PC pool simulators are one of the most underrated learning tools available on the market today. A great pool game can teach you more about your shot selection and the mistakes that you make through the course of a match. Thanks to the advent of Interplay's Virtual Pool
franchise, novice pool sharks have been able to fine tune their game without embarrassing themselves in front of a crowd. That trend continues today, and as the games become more technologically advanced, they become more realistic. But a game doesn't have to be expensive to be entertaining or helpful, and that's where Live Billiards
comes into the equation.Live Billiards
is one of those games that pool players on the cheap need to own. It faithfully recreates the game of billiards without taking too large of a chunk out of the paycheck. With online play and a bevy of modes at your disposal, you have a pretty decent amount of choices at your fingertips. When you boot up the game you’ll have your choice of straight pool, 9-ball, 8-ball, 14+1, Rotation, 3-ball, Pyramid and American. Most of the modes are standard fare but the additional ones like Pyramid add a nice touch to the game. Some tutorials have been included to help you improve your game but they’re not too helpful for novice players. You can play all of the modes by yourself, with another human opponent (on the same computer or online) or with an AI opponent of varying degrees of difficulty.
From a realism standpoint the game plays pretty much like the real deal. All of the balls react and behave here just like you’d expect them to in real life. I was able to do things here that I’ve never been able to do in other games. Other pool titles that I’ve played seem to only operate on the horizontal plane, taking the vertical entirely out of the equation. In Live Billiards, striking a ball too hard when it sits close to the rail will cause it to fly into the air, leading to a scratch. The only real problem that I had with the physics was that the game allows you to strike the cue ball too hard, much harder than humanly possible. This causes chaos as balls start flying all over the table. If you’re trying to play the right way it really ruins the flow of the game.
Barring that you play the game correctly, it can be used as a pretty powerful training tool. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’ll turn you into a good pool player, but it’ll definitely improve your skills. By turning on the guidelines the game helps you visualize your shots so that you can observe your shot before it happens. It acts like training wheels; after a bit of practice you can imagine the shots and predict the outcome without the shot lines.
If you’re played a value-priced game before you should know what to expect from the game’s visuals. There are different settings and a nice combination of tables to play on, although the changes don’t affect the gameplay and are purely aesthetic. If you feel so inclined you can post your own personal pictures on the walls, making the atmosphere a little cozier. All of the architecture is pretty rudimentary but the overall look of the game benefits from some nice lighting effects. Overall the game looks pretty decent, but don’t expect some sort of graphical showcase, it’s just not gonna happen. The same goes for the audio, there’s nothing terribly exciting here but the ability to use your own MP3s during the game was a nice touch.
For the price of four hours of pool, you can have a full-fledged recreation of the game right in the comfort of your own home. What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in realism and endless replayability. Pool-minded gamers who want to hone their craft should take serious note and make this one a top priority.
It's a good recreation of the game at a decent price. With a wide variety of gameplay modes, realistic physics and online play, you can't go wrong with Live Billiards.
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