- Developer: Lab42
- Publisher: Ripstone
- Genre: Sports
- Release Date:17/4/19
- Platforms: Xbox1/Ps4/Later in 2019 Switch
- Reviewed on: Xbox 1 X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
If, like me, you were one of the 18.5 million people who stayed up late one Sunday night in 1985, to watch the conclusion of the Steve Davis / Dennis Taylor snooker world championship final, you will know how exciting the simple game of snooker is. It’s also been a very long wait for a half decent snooker game for us gamers as well. Possibly one of the best developers/publishers have got their hands on the official licence to make the game and they have done an outstanding job. Ripstone have a great track record of parlour games, chess and poker, and Snooker 19 adds to this list.
The presentation here is outstanding. Visually the snooker table and the detail of the screen is almost identical to the exact same screen layout you will see on the TV. Sitting here writing this looking at the world championship snooker on TV right now as I type ( Neil Robertson V Sean Murphy ), it would be hard to tell the difference.
The only real glaring reasons you would notice this is a video game, and something that isn’t really that much of an issue, is that the character models are poor. Yes, players look a little like their real world counterparts, but they lack detail, texture and depth.
The other thing that draws you out of the experience is the audio is actually a little too quiet. The crowd don’t cough, the chink of the balls is barely audible. Only when you smash the balls do you hear the pleasing “chink” sound. Apart from that though the presentation is excellent. Neal Foulds chips in with commentary about the game as it’s happening and the camera zooms around as they do on TV for different angles of the shot as you play it.
The crux of the game however boils down to the gameplay mechanics and physics, of which Snooker 19 excels. The graphics of the balls on the table is very smooth when they are hit. You move the cue around the edge which follows a faded white line on the table to show where your cue ball will travel. The object ball then has a faded white line showing where it will go when hit. When you line up a shot you then get the opportunity to fine tune it, then the third stage relies on timing to get the power spot on.
You can vary angles with left / right side, top spin or screw on the cue ball, which has an effect on the travel of the ball after it’s hit the object ball. One small gripe is that if you aim to hit the cue ball with any sort of screw back, it’s difficult to see where the white ball ends up if the faded white line of the cue ball goes back over the faded white line of the white ball travel. A little colour here to help definition would have helped.
There is only the TV view for the game until you begin to fine tune, from which you then look directly behind the cue ball. It’s a shame there isn’t a top down view option in the game as many times I’ve lined a shot up from the third person view, only to then set up the fine tuning shot and find a ball I thought was not in the way, was, or that the space I thought was big enough, wasn’t. A simple ability to quickly look at a top down view before I lined any shot up would have stopped this time wasting.
When you get to grips with the run of the table, the physics, and roughly how hard to hit a ball, it won’t be long on the easy mode before you’re making big breaks. During my 5th game I managed to make a break of 134. That’s not to say it’s easy as judging the pace of the white is still a challenge, and the length of the shaded white lines doesn’t extend too far. Also, fine cuts on object balls widens the white line of where it’s going to travel into a much wider arc, so unless you’re set up perfectly, thin cut shots are difficult to judge even in easy mode.
Upping the difficulty reduces the length of the guiding white lines, until on the hardest difficulty there are none at all. I find this perplexing as with no visual aids, and only a 3rd person TV view to judge the aiming, how can you really aim?
The game has a massive roster of players, both young and old, but none of them have any attributes to make playing with them an advantage. You can customize their skill level but they really don’t seem to make any mistakes and start to pull off outlandish shots. The game has a single player career mode and online modes which you can play as any of the players on the roster.
Online against human opponents is where the level of play is best. Online with all the aiming assists, with two players who know what they are doing, will mean the the match is very much at the level to what you will see by the pro’s on TV. Making breaks and shots is easy enough but break building and cue ball control is a real challenge for a really big break, however online is slightly ruined by a match timer and a shot timer. Although I understand both these things are necessary, I feel each is too short and there is no option to play a match with longer times or none at all.
An online match has a 20 minute match time, and if the time runs out whoever has the highest score at that time wins. It doesn’t matter if your just 5 behind, in the middle of a 50 plus break with just the colours on the spots, when the timer runs out that’s it.
The shot timer again is too short. You only get 25 seconds per shot. This leaves very little time to change your shot selection should you change your mind. If you run out of time you commit a foul and the other player takes over. One occasion I had in an online match, I was in the middle of a big break, had a simple pink, but spent too long trying to decide how to move the white ball afterwards. The shot timer finished as I was halfway back from pulling the cue all the way back, so the shot then happened with far less power, and not enough to sink the pot.
There are online quick matches and an online tournament, which is not much more than who scores the most points over a set period of time in their matches.
The other frustrating thing with online matches is with the total match time being 20 minutes, an average break of around 40 can and does take about 10 minutes alone. You may only get to the table with 9 minutes left, 50 points behind, but everything set out for you perfectly and you then feel you need to rush not only to catch up on the scoreboard, but to make sure you don’t run out of time either. As you are pressed for time and behind, players tend to take on ridiculous shots they wouldn’t normally simply because of the time factor. This just means the player who gets a decent break in first normally wins due to nothing more than having more time, not because there aren’t enough points left on the table.
The other gripe of the game, for both single player and online, is there is no practice facility or an advanced tutorial for the nuances of the game. I still haven’t figured out how to break, which gives every opponent I play both online and off an advantage over me.
As well as a practise mode, the game could also use either different fun modes, or a less reds on the table mode. Billiards, pool, or bar billiards would be most welcome here too, but are sadly missing.
Although the game is not perfect, it is perfect in the area it needs to be and thats why it’s a fantastic game. Gameplay and table physics are spot on. Because of this, the other little shortfalls don’t make a difference to the overall enjoyment of the game (apart from the lack of a practice table).
When you start to judge the run of the table, the pace of the white needed and how to manufacture big breaks, the game is utterly rewarding. Clearing the table from a losing position and needing the black to win the frame is compelling, tense, and exciting gaming. If you do it, you know you’ve had to work for it and that feeling is glorious.
Snooker 19 is a fantastic game for any snooker nerds. It could have a few more bells and whistles, but there is most certainly enough quality realistic gaming here to be had for many many hours, late into Sunday nights, just like one evening back in 1985.