World Snooker Championship 2007 PS2 Review

Blade Interactive released their first World Championship Snooker game in 2000 on the PS1, and with regular yearly updates it has been built into a reliable franchise. But what new things do they bring to the table with the 2007 version?

The introductory movie is good fun, with John Virgo talking about the results from the real-life 2006 season and “highlights” of the tournament winners. Options are selected from the menu screen, a snooker table surrounded by banners representing the tournaments. First stop should be the Tutorial section, where you’ll learn the controls and can practice in the different modes. After that, the Championship mode will be the most you’ll play, as it unlocks extra game types.

Starting a Snooker Championship will let you play through a season (with a choice of season length determining how many tournaments are available). Starting with a low ranking, the player’s character will have to earn ranking points and qualify for tournaments. The stage for each event is nicely modelled, with appropriate banners and sponsors skirting the edge. A panning shot of the crowd adds to the atmosphere.

It’s very easy to get into the game. First the shot has to be lined up, with arrows predicting where the object ball and cue ball will travel (and a “spot” showing approximately where the cue ball will come to rest). Then it’s a case of adjusting the cue angle if necessary, adding spin (by changing the impact point on the cue ball) and setting the power. The player can press X to take the shot automatically, or use the right analogue stick in a cueing-like action. When it is time to pot a colour, the required ball can be chosen by targeting it, or manually selecting from the menu.

Mirroring the snooker championship is an all-new Pool season, featuring both 8 and 9 ball variations. There are a total of 10 pool tournaments, including the Mosconi Cup (the pool equivalent of the Ryder Cup) and 14 famous players. This compares with 91 snooker stars (or 32 if you are playing the scaled down Xbox 360 version), each of which has an officially licensed replica in the game. Finally, there is also billiards and bar billiards to play, as well as the (unlockable) Trickshot and Golden Cue championships.

Starting out is tough, particularly when one of the top players is drawn in a qualifying round – be prepared to sit and watch your opponent build a big break. A Virgo prediction of “that could be his last short in this frame” proved to be all too true – my opponent racked up 132 without reply. The pool tournaments can be equally tough, but the incentive to win the trophies is there – and you can then look at them in the impressive 3D cabinet.

The presentation of the game is excellent, and playing a frame of snooker is like watching it on TV, down to the scoreboard and a neat inset of the disappointed player who has just missed a shot. Good shots will often get an automatic replay with some nice camera angles, including from the back of the pocket. (There is an option to skip the AI player’s shots, or it can be done manually by pressing X). However, the graphics are a mixture of good and bad – the players remain recognisable in their virtual form, and there are neat touches like the referee replacing the ball or the bottles on a player’s table. The frame rate regularly drops while a shot is played out, which can be distracting. At times the animation can also be stilted and awkward, but the overall effect is solid.

Sound is excellent, with the audience coughing and applauding. John Virgo, Steve Davis and John Parrott have recorded a great commentary track for the snooker, full of little nuances like disagreeing on the next shot to speculation on which colour is going to be played. Pool gets its own commentators, but the quick play matches lack any sort of commentary.

Overall then, this plays a very good game of snooker and has the added bonus of pool and billiards. Dedicated fans of snooker should snap it up, casual players may be better off with one of the other pool games available for the PS2.