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Expert Pool

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Psygnosis
Developer: EA Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

My first thought that came to my mind when opening the box for Expert Pool was, 'it's just not pool if I don't get chalk all over my hands'. After playing the game, this thought, along with any other apprehension about the game, was squelched. With 13 different venues to play, you can choose what kind of environment you want to be in. I'm not a fan of the bar atmosphere, so I can choose to play in the basement, or a posh tournament room in Vegas. With each environment comes different tables, all of which are modeled after Kasson tables. If you don't know who they are, just turn on ESPN for a nine ball tournament. The graphics of your environments are incredible, but the character animation is a bit blocky. The different venues each have their own distinct characteristics. One venue is even in black and white, which is a plus for any fan of the movie 'The Hustler' with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. The sounds of the game add to the believability of your environment. You will hear people around you cough, you will hear your opponent chalking his cue, and the sounds of the pool balls on the table are exactly how they would sound on a real table. In tournament play, you even have announcers to comment on how well you are doing. I turn this option off when I am losing. You can also have music playing during your game, which changes depending on the venue your playing in. The music does tend to sound slightly electronic and Muzak like, so I turn off the music in the game, and put in a CD on my home deck.

Gameplay:

I always thought I knew how to play pool when I started this game. I was soon proven wrong. With the ability to change the angle of your cue, the amount of English you use, how hard you hit the ball, and of course, what angle you get the ball, you have complete control of your cue ball. To be a good pool player you must be able to place the cue ball where you want after you make a shot. With the option of playing on a practice table, taking lessons on such things as combination shots, backspin on the ball, Baby Masse, jump shots, and much more, the game is designed to help you become a better pool player. You can even learn some famous trick shots! The game allows you to pick your character, control the clothes your character wears, what hair color, and even if they wear sunglasses or not. When you are shooting, you will see your characters arm and hand holding your cue, and if you are not shooting, your character will stand off to the side watching, usually along side another non-playing character who tends to root for your opponent. After training, you can play real games with many different opponents which are grouped in three categories: Amateur, Intermediate, and Pro. If you are brave, you can start planning one of the many tournaments. With 19 different versions of pool including, Eight-ball, Nine-ball, Straight pool, Cutthroat, Rotation, Six ball, Bank pool, Bottle pool, and French billiards, and the variety of different rules to play with like bar rules vs. tournament rules, Expert Pool will become the new standard for simulated pool games. As many games today, you have the option of playing with other people over the Internet, just as long as they have the game also, and you have a fast enough Internet connection. I think I will buy this game for my friends for Christmas, so we can have our own tournaments.

Difficulty:

The game is easy and hard. Easy to control with everything being controlled with your mouse and a few keys on your keyboard, but hard, because you have to know the mechanics of the game to be able to win. If you are new to pool, it will teach you to be a good pool player. If you are a seasoned pool player, it will help you improve your game by refining your skills. No wonder the military uses simulators. It helps you not look like a total fool when you step up to the real thing.

Game Mechanics:

You have full 360 degree access to your environment, controlled by your mouse. To change your angle of view of the table, you must move your mouse and you can even be right next to the cue ball. One advantage to being so up close, is that if you are playing an opponent that is really good, you can zoom in and see how they are holding their stick, what English they are using, how hard they hit the ball, etc. Controlling your camera view and controlling your cue works best with a mouse. I tried it with a track ball and a joystick, and I just couldn't get the hang of it.

-Wickserv, GameVortex Communications
AKA Eric Wickwire

Minimum System Requirements:



Pentium 166, 32 MB of RAM, 108 MB of hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM drive
 

Test System:



PII450, 256 RAM, 26CD, STB Velocity 4400

Windows Egypt 1150 B.C. Windows F1 2000

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated