Pool Nation Review
Pool Nation showed Xbox 360 players just how brilliant a billiards game could be nearly eight months ago and now it’s out to dazzle PlayStation gamers. Rather than just re-releasing the already fantastic title, Cherry Pop Games has thrown in some upgrades, making this the best release of Pool Nation yet.
For most people, they’ve seen billiard games in recent years feature lousy physics or just plain ugly visuals. Luckily, Pool Nation is the exception, dare I say, the new standard for pool games. The PSN release features upgraded character art work, making the game look more sleek and stylish than ever.
Visually, the game remains as beautiful as I remember. Wonderfully detailed rooms with vibrant lighting and colour schemes reminiscent of what you would see in ‘Mirror’s Edge’. The game excels in having a graphical and aesthetically pleasing look. Featuring various different locales, each with its own unique style, I found myself looking more at the surrounding area than the actual table itself. But that’s not to say the play area is lacklustre. The reflections and lighting blend perfectly to make the overall visual experience easily the best looking pool game I’ve ever played.
Trick shots, deadly precision and finesse are the tools of the game. If you’ve ever played billiards, you know a game can be won or lost by the smallest of errors, and the fantastic physics engine in Pool Nation is true to life. The handling and impact reaction is solid and realistic from top to bottom. Shots play out similar to how a real life billiards game would. The controls are well done and easy to handle. Allowing overhead view and precision touch aiming on the lower difficulty settings and the unique ‘rewind’ feature, which allows you to revert time and fix a fouled-up shot that could easily change the course of the game, makes it enjoyable for even the most hopeless of players like myself. And I personally found the controls to be as tight as ever with the PlayStation 3 version.
The career mode is a vast series of tournaments that, as with the Xbox 360 release, still features a difficulty curve so sharp it would likely not be allowed on airlines. I found the first few rounds to be fairly easy and the next few allowing only one or two mistakes, but after getting a quarter of the way into the second tournament, I felt as if I was playing with the Grim Reaper himself in some twisted bet for my mortal soul. Overall the career is quite lengthy with various different rule sets to give a go.
Single play mode hosts a plethora of different game types; everything from the traditional 8-ball to a golf game type. Sadly there is no trick-shot challenge or game mode like we usually see in pool games, which is a bit of a let-down. When mixed with the fantastic physics I can only imagine how fun a trick shot mode could be. An ‘Endurance’ mode is, however, present. This mode requires the player to pocket as many balls as they can, as fast as they can, with each missed shot wasting precious seconds. I found this game type to be a bit overwhelming and honestly just not fun, but I can imagine with enough skill that players could enjoy this hectic mode.
The game’s audio is still as brilliant as ever. The music is fitting for the style of game, and the ambient sounds from the city outside only add to the feeling of being in a pool hall. The clack of the billiard balls hitting one another sound authentic and are very much atmospheric with regards to the sport.
When I played a few online matches the community did seem a bit small, but with the recent price drop you can expect more players to enter the virtual pool hall. The game performs flawlessly online, with no lag or visible delay. I’m happy to say that you are now able to play the ‘Speed Ball’ mode online, which is a great addition that is currently unavailable for the Xbox 360 version. Sadly we are still stripped of any version of the ‘Golf’ game mode online.
Once again, Cherry Pop Games brings billiard games to a whole new level with the updated PSN release of Pool Nation. The fantastic visuals, sounds and physics all carry over to the PlayStation 3 with style and grace. PlayStation gamers rejoice; you now have access to one of the greatest pool games ever made.