On our list of ‘sports that really don’t make good videogames’ snooker is somewhere near the top, after curling and caber tossing and, well, all of the Olympics. The sport itself is ponderously slow, quiet and relaxing; unless we’ve had a whole crate of energy drinks, we usually fall asleep after two frames, having nightmares that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mono-brow is alive and OUT TO GET US. We can see why insomniacs might be interested in a game that knocks you out, but what about everyone else?
Well, in fairness, anyone really into baize sport of any kind will find a very reasonable rendition of their chosen pastime here. It’s not mechanically deep, all any game version of snooker needs is good ball physics and intelligent AI, but WSC handles both of those fairly well. The problem is the other stuff: the extraneous details developers have to add to convince borderline fans to buy this instead of going down to the pub and playing there. Well, there’s not enough of it.
You can customise your avatar, allocating skill points and buying clothes. We called ours John Snooker, gave him a Virgo-esque waistcoat and a terrible barnet. You can play pool, too. That’s kind of fun. But that’s largely your lot. If we were developing a snooker game we’d add some ‘wacky’ modes for the sake of entertainment, and to offer a change of pace. Possibly involving exploding snooker balls. But no Jim Davidson. Not even John Virgo can excite – and he’s here, commentating with wry self-awareness that he can “hear people pressing buttons” and that he “really likes that WSC game”. Oh, John.
Also, while the game may nail the basics, in many other areas it flounders: the camera’s inflexible and often badly positioned, and with distant shots it can be tricky to tell if your aim’s true or not. Presentation is a fairly decent approximation of the BBC coverage, but it’s all so dreary, the kind WSC aficionados may be used to, but also the kind that steadfastly puts off the curious. Just look at those screenshots. Yikes.
Yes, WSC Real 09 is snooker, and yes, it’s a decent version of it. But as a simulation it lacks the depth of an NHL or a Madden, and as an effort to entice lookers-on in from the periphery, it lacks the intuition and entertainment of a PES or a FIFA. Not a bad sports game, then… just not a great one.
Apr 3, 2009