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World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Left Field Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (2 - 21 w/ System Link or via Xbox Live)
Genre: Card Games/ Online/ Board Games

Graphics & Sound:

Graphically, Activision's World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets is quite good, especially for a genre that typically hasn't cared that much about how things look, necessarily. Player models look outstanding, in both the Pros like Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan, as well as within the Created Players. There is a wide variety of clothing items to choose from as well, so no two players on the Internet will likely be the same.

In terms of audio, there are both pluses and minuses. The commentators do a fine job for the most part. As Lon McCarron and Norman Chad both set up the pre-game speeches and the in-game play-by-play, they always call it correctly, and try to add emotion. This emotion, however, can sometimes seem a bit over-the-top, which is either good for a chuckle or the reason you decide to play your MP3 player instead. Character comments are a bit on the low end in quality, but it's good to see the developer trying to spruce things up a bit.


If you have never played Texas Hold 'Em, but you do like playing cards, you are in for a treat with World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets, because not only is the gameplay simplified with the controller, you can also learn about the game through tutorials, as well as trial and error This makes WSOP ideal to give it a try in a not-for-real-money environment. For those out there that love the game and its variations, World Series of Poker does not disappoint.

WSOP is, at its root, a very basic game. At its heart is both the Career Mode and playing with real players via Xbox Live (or System Link). Unfortunately, the game is only made for one player locally. While it makes sense that you can't play multiplayer on one console because of the secrecy involved in such a game, it is a bit of a disappointment because WSOP is definitely at its best in multiplayer.

Xbox Live is the perfect platform for pokers games. Both online and off, you'll be able to play Texas Hold 'Em, Seven Card Stud, Omaha, Razz, and slight variations within. There is also the ability to play quick games of Blackjack and Video Poker, as well as create custom tournaments of up to 21 players (yes, you can System Link 21 Xbox 360's and 21 TVs - how's that for a LAN party!?). If you're like most people that pick up this game, however, you'll be spending your time playing Hold 'Em because it offers the most fun overall, especially if you find a good group of players online.

Be warned, however, that since you really aren't playing for anything other than pride on Xbox Live, you will inevitably run into wise guys who don't really "play by the rules," so to speak. It's not that the games allow you to break the game rules, but what I mean is that people will play stupidly since there's no real risk involved. The best thing to do is try to get into some tournaments of more than one table, because people are at their best game in these circumstances. It would have been nice to see some non-player-hosted tournaments too, that maybe would allow the winner to receive otherwise unattainable clothing or poker room collectables, just for some cool swag and bragging rights. You can gamble away your earned tokens too, so that does help a bit more in the risk vs. reward department. The other thing about playing online is that without everyone using an Xbox Live Vision Camera [note: I never saw a single camera in use online, even those who had custom players], it is impossible to get reads and see a players' tells that are an extremely important part of playing poker. In some ways, this evens the playing field, but it most definitely affects the way people participate.

Even offline, World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets has its drawbacks in terms of gameplay. For starters, it is very easy to beat your computer-controlled opponents with what I would call "creative betting." As an example, you can usually outwit your opponent and get him or her to slowly spend his or her life savings, only to fold the second you go all-in. Sure, the computer will challenge you when it has a good hand, but in general, you could win more than your fair share of crappy hands this way. There's also the fact that if you're not one hundred percent familiar with each game, it can be confusing to learn because the end of the hand can sometimes come and go without true explanation. However, you can earn some great helpers that show you percentages of possible hands, your buy-in percent, and many other important stats. Whether you play online or off, the core gameplay is extremely addictive, and has a great TV-style presentation.


World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets has multiple difficulty settings that basically have you starting with less money, but playing more events as you step it up in your career. With all of this aside, the core game seems to remain unchanged. When it comes to true difficulty, however, playing online is where you may find a table of teenagers or a legion of legends. Since you never know what you'll get, it will likely take some time to read the players that you're up against from over the Internet. Being that you can't see players and their idiosyncrasies as they play (unless they have a Vision Camera), it does make calling the bluff all that much harder to grab the jackpot. Offline, the computer is a bit predicable, which can sometimes make the long games seem even longer.

Game Mechanics:

World Series of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets is a very basic game with very basic controls, meaning that anyone can manipulate the on-screen action with extreme ease. My favorite button is the "peak" button, which has you looking at table level as you look at the hand you were dealt. What playing poker does take, however, is a slightly analytical mind that helps in determining odds and just knowing when to play, fold, raise, or call.

It is no wonder people have problems with gambling that affects their lives, because playing WSOP is truly one of the most addictive things you can do. At least there's no real money changing hands. While this title really does a great job at its TV-style presentation, the only thing that I have a legitimate complaint about is that the text is almost impossible to read on an (now "old") analog TV. This is becoming the case more and more as HDTVs infiltrate the market, but I wish game developers would realize that not everyone has ridden that bandwagon yet. Other than that, World Series Of Poker 2008: Battle For The Bracelets is the best "simple" game that I've played in a long, long time.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Sony PlayStation 3 World Series of Poker 2008: Battle for the Bracelets Sony PlayStation 2 Manhunt 2

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated