Deep screw. Skin on baize. Hard shafts of wood. Kissing the pink. OK, so trying to make snooker sound sexy is about as pointless as those cardigans that are just sleeves, but that doesn't stop the sport being one of the most popular in the world. There's just something about it that appeals, be it the sound of a red crashing into a pocket, stunning long pots that make you feel like you're actually a good player, a perfectly played safety shot, or even the ease at which you can watch the sport on TV. If you're like me, and happened to believe you'd turn pro one day, video games are about the only option you have left.
Simply put, SEGA's World Snooker Championship 2007, once again developed by Blade Interactive, is the official game of the sport, and it plays a lot like snooker. It's got the top pros, the events from the tour, the qualifying events, coloured balls, cues, commentators, and just about every other aspect of the game that you'd want to see in a video game representation. That'll put-off a good chunk of readers, but if you happen to have a soft spot for the sport of kings, read on.
From the off you'll be able to dive into a number of game modes, including a hand-holding tutorial mode, Quick play, online and offline versus play, and Championship mode. Versus play is pretty self explanatory and the tutorial mode is only really needed for complete novices. From the Championship menu you can chose to play a snooker, pool or mixed career, with trick shot and golden cue modes opening up once you've played through the other careers.
The snooker career mode is most definitely where you'll spend the majority of time, seeing as it can be set to accurately model the real snooker season, complete with full length qualifying events and championships. The goal here is to climb up the world ranking list, win the World Championship, kiss the trophy, hug a loved one while you wipe a tear from your eye, watch John Parrot fumble the post-match interview, and then walk around holding the prize above your head. In qualifiers you'll face unknowns, but the best players in the world will crop up at the finals. Newcomers will struggle to get through qualifying, as the competition is tough right from the start, but old pros will probably need to turn the aiming and position assists off if they want any real challenge.
'With the assists on anyone who knows their way around a snooker table will find things far too easy - although miss and you'll still be punished.'
With the assists on anyone who knows their way around a snooker table will find things far too easy - although miss and you'll still be punished. The new cue-ball position zone marker makes positional play a whole lot easier than in the previous game in the series, with only powerful shots causing any real positional difficulty. Combined with long aiming arrows, it's hard not to make high breaks. As an example, during the first three games in the first qualifying match of the season I hit consecutive breaks of 80, 100 and a 139 total clearance. Had there been options to reduce how much help the aiming and positioning tools give you, this would have given in-between players the best of both worlds, so the option to simply turn them on or off (collectively) is rather disappointing.
Throughout your player's career you'll earn points to increase your key stats, enabling you to become a better potter, improve your use of spin, etc. It's all very nice, and something that every sports game features in some shape or form, but in a sport that's so much about judging angles and shot strength, some of the stats seem fairly unnecessary, as the skills should be coming from the human player.
When you're on the table there's far less to criticise. It plays like snooker, and that's pretty much the best compliment the game can receive. Lining up shots isn't as easy at it could have been, mainly due to the fine-tune aiming not being quite as fine as it probably should have been, but you get used to it. The shot control using the right analogue stick is also rather awkward, so it's best to use the manual shot strength bar. The result is a game that takes an awfully long time to play, but it's worth it for the excitement gained from a big break or nail-biting victory.
One area that the game really disappoints is presentation. Next-gen sports games have almost reached photo-realism, yet Blade Interactive has managed to create a game that at times looks pig ugly. In truth, the visuals don't really matter in a game like snooker, but the way the players look almost emotionless and cue the ball like oversized ten-year-olds who are playing the sport for the first time, really isn't good enough. If you're totally new to the game of snooker you might not notice, but for fans (and to be fair, they're the ones who'll buy the game) it sticks out like a kick on a shot needed to clinch a trophy.
Commentary is so awful that you'll want to mute it as soon as possible, and a new feature this year means that the commentary box team will pop-up over the corner of the screen to give you pearls of wisdom, rather brilliantly blocking your view on most occasions - another feature that you'll disable. Part of the problem with the commentary stems from the fact that real snooker commentary isn't two men constantly talking; there are often large pauses of silence. In World Snooker Championship 2007 they hardly shut up, meaning you'll hear repeated phrases within a single frame - Virgo in particular likes to drone on about the same things.
As far as console snooker sims go, especially on the PlayStation 3 where this is the only option, World Snooker Championship 2007 does its job very well. It's certainly lacking in the presentation department and features the odd bug and control issue, but snooker fans will still find an awful lot to enjoy. Alone, online or on the same console with a friend, there's months of entertainment to be found here, even if it isn't really a next-gen experience.