Just before I start this Pool Nation review, I have to say, that load screen makes me laugh every time. But you don’t get it every time in game, its random. Glad I was able to capture that one during the moment.
For the longest time I couldn’t find a good pool game. That, or, like the rest of the world, I just forgot about trying to play pool on my computer. That being said, pool games are a niche market. Even when I like playing them, it doesn’t last forever, but that being said, I always return.
Pool Nation is a beautiful billiards game. It has tournament modes for 8 and 9-ball variations of pool. For 9-ball, it will highlight the ball you need to sink as well as the next ball in order. There’s no real story line. You play your way through a series of other player characters. Some of which, as shown on the load screen above, are just outright ridiculous. The settings for the games are very pleasing to the eye. However, as I’ll get into shortly, I rarely see them, and for a strategically sound reason.
As you can seen in the shot above, the graphics are top notch. Every once in a while when you make a sweet shot you’ll also get a sort of “action cam” close up of when your amazing shot. My only criticism of this is that sometimes that view doesn’t show the ball getting sunk, which kind of defeats the purpose really. Regardless, that’s a minor inconvenience.
Also, in the screenshot above, you can see that it shows you where your cue ball is going and where the ball you will hit will go. That’s about it for the predictive physics. For example, if there was another ball behind my 1 ball up there, it wouldn’t show you where that other ball will go, or even where the 1 ball will bounce off to. So its limited to your queue ball and the first ball it hits. This is great really, you don’t want the game playing everything for you, where’s the skill involved in that? And if this is too much, or too easy, you can change the length of the help tool in the game settings menu, there are 5 degrees of difficulty available, which makes a great learning curve, for the hardcore pool fans!
The view above, however, I rarely use. The main problem is getting a good idea of where your ball is going if you have to put it on any kind of angle. So with that in mind, I press “Y” on my X-Box controller and switch to the top down view. Its not as beautiful, but its infinitely more functional. You can get a much better idea of the angles required to sink some sweet (or boring) shots. Here’s the same shot from earlier, from a top down view…
As you can see, its a much more detailed view of everything happening and what might happen after your shot.
I use a controller when playing and I can’t even really imagine what a keyboard + mouse combo would be like. The controller (XBox for me) is perfect. Every button has a solid function. From locking your power, raising the angle of your cue stick, switching where you connect on the cue ball (for spins/jumps/etc) to changing the views. Menu selection, as with all modern games, is also very easy via a controller.
The game also likes to throw some curve balls at you, so to speak, when it comes to achievements. For example, you need to collect stars from each round you play in a tournament. You need a specific amount of these stars to progress in the game by unlocking new tournaments. The collection of stars ranges from just beating your opponent, to performing specific types of shots. You get a rundown before your match, and then a recap of which ones you got after the match. Also, a nice feature, is that if you get, say 2 out of 3 starts on one round, the next time you play you just need to get the 1 start you missed. So you don’t have to get all 3 each game, which is good, because that would be really hard sometimes, to the level of repeated game restarts and too much frustration. Hell, for me, that level of frustration happens sometimes just trying to get that last star!
All in all, for a great throwback feeling, Pool Nation is fantastic. Hell, if you’ve never played a pool game in your life, it would still be great. At the time I purchased Pool Nation there were no other pool games on Steam. Now there’s a handful. I might pick up those games some day, but I’m in no rush. Pool Nation does a great job of giving me a billiards fix when I can’t get down to the local pub for a game in real life.
Update: I recently played this online, with my cousin, and it worked great! We were able to have a few games over the Internet, no lagging, no issues at all. It was also very easy to setup the game for multiplayer action. Overall a great online multiplayer experience.
Pool nation is everything you could ever want in a great PC pool game. The graphics are top notch, its multiplayer is easy to setup and fun to play and the replay factor is high for any pool lover. Plus its cheaper than going to a bar!