The first thing you’ll notice about Pure Pool is how good it looks. The table could be real, the balls glimmer as they catch the light and people go about their business in the background while you play. Truly it is one of the best looking settings I’ve ever seen.
Which is a very, very good thing, because you’ll spend a lot of time gazing at the table while you’re playing Pure Pool. Aside from a slightly lengthy initial loading screen when you boot it up, you’ll have the pool table infront of you the entire time. Immediately a free-play game is set up for you to practise in, with the Options button bringing up the main menu overlay. It’s a brilliant feature that really immerses you in the game; no matter what mode you’re in the rest of the game is only a button press away.
A short tutorial teaches you the ropes. The right stick controls the cue, pulling back as far as you want to, then flicking forward to stroke the white ball. The left stick deals with the direction of the shot and the pitch, with circle applying spin and x allowing for a finer aim. It all feels very intuitive and can be picked up and played by anyone.
The gameplay itself couldn’t be more realistic. The balls really feel weighted, and the amount of power you want to use translates perfectly from the sticks to the cue – a concession to the fact is a series of lines that show where the shot will go, but this can be disabled, but otherwise it’s a fair representation of real pool.
Bringing up the menu allows you to choose from several game modes. Offline there is a career for you to progress through, over several tournaments and across two game types. US 8-Ball is your standard pool game, with players either spots or stripes depending on what is potted first, while 9-Ball is a race to pot the number nine ball, but with the twist that you must first at least hit the next ball in order.
There are three difficulty levels for the two game types, with five tournaments at each level, which themselves contain on average ten matches to win. Mostly they are basic matches, but there are also speed pot and perfect potter challenges to break up the flow. While nice diversions, they also allow you to progress to the next tournament a little easier. Each is unlocked when you gain a certain number of stars, won by performing certain tasks during a match: pot from the other end of the table, or win without committing a foul for example.
The other side to the game is the online matches. Quick Game pits you against another player, and is great if you fancy a quick match. When you finish, you’re given the option to hit square for a rematch, and most players seem up for it. A nice touch is that Pure Pool keeps score of who’s won; I spent an hour playing a stranger, trading wins, which he edged out 4-3. There’s also a league system, though I haven’t had a chance to try that out yet (connection issues at my end, I’ll update the review at the weekend).
A host of customisation options allow you to change your cue, table colour and decoration. It doesn’t make a difference to how you play, but being able to tailor the view you spend so much time looking at is a neat touch.
Pure Pool isn’t perfect, though. When everything is so quick, so slick, waiting for the computer to make a move can feel like an age. It wouldn’t be too bad if you could see what they were doing, but even though you’re locked into the same first person view down the cue, once the direction has been chosen the cue stays still on the centre of the ball until they play a shot: you can’t see if they’re putting spin on the ball for example, but the wait as they do so is still there.
VERDICT: Pure Pool’s greatest trick is its immediacy. Once the table is in front of you, you can just play over and over and over with no wait. With a variety of game modes to try out and the online suite there’s plenty to keep you entertained, but while it may be a near-perfect simulation of pool, it doesn’t come close to playing the real thing. People buy Gran Turismo because they’re never going to be a racing driver or own a Ferrari. You can go down the local and pay 50p for a game of pool with your mates. Just saying.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.