Some sports are much more fun to play in real life than in a video game and it could be argued that snooker is one of them. Going into a club, getting your cue, and then pulling off some slick shots to impress those around you? Nothing beats it. Still, you won’t find me getting a 147-break in real-life and nor can I get out of snookers with ease – thankfully, I’ve got the newly released Snooker 19 for that.
The process of playing snooker in Snooker 19 is actually a lot of fun and offers an intuitive take on the sport. You’ll carefully line up shots with the left stick whilst a hold of the L2 button allows you to fine-tune your position, you’ll apply spin by choosing where you want to hit the cue ball, and then pull back on the right stick to adjust your power meter to determine how hard you hit it. Interestingly, whilst some snooker and pool games have adopted a control scheme where you pull the right stick back and then push it forward to hit the ball, Snooker 19 is a bit simpler by having you press the X button to initiate your shot and start the meter moving, and then press it again to stop the meter when you hit the right spot – this is determined by the blue marker you leave when initially choosing how hard you want to hit the ball. So I might have made that sound a little convoluted, but it’s a process that works well in-game and gives the player a lot of control as far as each shot is concerned.
One of the more important aspects of the game for new players is the aiming aid, with four options available that offer different levels of support. Not only does it give you a general idea of where the ball you hit will go but it also shows you where the cue ball will end up too, so it benefits both your potting and positional play. Whilst snooker enthusiasts may want to ditch the aiming aid completely, I wouldn’t recommend it – Snooker 19 is an accurate representation of the sport, so lining up and potting shots isn’t always easy. Having the aiming aid enabled just makes the game more fun, whilst the fact that it doesn’t always tell you exactly where a ball is going to end up ensures that the need for some skill isn’t completely removed from the equation either.
It all comes together to make for an enjoyable and authentic snooker experience, though it is one that does have a few issues. One of the most obvious ones is your opponent’s ability, with some of the AI rivals you face off against able to pull off massive breaks from nowhere and even getting out of snookers with absolute ease. There are difficulty levels assigned to your opponents so it’s not always a sure thing, but if you end up against someone like Ronnie O’Sullivan you can probably expect to spend a bit of time waiting to actually have a turn in a frame (if that time even comes). It’s something all snooker games have been guilty of in the past and it is a natural part of the sport, but some gamers may find it a drag having to wait to take a shot. It’s certainly not like other sports sims where there’s constantly action to get involved in.
The lacking camera options could be a bit of a pain too, with no option in place to get a top-down view of the table or to comfortably move around it to scope out shots. It does add to the realism and maintains a solid challenge for the game, but there were a few occasions where it’d have been nice for Snooker 19 to treat itself more like a video game and give players a few extra viewpoints.
As far as game modes are concerned it’s all pretty standard, with quick play, two career modes (‘Pro Seasons’ where you use a top ranked player and ‘Rising Stars’ where you use an unknown low ranking player) and both online and local multiplayer (though local seems to be limited to controller swapping which is a pain). It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a snooker game so most players should be happy – however, the fact that you can’t create your own player to rise to snooker stardom was a bit of a shame.
Snooker 19 has licences in place for tournaments, venues, and players, so those looking for an authentic experience will certainly find it here. I was really impressed by the player count, with 128 players to choose from ranging from the current selection of top players to legends such as Jimmy White. The TV style presentation feels on point too, with the camera angles and HUD presented as if it’s come straight from one of the sport channels – you’ve even got David Hendon and Neal Foulds on commentary duty which is neat, even if they could get repetitive after a couple of frames.
In fairness, the players in the game do look like their real-life counterparts facially, but the character models and animations are… well… ugly. Snooker 19 manages to look decent for the most part with the venues accurately re-created, the balls reflecting light in an impressive and realistic manner, whilst the table itself looks suave too, but the player and crowd models? Ew. There’s definitely more good than bad, but expect to laugh as you see the players walk around the table as if they’re robots.
Snooker 19 offers an enjoyable representation of the sport that’s not only fun to play but has really gone all-out as far as licences are concerned. I found myself getting completely hooked to the career mode (even if I couldn’t play as my own created character) whilst taking on other players in multiplayer made for surprisingly tense showdowns.
It does have a few issues, with the AI proving a little overbearing at times and the lack of accessible camera options a bit of a hindrance, but for the most part Snooker 19 stands tall as an entertaining way for gamers to hit the green baize.
Publisher: Ripstone Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC