Its been years since we have had an officially licensed Snooker game, and although its probably been even longer since I have played any Snooker game, either official or not! But, when I saw that Snooker 19 was due for release, I suddenly had fond flashbacks to the old Jimmy White games on the Amiga. Snooker 19 has been developed by UK based Lab42, and published by Ripstone Games. It has been released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, with a Nintendo Switch version coming later this summer. But will Snooker 19 rekindle my love for the genre, or will it be just a lot of balls.
The most important thing that a Snooker game needs to perfect is the ball physics on the table, and after about 15 hours of game time I have to admit that Lab42 have nailed it. The movement of the balls on the table is exactly how they would perform in real life, and although initially I had some reservations about the consistency of the power setting in moving the cue ball to safety, after a period of time playing it became more obvious that it was probably just my inexperience. There is a bit of a learning curve at the start, which isn’t helped by the confusing nature of the difficulty settings. I initially thought that playing as a novice player would be the best place to start, but most matches saw me play against one of the greats of the game, where one missed shot would mean the opponent went on to hit a break of 80+ and it was game over. I had similar issues with the shot assist setting, as I assumed (wrongly) that the Master assist setting would be the most beneficial for a beginner, when in fact I needed the Amateur setting. Those initial frustrations aside, I started a career as the world number 5 (Judd Trump) with my shot assist on Amateur, and started my Snooker journey.
Snooker 19 is officially licensed by the World Snooker Association, which means we get all the officially venues and players, all created beautifully in the game. Well, most are created beautifully, some do look a bit like they’ve had a rough night, or a serious illness, but generally it all looks OK. There have been reports of weird graphical glitches, but I have not witnessed any of these on the Xbox One version. One disappointment is that there is no ability to create and name your own player, instead you have to pick one of the 100 plus real-life professionals. The game modes are a bit sparse as well, with only quick matches and the aforementioned career mode, but this doesn’t really matter as most players will just head for the career mode. Match lengths can be set so you are not playing the same match for days, and there are also two other game modes in Six Reds and Shootout, which didn’t really offer anything different than the standard game.
The real enjoyment in Snooker 19 is when you start putting shots and breaks together, which is all helped by the shot assist. On its highest setting it won’t put an exact line all the way around the table so you can see exactly where your shots are going, but instead gives a rough idea of where both the target and cue ball will go. Adjusting the spin and power will affect these, so its worth taking your time. I have missed easy shots by using too much power, even when the shot is exactly lined up, and it does feel extremely realistic. The more ambitious your shot is – like fine cuts into pockets – will give a cone shaped assist area, meaning a lot more emphasis is needed on your own skill. There are three stages to your shot planning. The first is from the standard TV camera angle where you set the shot, The second is a POV camera to fine tune, before the third stage where you take the shot, which is done by pulling the RS back and then forward, which is alien at first but soon becomes comfortable. I did have some issues on the first and second stages, as a shot that looks perfectly aligned on stage one then turns out to be a long way out on stage two. I missed many an easy shot this way, so its worth taking your time. I actually thought the decision to limit the shot assist was a good one, as otherwise it would take all the challenge away.
Once you get used to the game you’ll soon be putting breaks of fifty plus together, and at this point I started to adjust the shot assist, and it did become more challenging. Then it was time to pit my skills against non-AI players. Yes, Snooker 19 also features online multiplayer, and also has online real-life tournaments. The real World Championships are on at the moment and Snooker 19 has an online tournament running alongside this, where points are earned based on your performance, and at the end of the event a winner will be crowned.
Another key element of any sports game is the commentary, and in Snooker 19 its, well, OK. A lot of the dialogue is repeated, but also sometimes annoying, especially when you are happy with a shot and then the commentators tell you how awful it was!
Snooker 19 is the best Snooker game available on console at the moment, and if you are in the market for some Green Baize action then this won’t disappoint. It is a bit sparse on game modes and user creation tools, but it delivers on all other aspects.