I’d never have considered myself a huge lover of pool. Sure, like many others I play occasionally with friends when socialising, but I’d never see myself getting so heavily invested in winning that I binge-play for over three hours straight. Imagine my surprise then, when exactly this happened whilst I was playing Pure Pool.
Perhaps it’s the intuitive yet simple and fun control system the game uses. You use the face-buttons on your controller to place the ball on the table, stand up to look around, ‘fine aim’ (which is essentially moving in tiny increments), or apply spin to the ball. The rest is done with nothing but the two sticks on your controller. The left will allow you to rotate left or right when aiming, or alter the height at which you strike the white ball. The right stick is simply for hitting the ball, which is done by pulling back the preferred distance, and then pushing forwards to hit. This system sounds almost concerning in its simplicity, but it allows a pick-up-and-play style of pool which is easily accessible, even if you’re not familiar with a typical video game controller. It almost mirrors the style 2006’s Wii Sports decided to adopt, in that the control scheme can be as complex or as basic as you desire. If you don’t plan on adding spin to your ball or hitting from the top downwards, then don’t. Your success won’t be hugely impacted, and you’ll enjoy the game just as much as anybody else.
Or perhaps my admiration for this game stems from its aesthetics. The graphics look almost indistinguishable from real life, which is manageable thanks to the high processing power of the PS4 and the simplicity of whatever is on-screen. Of course, the table on which you play is in the middle of a large, visibly bustling bar. But the bar and surrounding area is not the focal point of the game, and so it is noticeably blurry in comparison to the high fidelity of the table itself. The balls all look photo-realistic in appearance, and each fibre on the table can be seen in beautiful definition. This is all wonderfully accompanied by smooth, calming jazz which is wholly suitable for such an environment. The music may become slightly repetitive if you play for hours at a time like myself, but when you are focusing on a shot it grows almost inaudible. Minor additions such as time slowing and unique camera-angles being applied when the final ball is potted also make the game just feel much more aesthetically pleasing; something which must be commended in such a simple pleasure.
In terms of the actual modes on offer, Pure Pool has a modest yet entertaining selection. There are four ‘challenge modes’ on offer, each of which are designed to broaden your abilities in the actual game. Perfect Potter for example, challenges you with the task of consecutively potting balls without missing a single one, as doing so will result in failure. Another is Speed Pot which, as the name infers, revolves around seeing how many balls you can pot in an allocated time. They’re relatively simple mini-games, but ones which will have you returning to hone your skills and achieve highly on the leader boards. You can choose to play pool against AI opponents if you so wish, but doing so is inadvisable when the choice of challenging real humans is available. I say this, because the AI in the game seems a little bit too good in the early stages, and you may find yourself being repeatedly beaten with very little your are able to do about it. Also, the AI sometimes takes a considerably lengthy amount of time to choose a shot. This is excusable when playing against human opponents, but when challenging a computer this nuisance shouldn’t really exist.
The main mode in Pure Pool which you will be coming back to time and time again however, is indisputably the online versus. Four modes are available, with 8 and 9-ball pool being accompanied by ‘Killer’ (which is a tense mode in which you lose lives), and ‘Accumulator’ (in which you earn points based on which balls you hit). The main mode is certainly 8-Ball however, and this is the one which I have sunk the most time into. The game states that it tries to implement a DNA system which analyses how you play and then pairs you against similarly skilled players, but I didn’t always find this to be the case. In a few games I found myself simply sitting by as my opponent cleared the entire table in a single turn, which definitely isn’t a satisfying experience. Some work definitely needs to be put in to improving this pairing system, but when the tables do turn and you win by a landslide, it’s immensely satisfying.
Overall, Pure Pool is a huge surprise in its enjoyability and value. I went in not really knowing what to expect, and received a greatly engrossing and fun sports game. The controls are easy yet complex, the graphics are superb, and the satisfaction from a win is huge. There’s not a huge deal on offer in terms of customisation, but there needn’t be when it is just so fun to play.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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