An integral part of the pool experience that has always been short-changed in video game adaptations is the showdown between the two players. The verbal exchanges, the psyche-out tactics and the ever-present wagering. Pool Hustler is set to rectify these missing elements by featuring a cast of 12 characters you'll encounter during the course of your hustling. Choose from six different play modes and five different game rules. Among those multiple modes, you have a choice of Story, Two-player, Trick shot, Lesson, Bowliards and Practice which is perhaps the most valuable option and one that is often overlooked in pool titles.
For obvious reasons, physics play a crucial role in pool games and PH promises to have incredibly realistic movements and reactions. Fancy techniques like putting English, backspin, Masse and jumping on a ball are all set to be executed in a realistic fashion. You can view the action from different camera angles and have manual control over them if you want. Pool Hustler will be in direct competition from another game, Backstreet Billiards from Ascii. May the best hustler win.
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I consider myself a pretty good pool player in real life so I was pretty anxious to put Pool Hustler through its paces. I was really surprised by the realism in the game, with precision ball physics that leave little room for error. Too little room unfortunately. One of the fundamentals of videogame pool is to concede that you can't accurately portray the depth of the table and the balls (with current console technology...Virtual Pool on the PC is the exception), so you need to compensate and make it more forgiving. The old Shaq Fu series did this really well and so does Backstreet Billiards. Does this make Pool Hustler a bad game? Absolutely not. You just have to retrain yourself to the exactness of the game. It's necessary that you do because the computer-controlled characters don't mess around. After the first moderately challenging foe, you get thrown to the wolves. This may seem cheap at first, but spending some real time with the game going through the handy Tutoring Mode and practicing will allow you to compete on even ground. Because of the learning curve, this isn't the best game for multiplayer action unless you compete against others that know the game well. The wagering aspect of the game is cool, but there's no story to speak of. This one is for patient hustlers only.
Pool Hustler pales in comparison to Backstreet Billiards. The control scheme isn't as intuitive, the disc offers too few pool game variations (four vs. BB's 14) and the aiming is very hard to get down pat. The aiming line would've benefitted from a higher resolution (so the line is easier to see and therefore, more accurate from the top-down view). Overall, Pool Hustler is a very ho-hum experience...NES Lunar Pool is more exciting.
I haven't sat down with a pool game and played it consistently since Side Pocket on the NES (I much prefer the real deal), but to my surprise, Pool Hustler is actually quite playable. The physics are excellent, and the control setup is very easy to get into (two important factors in any game of this type). A larger variety of game choices would've been nice, but overall I can't complain. If you're a fan of video pool, check this out.
The trickier of the two pool games we're reviewing this month, Pool Hustler requires some serious practice--and even more patience--before you get the hang of it. Its aiming guide doesn't hold your hand like in Backstreet Billiards, forcing you to hone your virtual-pool skills if you're going to sink anything other than simple shots. Trouble is, PH would be more fun--and a much better party game--if it were easier to play.
Activision's Pool Hustler is a slick, well-rendered game that will challenge Backstreet Billiards for your attention. The five modes include Lesson, Story, Two-Player, Practice, and Trick Shot. Four games--Nine Ball, Rotation, Eight Ball, and 14.1 Continuous--means there's entertainment for everyone.
The graphics and control are sharper and more fluid than in Back-street Billiards; Pool Hustler, however, doesn't feature customizable CD soundtracks or as large a variety of games, offering only two-player competition compared with Backstreet's four-player simultaneous play. If you're going solo and want to shoot straight pool, Pool Hustler will suit you nicely, but if you're looking for variety, Backstreet Billiards is the tops.
- Bank shots work best when you aim at only one particular ball.
- Don't smack clusters of balls and risk a scratch. Pare balls off from the sides.