Game Over Online ~ Virtual Pool 3

GameOver Game Reviews - Virtual Pool 3 (c) Interplay, Reviewed by - Trent Vaughn

Game & Publisher Virtual Pool 3 (c) Interplay
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 89%
Date Published Thursday, November 30th, 2000 at 05:59 PM

Divider Left By: Trent Vaughn Divider Right

Although some gamers might argue Expert Pool gives the series a run for it's money, Interplay and Celeris' Virtual Pool is often regarded as the shark of pool sims on the PC. The series made its debut in January of 1997 with the release of Virtual Pool. From there, Interplay went on to release Virtual Pool 2 in December of 1997, adding a wealth of improvements including enhanced physics modelling and a handful of new game types. Virtual Pool Hall soon followed in December of 1999, bringing with it the introduction of Snooker to the series. It wasn't a perfect break though, as Virtual Pool Hall suffered from poor opponent AI and a lack of a pool hall atmosphere, ironic considering its name. With Virtual Pool 3, the fourth instalment in the series, Interplay is lurking closer and closer to the perfect game of pool. Pretty soon these boys will be able to drop the 'Virtual' from the title altogether.

Virtual Pool 3 features its usual assortment of gaming modes. If you're new to the Virtual Pool series, or a beginning pool player in general, Virtual Pool 3 features an excellent tutorial session where virtual sponsor and WPBA player Jeanette Lee will teach you the basic elements of pool, along with a few tricks. Speaking of tricks, there are plenty of trick shots you can view and then attempt for yourself. If you're looking for a quick game or two of 9-ball, the Quick Play mode should do the trick. If it's a tournament of Snooker you'd prefer, the Tournament mode is easy to set-up. If you'd prefer a human opponent, you can logon to the Internet and face off against real-life opponents in single matches or tournaments on a dedicated server that also keeps track of player rankings.

New to the Virtual Pool series is a nifty Career mode. With fifty bones in your pocket and a plain cue, you begin your rise to billiards stardom by venturing out to various locations to bet your stake against players of varying skill levels. There are a handful of virtual pool halls but only a couple of them are available from the get-go, those being the garage and the biker bar. As your wallet increases in size and you defeat some of the best players in the game, the remaining pool halls will unlock, including a Malibu beachside mansion, and specially licensed pool cues will become available as well. There are literally hundreds of pool players in Virtual Pool 3 and eventually, once you've got a little notoriety and a sufficient bankroll, you'll be able to challenge The Black Widow herself, Jeanette Lee.

Although the Career mode is an excellent addition to the Virtual Pool series, it beckons the first of two gripes I have with Virtual Pool 3. The first has to do with player statistics and the ranking system. For starters, the game does not keep track of statistics that accumulate in the Career mode, it only keeps track of games in the Quick Play or Tournament modes and even at that, it doesn't do a very good job. There were many times when I'd complete a game of Snooker, or some other variation, only to notice that the statistics for that match were not saved properly. This bug, as it seems, basically doesn't allow for your ranking to change much, since the ranking system is based on your win/loss record among other factors. I thought perhaps I wasn't doing something properly, but after hearing other gamers express concern over the same issue, we can only hope that Interplay and Celeris will address this problem in a future patch.

The second of my two gripes has to do with the sound in Virtual Pool 3, or the lack thereof. For starters, the background music is the same for each pool hall. Considering the variety of locations in the game, a jukebox would have been a nice touch. Perhaps worse than the repetitive music are the sound effects. The atmospheric effects, which vary depending on the pool hall you play in, seem a bit out of place and the table effects are poorly timed. That is, you'll often hear cracks before the balls actually collide with each other. It makes for some awkward moments and gives the impression that the sound department was not very high on the developer's to-do list.

Those two gripes aside, Virtual Pool 3 is stellar when it needs to be. Perhaps the most important aspect of the series is it's incredible physics engine. Whether it's cue English, ball-spin, ball-squirt, table speed, rail speed, pocket size, pocket cut or collision factors, each element has been dealt with and the result is the most accurate pool sim available on the market. Sure, there's the odd shot that plays a little curiously, or the odd computer opponent who makes a questionable shot decision, but they're few and far between. Throw in 21 different game types; including fan favourites such as Snooker, Basic Pocket Billiards, 8-ball, 9-ball and Straight Pool, as well as numerous variations including Honolulu, Cribbage, 1 & 3 Cushion Billiards and Cowboy; eight different pool halls, hundreds of computer opponents of varying skill levels, and Jeanette Lee, and you've got all the trimmings your pool shark heart desires.

When the balls are sunk and the night comes to a close, Virtual Pool 3 is by far the best pool sim available on the PC. The statistics and player ranking system appear to be slightly flawed, and the sound department lacks consistency, but the accurate physics model, along with a wide variety of game modes, game types, and other various options, make Virtual Pool 3 a clear-cut winner. If you're at all interested in pool, this is one title that should be in your collection, if not on your holiday wish list.

[ 47/50 ] Gameplay
[ 08/10 ] Graphics
[ 05/10 ] Sound
[ 09/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 10/10 ] Controls
[ 10/10 ] Fun Factor


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