When I Heard that Interplay were working on a new pool game. I was a little perturbed as to why anyone would want to cover such old ground. Surely it's all been done before with Jimmy White and Archer Maclean? What more can you add to such a limited genre? They've never sold well, have constrained scope and are likely to appeal to only a limited audience.
Steve Chaplin, the president of Celeris (the company who are developing Virtual Pool for Interplay), used to play a lot of pool (in fact, he almost turned professional) and he would beg to disagree. He maintains that the reason previous pool sims have never sold well is because they were never very playable, just as golf sims were never best sellers until Links came along. There are a lot of pool players out there (in the States, there are even more) and Steve reckons that if it's approached in the right way, pool on the pc could be just as much a success as Links. Thing is. though, like all the best golf games, it has got to be realistic, graphically stunning and. of course, playable, especially in multi-player tournament mode. Virtual Pool is.
The baize essentials
Although Virtual Pool (VP) is still very much in development at the moment, it already looks and plays very differently from previous baize-based games. Celeris have gone for realism in a big way - hence the rather pretentious moniker. The result is a beautifully crafted "virtual room" containing a pool tabic, that, via your mouse, you can walk around, lean over, crouch next to and even look under. And it's all in glorious 256 colours at a resolution of 640x480. To keep things running smoothly, the bods at Celer-is are also aiming at a frame rate of at least 20 frames per second (it usually plays nearer 30) and to ensure that the game runs whatever graphics card you're using, they have taken the rather unusual step of writing video for specific cards to deliver maximum performance.
Pool is ultimately all about physics, and Celeris have put all its expertise, gained through developing sims and military software, to good use in producing what it claims to be the most accurate physical model ever. Celeris has had world-championship players in to test it out and all of them confirm that it's as close as you can get to playing the real thing. This is largely down to the extremely quick and easy-to-use interface, which allows you to interact directly and physically with the virtual environment in front of you. Instead of clicking on various icons and then a power bar to make your shot (as you do with every other pool/snooker and, indeed, golf sim). you draw your cue by pulling your mouse back, and the speed with which you push the mouse forward again determines how hard you'll hit the cue ball. You can also add spin to the ball, raise the butt of your cue and alter the power or aim of your shot by tapping a key to gain even greater control. It is a little weird at first, but once you've played a couple of shots, it becomes almost second nature, proving very quick and easy to use. After just one frame you'll wonder why no one's ever done it before.
There are currently six or so opponents and three different types of pool-based games to choose from, which may or may not be familiar, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on. I can't really comment on the game's AI at the moment, because there isn't really any to speak of. Even Phi Fowler and Dead Eye Dan were beaten to; pulp on my second visit to the table (but I have to admit that I was using the ball-tracking device). In two-player tournamen mode, however, this type of game really comes into its own. It's even better played over a network when you can make full of the cross-talk facility to "encourage" your opponent to make a shot.
Even without the promised multi-media adage that is destined to accompany the product - video clips, a trick-shot section featuring well-known players, computer-generated opponents that are introduced before each match as well as the now obligatory "OH" intro sequences which now infest almost every CD title - Virtual Pool absolutely exudes gameplay and hopefull the speed and playability won't suffer when all the "enhancements" are include.
This is "bare-bones gameplay" at its bes and yes. there is a Snooker game using the same engine on the way.
Download Virtual Pool
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode