After the relative success of their pool simulation Virtual Pool in 1995, developers Celeris decided to take the natural step of porting its acclaimed graphics and gameplay engine across to the English billiard game Snooker. The result is Virtual Snooker, another fine simulation that firmly follows in the tradition of its predecessor. In fact, when Virtual Snooker was first released in 1996 publisher Interplay included a guarantee -- if the game did not help to improve your actual Snooker skills, you were entitled to a full refund. Virtual Snooker is such a fine simulation of the sport, I suspect that very few consumers asked Interplay to honor their promise.
The basis of the Virtual Snooker gameplay approach centers on a fully 3D Snooker table. Set in the middle of a room, the table can be panned and viewed from absolutely any angle through the simple movement of the mouse. Push the mouse forwards and the table tilts towards an overhead view. Move the mouse to the right and your perspective moves correspondingly. This elegant simplicity really makes the player feel as if they are walking around the table, viewing their upcoming shot from a variety of angles. Of course, anyone familiar with the game of Snooker will understand how crucial it is to be able to survey your shot from different angles, and Virtual Snooker allows you to do this effortlessly. Combined with crisp and clear graphics, Celeris have devised a wonderfully accurate recreation of the 3D realities of the real sport.
Once you've surveyed your shot, a simple key press (the S key) will switch the game from "aim mode" to "shoot mode". Once again, the interface for shotmaking is devilishly simple but amazingly effective. A mouse-controlled system is used, requiring the player to move the mouse towards themselves for the backward movement of the cue, and away from themselves to strike the ball and follow through. This accurately mimics the action used with a real cue during a real life game of Snooker (hence Interplay's confidence that your skills in the game will be improved after playing their virtual version). Power is determined by the speed with which the mouse is moved. Having played my fair share of Snooker in smoky, dimly lit halls, I can vouch for this method unreservedly. The true feel of moving the cue is recreated about as realistically as possible in a computer game. Delicate, short shots require a deft touch, while longer shots will need a fair amount of push. It's this subtlety and detail that makes the mouse system a pleasure to use.
Realism extends beyond the mouse system to the rest of Virtual Snooker. The physics model is superb, with the balls reacting just as you would expect them to. You can also switch on tracking lines to show you just where your shots will end up (in practise only, of course!), and table lines to aid you in judgement. In fact, Virtual Snooker simply plays an amazingly accurate game of Snooker. The authentic feel is further enhanced by multimedia tips from the great Steve Davis, whose wit and style is always endearing.
Unfortunately, Virtual Snooker's Achilles heel lies in its relatively shallow level of gameplay options. Unless you have a number of Snooker loving buddies you'll quickly find yourself running out of challenges. There are nine computer-controlled opponents to play, all of varying difficulty levels, but tragically no tournament mode of any kind has been implemented. Once you've had your fill of the AI opponents you'll need to use multi-player options to extend gameplay. With modem, LAN and alternating turns (on the same machine), the options are decent, and you'll certainly need to utilize them for longevity's sake.
For those fans of the sport who have plenty of friends to humble, Virtual Snooker is a highly commendable title that will provide many enjoyable hours of billiards action. It's not just the overt features that make this a great simulation, but also the way the game manages to recreate the feel of Snooker, right down to the finest details. Invite a friend over, rack 'em up, and enjoy a game of Snooker without the smoke and those dim lights...
Graphics: Crisp and clear, with a terrific 3D table that can be viewed from any angle.
Sound: Not hugely important in a Snooker title, but adequate nonetheless.
Enjoyment: Great sim of Snooker, recreating all of the sport's finer details.
Replay Value: If you are able to use the multi-player options, enormous. Otherwise, not so good.
A 3D Snooker simulation, the most realistic available at the time. The snooker version of the popular Virtual Pool game.
People who downloaded Virtual Snooker have also downloaded:
Virtual Pool 3, Virtual Pool, Virtual Pool 2, Virtual Pool Hall, World Championship Snooker 2004, Jimmy White's 2: Cueball, Virtua Tennis, Twisted Metal 2
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