Pool Nation

The nice thing about reviewing a game like Pool Nation is that I don’t have to explain here how you play the core game. It’s a pool game, so either you understand how the game of pool works, or you’re simply not going to be buying this.

For pool aficionados, some further detail. The game is based around an American pool table, which means a bigger table, bigger balls and wider side pockets. You have the option of playing 9 ball (most often played in the US) and also 8 ball, as seen in UK pubs. Using American balls for 8 ball means that the traditional red and yellow balls we all know and love in the UK are replaced with spots and stripes. Also different to the game as played in your local pub – no beer stains, wonky cues and no shots you can’t play because the table is too close to the jukebox.

The actual mechanics of playing a shot are handled well. The left stick is for aiming, the right stick is for playing the shot and the triggers move the cue butt up and down. Left bumper toggles a fine aiming mode, handy for fine cuts and long shots. Right bumper allows you to lock the power of your shot in place, which can be handy before aiming if you’re using the aim assist. Yes, aim assist is present here. It draws a line on the table showing where the cue ball will go, and on the higher levels of assist it’ll even show you where the ball you are hitting will go.

The physics all behave themselves well here, in that you can’t hit the white by playing your cue right through another ball or a cushion, and when you do hit a ball it behaves as expected. There are loads and loads of modes here, from single player tournaments to Xbox Live, same console multiplayer, 8 ball, 9 ball, 3 ball, killer, rotation etc. The graphics look great, and Cherry Pop Games have produced frankly the shiniest balls I have ever seen. Put simply, this is pool. Lots of pool. It plays like pool, and it feels like pool. It’s an incredibly solid representation of the game, and I’d like to make that clear before I go into the minor negative points of the game.

The aiming view is perhaps a little bit too far away from the cue tip, making longer shots trickier to judge without the aim assist. It’s odd that in Xbox Live multiplayer you can move around the table while an opponent plays their shot, but in single player you can’t. And as much as I liked the Jon Hopkins-esque chill out music played during the game, it loops far too rapidly, with only two songs per table, as far I can tell. The shot replay mode is fun, but it’s a little peculiar that you have to save entire games and then favourite individual shots, rather than just being able to save a shot. There’s also no way to share these off-console.

These are all minor niggles though, and if pool is your game, they certainly shouldn’t put you off what is on offer here, which is an incredibly varied, decent pool game for about the price of eight games down your local pub. (Or 16 if you live up North)







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