Most of us are happy to live our dream football careers through pixel representations of Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi, safe in the knowledge that our ample stomachs and two left feet wont ever feel the pain of a lengthy pre-season. But considering snooker – just like its fellow working mens club favourite, darts – is about as reliant on physical fitness as Cheryl Cole’s ‘career’ is on deep level knowledge of nuclear physics, it’s gaming examples haven’t had quite the same draw.
Snooker hasn’t truly been a major player in the video game world for well over a decade now. But WSC Real 2011 contains a lengthy career mode, plenty of customisation, and a decent level of multiplayer options in order to hopefully change this disastrous fact.
The first thing you’ll undoubtedly do when loading up WSC Real 2011 is tweak your chosen characters physical characteristics. Creating your own snooker playing representative to take the cue on screen, there’s a surprisingly deep set of tools allowing you to create your own perfect physical specimen. Considering the amount of time you’ll see this character play out your perfectly crafted snooker shots on screen, this hefty amount of customisability is certainly a plus point. You wouldn’t want to be staring at the vacant eyes of what is essentially the elephant man after all. Well, unless you’re a bit odd. And considering how powerful the tools here are, you can probably create a pretty close representation of the grotesque figure himself.
Once out on the green baize, the game allows you all kinds of handy hints in order to give your ball potting skills a helping hand. There’s handy indicators as to what direction your struck ball will head in, and just where the cue ball your smacking will end up on the table. It’s a delightful help, particularly for those who didn’t spend hundreds of hours in smoky pubs, and gives the game a much needed immediacy allowing all to merrily jump in and find themselves immediately competitive.
It can, however, make things a touch too simple. We were merrily racking up breaks in the low hundreds in our very first full scale match, with the indicators giving us almost no real chance for error if we proceeded fairly carefully. You do have the option to switch these off, but unless you’re a snooker know-it-all chances are this option will leave you barely managing a pot per game.
The main areas of game that’ll take up your playing time are the two season modes. The first is straight up snooker. This plays out in a similar fashion to most sporting based season/career modes with regular small competitions available for you to partake in. Thankfully the game allows you to either play full multi-frame match ups, or shrink things down to just single frames. So a season can take you a mere couple of hours, or a good few weeks to play through. And when you tire of snooker, there’s 8-ball pool all ready and raring to go for those who prefer their table based ball games to be a little more fast paced.
One absolutely huge plus point is the behaviour of your opponent AI. While most sporting titles either leave your opponents wickedly stupid, or ridiculously highly skilled, WSC Real 2011 immediately gives your fellow ball potters a decent bit of brain power between their ears. Go for a safety shot leaving them little chance to pot a ball, and instead of go for a stupidly difficult pot, they’ll happily join in and make your next shot even more difficult. There’s a huge helping of praise that needs to go on some developers shoulders as they’ve developed one of the very first sporting titles that feels like a challenge without forcing us gamers to feel as if the computer has an unseen advantage.
The controls are well worked, but sadly don’t include any form of analogue input. We expected to find themselves prodding our analogue sticks in order to set of shot speeds and possibly even ball spin on the fly. Instead all the options are created before you finally give a button press to allow the game to play out the parameters you’ve set. It’s certainly enjoyable, but it misses out on a bit of the one off freakish nature that sport tends to toss at you every now and again.
The general aesthetics are solid, yet unspectacular. This is certainly no Crysis 2 rival in the visual stakes, but it’s a long way from visually ugly either. Animations are few, and will repeat fairly regularly, but considering the true action is on all those balls rolling around on a green table (and the ball physics are absolutely perfect) then this is a mere missed opportunity as opposed to a downright omission.
WSC Real 2011 is not only an excellent representation of a classic game of snooker, but stands not too far off the real sporting legends currently on the market. Yes it’s lack of visual splendour, and eagerness to hold your hand may bring things down a touch, but for those who grew up practicing for that day they could finally land a true 147 break, you should give this beauty a try.
You can order your copy of WSC Real 2011 here (PS3) and here (Xbox 360).