I have to confess, when it comes to video games, one of the areas I’ve neglected are titles based on cue sports. Yes, like most early Xbox One adopters, I picked up Pool Nation FX while it was part of Games with Gold, but I have never even installed it. It’s not that I don’t like cue sports. I played far too much pool when I should have been studying at college. I’ve even played a lot of snooker (nearly every other week for about a year). I have just never felt the desire to play a digital re-creation of these sports. This makes me a weird choice to be sent a review code for the latest Snooker title on Xbox One. Well, whatever their thinking was, I’m glad they did as I have enjoyed my time with Snooker 19.
Making it feel real
As you have no doubt deduced from the ‘imaginative’ title, Snooker 19 is a snooker game. It’s fully licensed, featuring 128 real-world snooker professionals and numerous real-world tournaments and locations. The whole presentation has a sheen of authenticity. From the player likenesses to the commentary, it really feels like the developers have tried to share their love of snooker. While they may not have succeeded in every facet, they have created a game that masterfully replicates the sport and will please its fans.
For the most part, the game looks great. The menu presentation and setup are great. The real standout, though, is the snooker table itself. Whether it’s the lighting, the textures, or some kind of digital witchcraft, there were many times where it looked like I was watching TV coverage of the sport. The balls reflect light in just the right way to make it seem like the real thing. The only bit which doesn’t really past muster in the realism stakes is, unfortunately, the players themselves. Though you can tell that the character models are based on the real players, they are very clearly graphical representations. They just look kind of fake. The animations don’t do them any favours either. Despite the motions being fairly accurate, the transitions in and out of them feel rushed and jerky.
Sounds and looks like snooker
Some of the visuals may be a tad rough, but the gameplay feels spot on. The weight, momentum, and physics of the balls in general, seem great. This might seem obvious, but it’s actually quite tricky to get the feel of the spin on the cue ball bang on. The targeting system works nicely with options for beginners and more experienced players. Don’t go thinking, though, that using the beginner targeting will make you win every time. While it certainly does help, it still forces you to play well and doesn’t allow you to perform ridiculous trick shots where you bounce the white off several cushions and still pot a ball in the middle of a pocket. The line, showing the trajectory of the ball you’ve hit, gradually becomes an expanding cone as you approach the limits of making contact with the ball.
The sound design of Snooker 19 may be pretty basic, but it suits the game perfectly. It’s not basic in terms of quality or presentation; there just isn’t much of it. The sound of balls colliding is spot on. Commentary is done by real snooker commentators and therefore sounds incredibly realistic. The referee speech seems authentic as does the noise of the crowd. Menu music is inoffensive and does an adequate job of filling the silence. The surround mix works well and helps to place you in the venues. It’s difficult to get too excited about sound in a sport that is so quiet by its nature, but it is represented very well here.
Break-ing it down
If you are not a fan of cue sports, I don’t think Snooker 19 is the game that will change that. However, if you like snooker, you will love it. It is a great representation of the sport. Pool fans may not appreciate the slower nature of this game but won’t fail to appreciate the ball physics on display. This is a game that has clearly been made with love and by true snooker fans. It may fall flat on a few visual representations of the players, but when everything else is so accurate, it is easily forgivable. While I don’t see myself playing through an entire season of the career (it would likely take 60+ hours), it will probably stay on my hard drive for a while to come.