I’m going to be snookering you tonight…
Sony have adopted a refreshing strategy lately and it seems very few of us are really taking notice. Much has been made of their attempt to embrace indies (a mostly successful attempt so far) but it’s gone much further than that. Sony have put games like Warframe and War Thunder on the PS4, they’ve kept up releasing old RPGs on the Vita – they’re working out what people are using their consoles for and providing it. With that in mind, Pure Pool is a no-brainer. Everyone likes to lazily play a game or two of pool and it’s a brilliant game for local multiplayer. Pure Pool provides exactly what you’d expect and a tiny bit more – it really is ‘pure’ and all the better for it. Surprising it hasn’t been done before on consoles really.
When you load into Pure Pool you’re dropped straight into a practice mode somewhat like Fifa. Here you’re welcome to practice shots and breaks at will or you can drop into the menu to do anything else. From the menu you can start searching for an online game, change some of your profile options (you unlock new cues etc based on your rank), enter into the career against the AI, or take on a set of challenges based on speed potting, accuracy or other disciplines. The UI is fairly intuitive and focuses on the idea of community. All the time you’re playing the game at the top it tells you who is logging on, with a focus on people you might have played before. From the game starting menu you can choose to play again against someone you’ve challenged previously. The system is designed to set up rivalries and make that easier, turning what could be a repetitive game for some into something much more engaging.
The gameplay itself is the best representation of pool we’ve ever seen. You can play American 8-ball, 9-ball or Killer but the physics and controls are what is important. As with many pool games you choose your elevation, angle and spin, with the direction of the ball indicated by a white line, then the direction of the first ball you hit indicated by a yellow line. The lines are slightly vague, broaden out the further away you are and aren’t available when you’re not in position with your cue. You can press square to walk around the table, but then all the lines disappear. This recreates the feeling of trying to focus on a shot and makes sight lines much more important than in other games where those lines are always present and exact. The physics are spot on as far as we can tell, even down to balls occasionally doing little hops and reacting realistically with the cushions as they rub along them.
The graphics are beautiful, with a depth of field effect used to hide the details of the pool hall environment. This could be a cheap trick to hide some ugly models but it looks great and almost photo-realistic as if you were completely focused on the table. The reflections all look fantastic and the whole thing runs at 60fps with no problems at all. When you get down to the last ball the background darkens which is a nice effect, and if you get the winning shot you get to see it happen in slow motion with a tiny little blue puff as you strike the cue ball. It’s an odd little flourish but a nice touch and it works well to mark the end of a game.
During our time with a review copy of the game we were struggling to get into any online games. Some just hung on the searching screen and one had the other player go afk immediately, and we had no way to leave other than to accept a loss. Clearly people are going to take advantage of this system to get their ranks up, leaving their console going while they go do something else, waiting out until the other person quits. Hopefully these issues will be patched quickly.
One way the online problems can be avoided is by using Pure Pool’s version of Forza’s drivatars. As you play Pure Pool the game remembers how you play and creates an AI that mimics your tendencies. Do you use lots of spin? Do you pot the cue ball too much? Do you go for crazy plant shots? All of that will be copied over and your friends or past challenges can play against that any time. It’s impossible to say how accurate it is but playing against a few you definitely see a few little quirks not present in the base AI.
Speaking of the base AI, it is brutal. Even on the Amateur level it rarely misses shots and if you give it two or three turns it will almost always clear the table. Occasionally it will make a mistake by way of not placing the ball correctly after you foul, or taking some crazy shot that will never work, but it never feels natural. Of course this encourages you to improve but it can be a little disheartening at first. We’d strongly recommend dropping into multiplayer once it’s working as real players make mistakes for you to capitalize on.
The music is made up of some soft jazz and it’s great as background music to the game but seems to get repetitive fairly quickly with custom soundtracks you’d be well away though.
Overall, this game does exactly what it sets out to do with great style and competence. For £7.99 it’s an absolute steal and one of the best local multiplayer games available on the PS4. Once the matchmaking issues are resolved we’d happily give this a perfect score. As far as we’re concerned no one ever needs to make another pool game.