Pool games over the years have never really been a gauge in which to test the power of a console, but it has always been interesting to see how the better hardware has affected things such as physics. Which has meant that since the days of Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker and Super Sidepockets, that the pool game has certainly improved.
The last generation finished with the excellent Pool Nation, which underneath the outer shell of fancy careers modes and odd locations, actually played a fantastic game of pool. Pure Pool on the other hand just lets the mechanics do the talking, stripping away all the fancy stuff.
It is from the makers of Hustle Kings, which in itself was a fine pool game, but again had a lot of fluff surrounding the core game. Pure Pool is set in what appears to be a swanky cocktail bar, but in all honesty, that is just there to stop them having a lifeless backdrop to the pool table, as it is blurred out and never really takes your focus away from the table.
It is what happens on the table of course, that matters most and VooFoo Studios have struck gold here. Starting with the base test, the movement of the balls as they hit each other, rebound of the cushion and drop down the pockets. This really feels like it has been nailed to be as realistic as possible.
There are some nice touches here that make this the most realistic pool game to date also. The first is something that may be a little off putting to some, but there is no top down view in the game at all. Whilst initially this may seem like a bit of an omission, it works really well when you consider this is designed to be a realistic pool simulation.
You can of course press a button to ‘stand up’ and move around the table, again like you would in real life. A minor annoyance here is that you will then need to go and change your aim all over again, which isn’t as bad in normal games, but can waste time if you are playing a mode that is against the clock. Being able to stop the clock whilst you look would have worked well here, but it really is a minor niggle.
Whilst you are in aim mode, you can use the Dual Shock 4 touch pad to look left and right, try to get a better view of the lay of the table, it works really well for trying to peer around the side of a ball that may be blocking your view a little. Again a minor niggle is that the stop points for where you can look feel a little restricted and don’t quite represent your natural field of vision.
All pool games tend to have a visual cue for where the cue ball is aiming and where it will generally move to after it hits another ball, as well as showing where the target ball will go. In Pure Pool this is handled really well, as the visual clues are less obvious the harder the shot. So for example, if you have a short pot at an easy angle, then the lines are clear and make that shot easier. However, if it requires a longer shot, or more of a cut, then the lines fade and spread out and in some cases won’t even reach all the way to the target ball.
This really is a fantastic mechanic as it means you won’t be screwing up easy shots just because you don’t get the real sense of depth and angle on a 2D display device but it also means you can’t just easily pull off near impossible shots because you happen to have lines telling exactly where the ball will go.
Credit has to be given to the AI system also. The basic levels are there, from amateur, through pro and then masters and they do all offer you a solid game of pool, each offering up a decent amount of challenge. What is really good though is the addition of player DNA. As seen in games like Forza 5, you can download the DNA of real world players to play offline and they will play like the player you have selected.
The idea is that the game records the way you play over a series of games and creates an AI based on that. Now whether it works fully as described remains to be seen, but in games so far where Gamestyle have played against DNA profiles, there have been players who stick to safe shots and try the risky ones less, others who seem to play a very tactical game and even some who just get to the table and hit the ball. Each one really have felt different.
There is a fair amount to do in Pure Pool, it includes a career mode for both 8-Ball and 9-Ball types and these career paths also include some of the popular skill games such as killer, potting against the clock, etc. Yet this doesn’t feel like a game built around completing a career and that it is there just because it is the accepted thing to do.
Where Pure Pool really stands out is that more than anything it is a game about playing pool, just shooting some balls around a table. It feels at it’s best when you just set up a random game with a friend and shoot some pool. Should you want to, it is possible to create a pool league online, or just have a few friendly games. It really is the digital equivalent of going down to the local pool hall and having a laugh with friends.
Pure Pool isn’t perfect, there are a few minor niggles, such as a lack of a replay option for when you hit that perfect shot, or get extremely fluky. It would also be nice to see some of the other pool variation included, because as it is, it feels very bare in that regard. However, as an actual simulation of pool, VooFoo studios can be very proud of what they have created. They are the current kings of the pool hall.