Ultimate 8 Ball
If you survived the recent barrage of billiards games and still want more. THQs Ultimate 8 Ball racks up something more than just a good engine and game options--it has character.
Ultimate 8 Ball presents 14 different pool games on 15 different tables--and the accent is on "different" Sure, you'll see normal rectangles. but you'll also shoot on hexagons and giant Ls. Plus, you'll hustle 18 A.I. players in 10 locales that range from seedy dives to a fiery surprise finale.
This game of stick adequately covers most of the angles. The polygonal opponents provide major personality, and the environments look crisp and distinctive. Sensible analog controls make shooting simple, but some camera views are poor. Unfortunately, the accurate sound effects are shackled to a forgettable instrumental rock soundtrack.
The pool market's flooded, but a nice tutorial, real physics, and fake people help Ultimate 8 Ball float above the bulk of PlayStation billiards sims.
- Never shoot without first caku-lating where the cue ball will end up and what your next shot will be.
- In 9 Ball, hit your target ball into the 9 and sink it for a quick win.
Download Ultimate 8 Ball
In my college days, I enjoyed smacking balls around in VR Pool so I wondered how Ultimate 8 Ball would stack against this classic and some of the more recent up and comers like Backstreet Billiards and Pool Hustler. The game boasts some impressive statistics with the likes of 14 pool games, 18 CPU characters, 10 unique environments and up to 16 players, so I knew it was coming into this competitive market with its pool stick well chalked.
The opening screen is of a good-looking woman on a motorcycle making an entrance to a pool hall in style and taking a shot. Things just seem to heat up from there with fourteen billiards games to choose from; this is five more games to choose from than Backstreet Billiards and nine more than Pool Hustler, not a bad start. The games are: 8 ball US, 8 ball UK, 9 ball, 10 ball, 6 ball, 3 ball, straight pool, rotation, speed pool, killer, 1 pocket, bank pool, 10 pin and cutthroat. I was unfamiliar with a lot of the games, but luckily there is an online help document that explains all the rules. Even though you might think you know the rules to 8 ball or 9 ball, give them a look before you rack the balls because you might be surprised by a couple.
The screens are well lain and one of the first things that will catch your eye is the pool ladder. From here you can view the eighteen unique characters and their stats, like their win/loss records, accuracy, etc. The last sixteen characters are the human players and from here you can watch your name march to the top as you sink more balls and win more games. They did a pretty good job of giving each character strengths and weaknesses and playing styles.
The first time I started a game I was a little disappointed with the long loading time, but after a playing a long satisfying game or two I wasn't ever irritated by it again. After I had tried a couple of different games, I found I wasn't shooting quite as well as I would have liked. The great developers working at THQ added a School of Pool so I decided to give this a whirl. In the School of Pool you can practice basic shots, placement shots and advanced shots. After completing these I was ready to shoot with the best of them and was very impressed with the way it was set up. However, I did find one thing a bit irritating. Each shot comes with three options: description of the shot, watch the shot and practice the shot. In the 'watch the shot' option the CPU takes the shot showing you how it's done. This is fine and dandy except that it doesn't let you switch to an overview camera which I think would be a lot more useful in seeing what angles the balls are moving.
Playing the various games I became convinced that the physics engine is the best out there. They way the balls traveled on a break, the constant velocity and ricochets off the sides of the table looked extremely convincing. To put it to the ultimate test I waited until I got into a situation that I've been in a hundred times before. The ball I'm targeting is clear across the long part of the table on the opposite side with the cue ball close to the corner pocket. When I make this shot in real life I always over cut the ball sending it into the side wall a little before the pocket. Taking aim with my virtual pool stick, I let go and watched the balls travel the same way they do in real life. Realistic indeed! Coincidentally, this was before I went to the School of Pool and this was one of the basic shots featured there. I'm now able to sink it on the game so it will be interesting to try it out in real life and see if Ultimate 8 Ball has really taught me how to nail this shot.
Graphics & Audio
The music in this game isn't bad at first, until you realize that they're playing the same song over and over. After hearing this Hawaiian sounding tune for the 20th time in a long pool game you immediately start searching for the option to turn it off, which they thankfully put in.
The graphics were better than what I was anticipating. It's fun to scroll around in each of the unique environments and check out the detail they put into each one. The real treat is the different pool tables they put in. Instead of all of them being the boring green or red covered tables we're familiar with, there are some that are glass and some futuristic ones. My favorite is in Neon City with this radical table that has a clear top and when the balls hit the sidewalls you get this cool digital sound. The balls are futuristic as well in this environment, with the numbers being digital.
They also didn't cheat when it came to balls being close together. Instead of having your virtual arm just pass through the impeding balls or the sides of the pool table, your arms rise to the correct heights. The angle that you can tip your pool stick was also correctly done; in some situations you are limited by how much English you can put on a ball depending on where it is placed.
This is a great pool game that pool lovers will drool over. The rest of the folks should probably rent it to verify they'd want to own it permanently before forking over that hard earned cash. The graphics are good for a pool game, but the music leaves something to be desired. No matter what, this is a great game that will educate you on various pool games, keep you entertained for a while, and maybe even improve your real life game.