Review: Pool Nation
Interesting fact about myself for you here – in my living room I have a cabinet full of trophies, all of which were earned from playing in pool tournaments. I used to be a perfectionist when it came to judging the trajectory of each ball on the pool table and I absolutely loved performing skill shots in difficult situations. So it seems right, that I should be reviewing Pool Nation on XBLA. Especially since I play a lot of 8 Ball Pool on the web, which is very similar to this (but less polished), as it’s one of the featured game modes.
Pool Nation is everything a pool game should be – it’s fun, reliable and incredibly addictive. One of the problems with a lot of pool or snooker games out there is that they tend to get the physics wrong. Hit a ball too hard and it will fly off the table or flick the cue ball from underneath to perform a skill shot known as the lob shot. These are all available options in Pool Nation and it’s nice to know that you have a selection of shots you can rely on to get you out of difficult situations.
To start you off lightly, the game will keep your aimer on as default, but if you want to try cranking the difficulty up some more, then you’re free to do so and turn the assist off. I would say it’s best to start with the aimer on, until you get used to game and you’re ready to take on more. Multiplayer provides you with the option, where the host can alter this, so just be aware what settings they put you on.
Thankfully the game isn’t controller heavy, with most of the controls mapped to the analog sticks and the left and right triggers. To control the power of each shot you pull back the right analog stick and move forward when you’re happy with the power shown in the meter. I advise you to take your time and don’t hit every ball on full power, otherwise you’ll be picking the ball off the floor a lot.
The title boasts a number of game modes, including single player which hosts 9 and 8 Ball Pool. These are tournaments which pit you against a number of AI players with different pool backgrounds. I wouldn’t say there was much difference in the way they play, but if you manage to miss a crucial shot, don’t expect the AI show any sympathy towards you. I’ve had some pretty poor breaks at the start of the game and the AI have potted every ball in one sitting, which left me sat there speechless. In length, the single player is actually quite long and enough to keep you interested for awhile, which is great to see from a single player. Most of them today just force you into playing multiplayer as soon as possible.
If you become fed up with the single player tournaments, then there’s always Endurance mode - which requires you to pot all of the balls before 24 of them are present on the table. Over time more balls are added onto the table and as soon as you reach that 24th ball, it’s game over. If you love fast-paced pool, then this is certainly a challenge for you to attempt. Let’s just say I’m not much of a fan, as I like to take my time on each shot, unfortunately Endurance doesn’t allow much of this. Clock up the longest time survived on this mode and I’m sure you’ll shoot right up the leaderboards and have the bragging rights over your friends in no time.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s also multiplayer, which opens up some extra game modes. These are taken directly from the single player bonus matches, which you can play to unlock new ball sets, table decals and cue sticks. So there are modes such as 3 Ball, Killer, Rotation and Straight, on top of the standard 8 and 9 Ball. Killer is the most punishing mode, as you lose a life for every shot you miss, luckily you’re playing a real person and not the AI, as you do on the single player.
Attention to detail is key in Pool Nation, as it tries to be as realistic as possible, including the minor details such as the blue chalk spraying off the cue stick as you hit the cue ball. You’ll also get a selection of superb slow-mo shots, as you successfully attempt a skill shot or if you’re unlucky enough to pot the black first. I can tell you now that I was a bit rusty at first because whenever I reached the black ball, I kept potting the white at the same time, which basically means I lose because I fouled. If you do manage to commit an error, there’s always the rewind function, so you can retake a shot again and get it right this time. Personally, I’m not much of a fan of this, but I guess that’s because I prefer the professional side of the sport, where as this game tends to show the more casual and social side.
Although in saying that, Pool Nation doesn’t offer much of an atmosphere when you’re playing matches. Each game takes place in an isolated glossy room, which allows you concentrate on each shot without being disturbed. As much as I like concentrating on each shot, it would have been nice to have a bunch of people around the table who were friends watching you play or even if they were just sat in the background having a chat. Either way, it would have given the game an edge, but I suppose you’ve got the harmonious music to keep you relaxed while you play.
Overall, Pool Nation is a very relaxing and entertaining pool game, which will have you playing for hours on the many game modes offered. You probably won’t want to play the game in long marathons like you would with Call of Duty or Halo, but you will be revisiting this title a lot because it’s very addictive and provides a quick and easy fix for all pool fans out there.
Review: Pool Nation Results
What we liked:
Very relaxing and enjoyable
Plenty to keep you playing
What we disliked:
Not many players play without assists online
AI can be very punishing