World Championship Snooker
Through the medium of videogames we can traverse galaxies, inhabit imaginary worlds, surmount all obstacles and stand proudly on the shoulders of giants, masters of all we survey. Or play snooker. While not exactly beyond the realms of fantasy, for those dissuaded from their local baize emporium by the underlying threat of violence and the poorly-prepared food, World Championship Snooker brings all the fun of the cue into your fetid hovel. It's not the first game to attempt this, and - imminent human extinction notwithstanding - it won't be the last.
And therein lies the problem. Apart from bringing the graphics up to the current industry standard, there isn't a great deal you can do with a snooker game. Obviously, realism is the key, but there's still a certain threshold, and once the physics are perfected, there's nowhere else to go. So in an attempt to capture the 'drama'of the sport, Codemasters has pulled its wallet out and secured the World Championship licence. Which probably explains the name and the familiar theme tune.
Our Friend Den
With a pseudo-career option, the feeling is clearly that of a young buck trying to make his way in the game, with victory at the Crucible the ultimate goal. There is a reasonably exhaustive qualification process to go through before you get a sniff of Sheffield, where 20 of the world's top players await. Unfortunately, the days when Alex Higgins headbutted referees, relieved himself into plant pots and threatened to have opponents shot are behind us, but among the modern-day automatons featured are Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and World Champion Mark Williams.
Of the old guard, Dennis Taylor has been brought out of retirement, and as such is the only player here to have a dedicated verse in Chas and Dave's memorable paean to the green baize, Snooker Loopy. He also provides the in-game commentary, offering a master class in the bleeding obvious.
The Len Ganley Stance
On the table, it's business as usual, and with the requisite aiming aids on, it's the equivalent of being a half-decent player, and is as much about holding position and developing breaks as it is about getting the ball in the hole. A predetermined power bar is used rather than the more erratic system of pretending the mouse is the cue, and while perfectly manageable, it's a little clinical.
Unlike real snooker, it's refreshing to actually be able to play to a passable level. In real life, nobody has ever got a break of more than 16, whereas here a half-century is well within the bounds of possibility. Ultimately, any criticism of the game is also a criticism of snooker, and while it can be dispiriting to have to sit back and watch your opponent rack up a match-winning break, this can mercifully be speeded up. If it's possible to imagine atmosphere in a snooker game, then IVCS captures it, epitomised by sporadic outbreaks of coughing in the auditorium, a phenomenon familiar to legions of TV viewers. Look, we're trying to big it up, but at the end of the day it's a snooker game. If that's what you want then this will do.
Download World Championship Snooker
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Anyone with any sense who's ever watched Big Break probably hates snooker with a vengeance. Still, that's Jim Davidson for you and nothing to do with snooker itself, which as everyone knows is full of even more heroics, excitement and tension than football. OK, so you might take some convincing on that one, but it's a fact that snooker is still one of the most watched sports in the UK.
Oddly, there haven't been many snooker simulations on the PC, which is ironic because, like computers, snooker abides by logic: balls react with each other under the predetermined law of physics. So, they don't do anything particularly weird, and they certainly don't explode. As far as the PC is concerned, all you have to do is get the physics calculations spot on and you're onto a winner.
Unfortunately, this conjures up a valid dilemma: why pay 30 odd quid for a simulation when you can play the real thing down the pub for a pound? The answer? In real life you're unlikely to entice 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, or Dennis Taylor down the pub for a quick frame. World Championship Snooker will allow you to do just that - and more.
As well as your usual array of single and multiplayer tournaments, WCS career mode lets you work your way up from the dingy, smoke-filled halls of Doncaster to the exotic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield where you can battle it out against the true kings of the sport.
The top 20 ranking players (with the notable exception of Jimmy White - something to do with his own brand no doubt) are included, and not only that, they're all motion captured and exhibit recognisable mannerisms, characteristics and playing styles -although you will need a 21inch monitor to fit in Dennis Taylor's specs. There's even a referee who speaks, and rumour has it that John Virgo is to lend his silky voice to the commentary.
Codemasters, the developer, has also implemented a revolutionary cueing interface with full spin tactics that it claims will help you notch up bigger breaks. The system is reputed to be so lifelike it will even help you with your real game. Generally speaking, we thought 'normal' people never managed a break higher than 15, so whether it's actually that realistic is debatable.
Anyway, it makes you wonder: if snooker simulations are going to be this damn good, we'll never want to play for real again. Think about it: no vomiting on the table; the balls will never get those ridiculous nicks caused by sticky bits of chalk and fluff and stuff; and nobody will ever whack you round the head with their cue and then glass you when they lose. Abolish real-life snooker. Long live computer simulations.