In a move that is LONG overdue, Zen Studios has finally released their Pinball FX2 platform on Valve’s Steam service
. Sure, it hit the Windows app store back in October, but Steam is where the real (PC) gamers play! You don’t need me to tell you how great the platform is, I think that has been well established over the past couple of years. If you need any convincing as to the quality of the tables and content on the platform, I strongly encourage you to check out the numerous links to our previous reviews in the next section. Instead, we’re going to focus on how well it has made the transition to Steam and the new features it is bringing to the table.
For information purposes, know that there is a nice variety of content available from the start. While not all of the tables that we have grown to know and love on the PSN and XBLA are here right now, the big named packs are. The following packs are available for $9.99 a piece. Plus, you can find links to our relevant reviews of each pack / table included in this list as well:
- Star Wars Pinball (Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, The Clone Wars)
- Marvel Pinball (Iron Man, Spider-Man, Blade and Wolverine)
- Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue (X-Men, Thor, Ghost Rider, Moon Night)
- Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles (Fear Itself, The Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk, and The Avengers)
- Pinball FX2 Core Pack (BioLab, Pasha, Rome, Secrets of the Deep)
- Zen Classics (Shaman, Tesla, El Dorado, and V12)
That gives you a nice variety from the start and Zen promises that more tables are on the way very, very soon.
One of the first things that I noticed with the Steam version of the game is the vastly improved interface. It is so much easier to navigate around things with a mouse (and keyboard); honestly, that should be a given considering the interface. You can toggle the various leaderboards and filters with a simple click. All of the leaderboards that we have grown to know and love such as individuals title scoreboards, pinball wizard rankings, and superscore tallies are right up front for you to peruse. There is no screen switching required this time around as they are all simple toggles that change the main screen and its score listing on the main menu. It sort of has a tiled / Windows 8 feel to it and it works very well.
The Steam version introduces a couple new forms of multiplayer to the game as well. In the past, the only option that you have had with friends, aside from sending virtual challenges, it the hotseat mode. While hotseat is still available, the game is also going to support split screen multiplayer for local players which hasn’t been done before. The real multiplayer advancement here is the officially endorsed community tournaments that the game now supports. Zen will be holding tournaments on a regular basis where you can put your scores up against the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this isn’t a feature that I have been able to test out prior to the game’s release as there aren’t any tournaments being run at the moment. However, this is something that I am REALLY looking forward to see in action.
You can tailor the controls to your liking as the game supports both mouse and keyboard as well as full, Xbox 360 controller support. The keyboard helps things to feel like a real pinball machine with your flippers defaulting to the left and right shift keys. Your camera views can be swapped on the fly by simply hitting the tab key. I highly recommend switching that to something else in the option as it is very easy to trigger the Steam community overly if you hit the shift and tab keys too close to one another. When you use the controller, for example when you utilize Steam’s Big Picture mode, it plays and feels exactly like the console counterparts.
There is one more, really nice feature worth mentioning and that is full portrait support for monitors. diehards can turn their monitors sideways and get the perfect perspective for replicating the pinball experience. This was only available on the Vita version of the game previously and I can say from experience that this is definitely my preferred perspective for playing. I can just imagine building my own dedicated video pinball machine using a widescreen monitor thanks to this support. Now, if only Zen would consider patching in duel monitor support so that a second screen can be set up as the marquee / scoreboard.
I don’t have any major complaints on the new port aside from the fact that consoles players, should they make the shift to PC, will have to buy their tables all over again. This is primarily a Microsoft platform, with a majority of the platform being housed on MS operating systems. Why can’t this be tied into our Xbox Live accounts and share content the same way that the PlayStation 3 and Vita platforms do? (ed note: probably because Steam and MS compete in this area
Long story-short, the platforms works very, VERY well on the PC via Steam. The system is much easier to navigate with a mouse and keyboard and it will give you solid performance on a variety of systems. I was able to run it pretty well on a my lackluster laptop (Lenovo G575) which provides some great play on the go. Although once I booted it up on my gaming rig it simply flew. Regardless of your personal set up, you can fine tune a number of graphical options within the game’s setup such as anti-aliasing and various visual details. Plus, is it wrong of me to hope for some sort of Steamworks support? these are minor gripes in the grand scheme of things. The fact is, it works very well on the PC and should have made this transition a long, long time ago.