Virtual Pool was the best pool simulation on the market. It only makes sense that the game that finally beat it is... Virtual Pool 2. After playing the first game, it's difficult to believe that the game could get much better. Difficult to believe until you play Virtual Pool 2, that is.
The game has undergone a huge overhaul. The first thing you notice is that it is now a native Windows application. But when you play it you notice the real changes. The graphics have been upgraded and have a photorealistic quality to them. The balls are shaded, show light sourcing, and the numbers on them are uncannily clear. The tables themselves now show patches of light and shadow depending on the light source. Support for Direct3D is included, so hardware acceleration may be enabled. To tell you the truth, the graphics are so good it's difficult to tell the difference between the accelerated and unaccelerated graphics. They're just that sharp to begin with. Here's something I didn't think was possible: the physics have been improved! It's now possible to jump balls and knock a ball right off the table. Other improvements include five new games: 3-Ball, 6-Ball, 10-Ball, Bank Pool and One Pocket - as well as the original games. New computer opponents have been added and a ranking system has been implemented. Lose a game and your rank drops, win and it goes up. Computer opponents are also ranked, so you have an idea where to begin. Of course, nothing beats a human opponent so multiplayer support is included via modem and IPX network (not to mention playing on the same machine).
Other enhancements include configurable table characteristics like pocket size, rail cushioning, table speed, etc. You may also pop in your favorite music CD while you play and use the custom music player included with the game. The Virtual Pool 2 CD comes equipped with a few songs as well, in case you don't wish to swap the CD out. Also included are video pool lessons with Mike Sigel. These are extremely well done, and provide you with some excellent information about the game. Not only does the video explain a particular shot, you are given the option to try the shot yourself if you like. What a wonderful learning tool this is. Videos depicting trick shots are also available for your perusal.
Complaints with this game are minor at best. There are a few graphical problems that occur when switching options, but once set are perfectly fine. The room scenery still looks a bit primitive, but who cares? Personally, I found it difficult to believe that this game could even have this many improvements over the original. The original was just that good. Of course, as with the first game, the guarantee still stands: your actual pool game will improve or your money back. I don't think they have anything to worry about.
Bottom Line: The best pool simulation just got better. I give this game my highest recommendation.
When the original Virtual Pool came out, I was confused. I couldn't understand the point of buying a game that you could easily play in any pub, arcade, etc. But curiosity got the best of me and I bought it anyway. I played it for three days and shelved it. It just wasn't the same without the beer stains on the felt and the thick cloud of smoke hovering above the Coors Light sign. Virtual Pool 2 is very different. It is not so much a game as it is a teaching tool. Sure, you can play pool -- in fact, there are more ways to play pool on this thing than I ever dreamed--but this game comes with a unique guarantee: it will improve your real-life pool game or you get your money back! That's a bold statement, but VR Sports back it up with a full-motion tutorial, lessons on specialty shots, and pool strategy with "pool hall of famer" Mike Sigel.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Got a keyboard and a mouse? Good, let's get to the fun stuff. As soon as you load up Virtual Pool 2, you are ready to enter your name and start playing nine-ball. I never really was into nine-ball, so I tried three-ball, six-ball, 10-ball, bank pool, and one pocket. I also tried the old familiar 8-ball, rotation, and straight pool. All these games are great, and let me tell you, the game is just as hard (or as easy if you're good) as the real thing. But I feel like I'm misleading you if I dwell on the game itself. What I should be doing is telling you about the tutorials. This is where the real fun is. Did I mention that "Machine Gun" Lou Butera makes an appearance on this CD? Well, he does - teaching you everything (trickwise) from one-, two-, three, four- and six-ball shots, stroke shots, position shots, masse shots, ball clearance, to shots using all 15 balls. (Lou Butera got the name "Machine Gun," by the way, for being able to clear a whole table of balls in under one minute and thirty seconds.)
As I mentioned, Mike Sigel is here as well, teaching you cue ball control, break shots, safety shots, trouble shots and game strategies. It is like having the best players in the pool world coach you through your shots. After most of the videos you can try the shots yourself over and over again, which is where the true value of this CD lies.
Another nice feature to this CD is the tournament mode. You start at the bottom rung in 129th place (or higher if you feel ready for a challenge) and work your way up the points ladder. I would recommend that you start near the bottom, as the players get tougher and tougher as you go. Or if you like, challenge a friend to play on your PC or play on two computers via network or modem.
You can start out as an amateur and work your way up to a pro or even championship player. What is nice is that for each of these levels there are settings for pocket size, cut, rail cushioning and table speed.
Graphically, Virtual Pool 2 scores very nicely. The only two complaints I had were the lack of different rooms to play in and the magnet-like pool cue that seemed overly attracted to the cue ball. Otherwise, the ball physics and the actual look of the game are superb. The balls are the most impressive: "full simulation of all physical action including friction, speed, collision, roll, cue stick to ball interface..." blah, blah, blah; but it's all true. Those were VR Sports' words; these are mine: the balls move like real pool balls, the breaks thunder like real breaks, and the rolls are smoooooth. You can choose to use a 3D accelerator card if you like, but I didn't notice that much of a difference.
Not much audio here, but there is a jukebox feature you should know about. You can use the game's soundtrack, which all revolves around pool (duh), or you can throw in a CD of your choice (B.B. King seemed more appropriate to me).
I am a big fan of the movie The Color of Money starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, but I am even a bigger fan of the CD Virtual Pool 2. Notice that I didn't say "game?" The bottom line is that this is more of a tool to learn the game of pool than anything else. Besides, you can't substitute something on the screen for the real heft of a pool cue in your hand. VR Pool 2 is fun while you're learning, and getting together with a friend from miles away to play over the modem is great. I myself will use the stuff I have learned on the family table back home, where I plan on showing off. Notwithstanding, Virtual Pool 2 gives you every opportunity to improve your pool skills.
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