more. Unfortunately, even playing after the game released to ensure that there were other players populating the servers, connection issues were a major problem during online matches. You would often be left moving the left stick and waiting to see your stick move. It seems that the game was still sending your moves to the other player. Thankfully, once the game caught up, you were able to take your shot as if you were playing offline, with no lag. You can also play against other players’ “DNA,” which is the AI playing as if the actual person were behind the stick. In addition, couch multiplayer is here, with either pass-the-controller or one player per controller.
If anything has been noticeably upgraded, it is the lounge that you find yourself in. While Hustle Kings placed you in a fancy-looking area, it remained a pretty static background. In Pure Pool, there are people all around, just out of focus. You can see people drinking at the bar, laughing it up at a table, or walking across the way to make it back to their group. The entire time, a constant light jazz soundtrack plays, which seems fitting at a pool hall. It’s the kind of leisurely-sounding music that you could play while hosting a wine tasting party, or something equally classy.
Pure Pool is, more or less, everything a billiards fan could ask for. It is pure simulation at its best. The physics are spot-on accurate – any missed shot is entirely the shooter’s fault. The ambiance is entirely convincing, with a soundtrack to match. Of course, the graphics are so incredibly life-like, you may actually be disappointed with how dull of a shine your average real-life pool balls usually have. While the game is a little lacking in explanations, it’s not very hard to figure out by just poking around. At $9-$13 depending on if you have an active PlayStation Plus subscription, this is a no-brainer for billiards buffs. Those of you who are new or rusty to the game should definitely consider picking this up to hone your skills without the embarrassment that can accompany being absolutely walloped by the local pool shark.
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