Virtual Pool 3
|a game by||Celeris Inc.|
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It's been more than couple of years since we last saw Interplay's classic pool sim updated on PC. Virtual Pool 2 ms a classic of its time -combining clarity and simplicity in spooge-worthy quantities - so it remains to be seen what Interplay could do to better it. If the physics, graphics and options are all there you've got to ask yourself the question: are we simply buying the same game all over again?
We Love Jeanette
Thankfully, the answer to that question is no. Interplay, or rather: the developer, Digital Mayhem, is cleverer than we anticipated and has included a number of new features that we see as a plus. First off, this game is endorsed and presented by world-famous WPBA pool chick Jeanette Lee. No big deal, you may think, but Jeanette's presence is both appealing and useful in equal measure. There are numerous video clips in which this fit, young oriental lady gets to quip you about your performances (oo-er missus!) and demonstrate techniques used by professional pool players to help you enhance your game. These videos are actually extremely well put-together, using Sky Sports-style graphics to explain ball motion, and will be a godsend to novice pool players. They should also help with anyone's game in the real world too - such is their usefulness.
The second main improvement is on the multiplayer side of things. In this day and age we expect to be able to play most games online, and Virtual Pool 3 is incredibly easy to play against other humans across the Internet. Using a free program called GameSpy Arcade you can hunt down Virtual Pool 3 games quickly and easily, then challenge like-minded players to take you on. There are few lag problems when playing over a 56K modem connection, so games are smooth and flow property. And, if you can't find someone who's playing the type of game you want to play, you can set up a challenge yourself. Even easier, though, is playing a multiplayer game around one machine with a load of mates. Virtual Pool 3 really is an excellent multiplayer game - just like the real thing.
Moving away from the multiplayer side of things for the moment, it must be said that Virtual Pool 3 is also the ideal game for those without any friends, because there are literally hundreds of singleplayer options too.
The most important single-player game is Career mode. In this you create a player and take them on a money-winning tour of six themed pool halls. Starting off with only $50 and access to one pool haH, the idea is to play your way through an ever-changing field of computer opponents, winning money, beating 'boss' players and unlocking subsequent pool halls in the process. Early opponents are easy to beat, but wager little money on their games. Later opponents wager thousands on every game, though, and are capable of fleecing you of all that you've earned. As with most things in life, success at Virtual Pool 3 is linked directly to practice and confidence. As you play more games you get better at judging angles and delivering power, and as you get better you become less worried about betting large sums of money against the crime de la creme of VP3s computer opponents. Spending days building up your winnings, only to lose in one game is a sickening feeling, so you're advised to put in plenty of practice before attempting to beat them.
As well as single-player Career mode there's also a Tournament option (which can have up to 32 computer/human opponents in a knockout competition for a trophy), Quick Play (a one-off game - perfect for those with menu-itis), and a Trick/Setup Shot mode (which loads a pre-made pool situation).
In The Pub
In total there are 18 different types of pool games on offer, two billiards games and a proper snooker mode. Just like in l(P2, MP3 features English Pub rules pool, so will appeal to UK game players. And those looking to broaden their pool horizons will be able to indulge themselves in 10-ball; One pocket; Bank pool; 6-ball; 3-ball; etcetera, etcetera -every game of pool imaginable (except, for some strange reason, Killer, which was in VP2). Unfortunately, the developers chose not to include any help with the rules for all these different games, so on occasion you won't know what's going on if you're playing a game the rules of which you're not familiar with.
Despite this oversight MP3 is a must-have title for pool fanatics. The graphics, ball physics and sound are absolutely spot-on. There's little or nothing to criticise. Most importantly, MP3 feels great to play and the keyboard/mouse control system is extremely intuitive. It's addictive stuff, too - especially when you get a taste for money in Career mode. And there's always the chance to take on Jeanette if you match the $13,720 it takes to play her.
Beat her and who knows what might happen? She might do a striptease video for the lucky player... We have yet to find out. What we do know though, is that Interplay has undoubtedly buffed-up the balls even more with this update, and that, as pool games go, VP3 is second only to the real thing - the biggest compliment we can pay it.