Pure Pool is one of the most realistic looking games of digital spots and stripes, sorry 8-ball, I’ve ever played.
It looks superb, nigh on photo realistic. From the reflection of the surroundings on the balls and the veneer of the wood on the table, down to the texture of the felt that looks like you could get carpet burn from it. If you need a game to show off the graphical capabilities of your snazzy new PS4 to non-gamers, this is it. “Would you look at those balls,” you say. “Look how shiny they are. Look at how subtle the lighting is, how fuzzy the felt looks on the table, how the superb physics engine makes the cue ball glide around the table just as it would in the real world. Just look at those balls! That’s the power of the PS4 right there, perfect billiard balls. Look at ‘em!!!!”
Then they’ll probably leave because you’ve started ranting about how realistic pool balls look in a video game, you’re obviously having one of your episodes again and there’s no talking to you when you get like this. Nevertheless, the fact remains; Pure Pool is hands down one of the best-looking games on the PS4.
Then again, it should be, the whole game is contained to the inside of a virtual bar, and the action is entirely focused on the pool table.
Although the pool table itself and the physics that govern it are the most realistic I’ve seen in a game, the bar in which they are contained is certainly a work of fiction. I don’t know about you but I’ve never walked into a pub to find smooth jazz playing on the jukebox?
You never hear the usual drunken grumblings from the bar, even when there are clearly the vague blurry shapes of what must be people at it. You don’t even have to worry about accidentally poking another patron with the cue once the bar gets busy or tripping over the landlord’s dog.
OK, maybe I’m being overly critical, Pure Pool was never meant to be a wholly accurate recreation of the traditional bar room experience, instead it does a wonderful job of recreating the zen like experience of playing Pool after a few pints. This would adequately explain why everything except the game is presented as vague blurry shapes, your opponent conspicuously absent, just another faceless agent bereft of form, a pool playing spectre whose only relevant credential is how good they say they are at pool.
Ironically, this is an element of the real world game that Pure Pool simulates rather well. In my experience, how good someone says they are at pool and how good they actually are usually have very little in common. Playing through the amateur tournament in the game’s career mode is not much easier than the master’s league because the AI is capable of making crazy shots regardless of apparent skill level. The only difference seems to be the frequency in which they make said shots.
So long as you break and don’t miss a pot all is well, but miss once and you’re just as likely to be metaphorically running round the table with your trousers round your ankles regardless of what level tournament you’re playing in.
Along with the standard AI opponents, Pure Pool also has a similar online system to the one used in Forza 5 that analyses how you play and then creates a much more civilised AI clone of you for others to play against when you’re not online. I find this both awesome and sort of unsettling, knowing that while I’m sat at my desk writing this review I could be losing a game and not even know about it is somewhat depressing. Then again, I welcome our future AI gaming overlords because at least they’re better sportsman. I’ve never heard an AI tell me about all the untoward things it did with my mother the night previously or have a temper tantrum when I beat it.
If you’d like to lose against someone face to face though, there’s also the option of playing local multiplayer against the nefarious player two using the same pad.
If 8-ball isn’t your thing, you can also give 9-ball a try, which is basically snooker without the reds or scoring, or as I would like to call it “fundamentally unbalanced”. Seriously, 9-ball sucks, any game where your opponent wins simply because they scored last is fundamentally broken.
Both variations of the game are available to play both online and through offline career modes in which you take on AI opponents of increasing difficulty, working your way up from Amateur to Pro and finally onto the Masters Tournament.
There’s also several challenge modes that are basically there to help improve your game, like perfect potter in which you have to see have to pot a ball with every shot, speed potter which gives you so long to try and clear the table, and my personal favourite Royal Rumble in which you have to try and pot all the balls on table as quickly as you can before more balls are periodically added. Just like the WWE event of the same name.
Every shot you take, ball you pot and opponent you beat, not only helps to shape your AI doppelganger but feeds into the games levelling system that unlocks rewards such as new cues to play with as you progress through the game.
The whole package is slotted together in such a seamless manner that you can easily sink days into the game and not realise it, moving from one game to the next, from training to tournament to online, by simply bringing up the in game menu and selecting what you want to do next, with no loading screens and minimal wait.
You can even just mess about trying to pot all the balls on the table whilst listening to the smooth jazzy soundtrack. Something I must confess, I spent far longer than I ever intended doing, simply because it’s a great way to unwind after a long day at work.
In the end, Pure Pool will never replicate the full experience of playing pool real in a real life bar. No, instead it recreates all the fun of the Pool Hall with none of the aggravation associated with it. In my mind that makes it worth the price of admission alone.