World Championship Snooker 2003
Can I shock you? I like snooker. There, I've said it. After football and darts, it's probably one of my favourite sports. Of course, I've never actually been to a live match, and sporadic attempts to master the game have proven fairly fruitless. But faced with an inordinate amount of spare time, the prospect of a televised tournament is a beacon of sanity in a sea of daytime dross. The jewel in the crown is of course the World Championship, 17 glorious days of mind-numbing greenness.
An obvious time to launch the official game, you might think, and you'd be absolutely right. The original plan was to have this game on the shelves in time for the big break-off, but unspecified setbacks have seen it limp out a few months after the last ball was potted. Not that it really matters. The rules haven't changed, and it does at least offer some respite during the current drought of proper sport, ie summer.
As any man knows, watching snooker and playing snooker are two very different things. The former requires you to slouch on a sofa and stare unthinkingly at the TV. Slightly more taxing, actually playing the game requires superhuman skills that almost justify the obscene amount of prize money handed out.
World Championship Snooker 2003 goes some way towards bridging the gap, transporting you into the garish waistcoat of a competent player, without the need to forfeit your education, spend the bulk of your life in a darkened room, or go to Sheffield (none of us wants that). Using a 'special' aiming technique - made up of great big arrows showing you where the balls will go - it's possible to pull off some unlikely shots, and indeed build breaks that skirt the echelons of respectability.
In time-honoured fashion, this is facilitated by the usual power bar, the ability to add side and spin. You can also play and watch the action from a variety of angles with the customisable camera. What this really means is that you play virtually every shot from the (physically impossible) overhead view, generally hitting the ball full in the face. Any attempt to add ball control seems to initially result in tragic misses, but with practice you'll soon be pulling off some great shots.
Fail to master the game though, and you're left to sit on your arse while your opponent cleans up, thus mimicking the frustration and helplessness felt by real players. The difference here is that you can speed up the action, bringing other players up to the pace of Ronnie O'Sullivan or Jimmy White, who sadly isn't featured here. In fact, you can actually switch off the Al opposition's breaks, a welcome respite at first, particularly as it mutes the commentary of Dennis Taylor and John Virgo. That said, you may want to see what your opponent is doing towards the closing stages of a frame or during a tense bout of safety.
And A Miss
As well as snooker, there is proper English 8-ball pool, as well as its bastard 9-ball offspring. There are also a host of so-called Fun Games - as if the main game isn't fun - consisting of such gimmicks as playing against the clock, or having a limited time per shot. The meat of the game comes in the Career Mode though, beginning as a young buck with a pocketful of chalk and a fresh piece of varnished ash. Working your way round the toilet circuit, the idea is to climb up the rankings and compete in the titular World Championship at Sheffield's famous Crucible Theatre. Any money you earn can be used to 'upgrade' your character, decking him out in a variety of waistcoats, bow ties and shirts.
Get far enough in the tournaments, and you'll come across familiar names, if not quite faces, as the bulk of the star players appear to have been modelled by the Crimewatch artist. The different venues have also been recreated, a process that involves little more than changing the logo and the colour of the carpet, but at least there's variety. Codemasters also boast of capturing the atmosphere, which is a bit rich considering the average snooker crowd consists of occasional outbreaks of Tecwen Whittock-style coughing, and the rustle of a bag of Werther's Originals.
It's all good stuff though, and it's amazing how many hours you can piss away (and this from someone who annually spends two and a half weeks staring at other people playing on TV). The physics are all present and correct, it looks the business, and there is plenty of longevity. Ultimately it comes down to whether you give a shit about the sport.
Download World Championship Snooker 2003
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP