After a long 9 years since the last officially licensed Snooker game was released and just in time for the start of the World Championship at The Crucible, Lab42 and Ripstone have released Snooker 19 for Xbox One. Fully licensed and probably the most authentic Snooker game available at the time of writing, Snooker 19 tries to bring fans of the old WSC Real series back while also tying to capture some new players to the franchise along the way. The first thing that stands out with Snooker 19 is the fully authentic look and feel to the game in general, immediately hitting with an impactful intro video that mimics the tension of a major Snooker final featuring Ronnie O’sullivan.
Straight away players are greeted with a few options to jump straight in to a quick frame against either the AI or some classic couch 1v1 offline multiplayer along with ranked and unranked online multiplayer too. Career mode is where the bulk of the game is made up though as players get the choice to either take an established pro through record breaking tournament wins or climb the ladder with an unknown up and coming youngster hoping to turn them in to a Snooker legend. It’s disappointing that there isn’t any kind of an option to create your own pro though, a feature that has been prominent in past games and a somewhat surprising omission from this latest release.
The career mode is basic and doesn’t have much depth to it nor does it have any kind of levelling up or progression for your chosen player, it’s as basic as basic can get, which is both a shame and a missed opportunity. Disappointingly there aren’t many cutscenes that capture the essence of a Snooker tournament either, especially in the final of a competition where there isn’t even a trophy lift in sight after winning it. It lacks the polish and broadcast quality that I expected to see, especially seeing how the Snooker games of old had all those announced entrances, celebrations and trophy lifts instead of just a meaningless handshake that is all that is present in Snooker 19. I know this may seem trivial to some but if you’re granted access to a license, surely you would want to utilise that Official License to its full potential and unfortunately Lab42 haven’t done that here.
While the career and overall choice of game modes are a little lacking in any kind of depth, the gameplay in Snooker 19 thankfully offers a satisfying and enjoyable experience for players of all different skill levels. Accurate cue angles, spin, power and precision are all essential if players are to succeed in achieving high breaks and winning frames in Snooker 19 and the attention to detail in the angles and how the balls react depending on the shot played is brilliantly done and very accurate. Aiming assists can be applied through the difficulty settings and if you are brave enough to try the pro setting then you will have nothing to guide through. Mimicking playing snooker for real. While gameplay is satisfying and done well it does lack a couple of features that take away slightly from the experience.
The main gameplay feature missing is the ability to fully walk around the table, looking at a possible opportunity by checking an angle of a shot that you’re considering playing. There is a certain amount of movement available but it’s very limited and restricts looking at various possibilities from a rear angle. It’s also missing the ability to to end a frame early if you only have the black left and well ahead in the frame with a fairly low break and no incentive to carry on. The game forces you to have to play the black ball in order to end the frame. Again, a small gripe but something that I’m surprised has been taken out of the players’ hands, especially seeing as conceding a frame is an option but ending it when well ahead on a small break is nonexistent. Overall though, despite some minor missing features the gameplay is pretty good and mostly captures what you’d expect to experience if playing Snooker for real.
Visually the game looks really good, with lighting and table detail offering a like for like experience, with it looking like you’re actually watching a match on TV. Marks are left on the table the more a match goes on and depending on the arena that you’re playing in depends on how the ceiling lights react to the balls offering a realistic look to a match. Character models look okay in general but they lack any kind of animation other than taking a shot. Facial expressions and player emotions aren’t present, giving a wooden look to their faces which is disappointing, especially considering how well they have been captured. Disappointingly the referee isn’t present in the match either, again taking away the broadcast quality that the official license deserves but overall the game looks good, especially if playing on an Xbox One X where the game renders in native 4K and has a good implementation of HDR too. Don’t worry if you’re playing on a regular Xbox One though as the game still looks decent all round.
Sadly the weakest part of the game by far is in its awful, dreary, repetitive commentary, that sounds better completely turned off. Commentators will regularly get their lines wrong in relation to the shot taken and sound as monotone as you could possibly get. There were many times when I would play I brilliant pot resulting in a great position for the next shot the commentator would sigh, saying that I’d mucked it up. It is severely lacking in any kind of continuity with what is actually happening on the table and lacks personality offering no tongue in cheek lines of humour that have been present in past games, similar to what you would hear in an actual match. If you pick up Snooker 19, my advice would be to just turn the commentary off all together as it really doesn’t offer anything other than a few inaccurate mumbles.
The online side of things is a bit of a mixed bag though as it needs some tweaking in order to make it enjoyable. The connection quality has been fine despite a few pre patch issues but the update a few days after launch rectified that quickly. The issue with online multiplayer is the match timer and especially the shot timer. Frames have a 20 minute limit and shots have a 30 second limit which isn’t enough at all. It takes away the strategy of Snooker and unnecessarily rushes players, forcing them in to making errors though no fault of their own. I reached out to the Snooker 19 team about this and they assured me it’s something they’re looking in to. Here’s hoping it’s changed with a future patch because if it is then the online aspect will be worth continuing with as it’s pretty solid otherwise.
Snooker 19 isn’t a bad game, it’s a decent game that does many things right but it also gets some things very wrong too, mainly the little yet essential parts. It offers a pretty good gameplay experience overall and will no doubt scratch the itch of Snooker enthusiasts out there who want their fix. I just feel that the license could have been used better and dusted with a little more of a broadcast quality look and feel. The price it’s currently selling at though is very appealing and if the developers can iron out the awful online timer then there is enough reason to go back to Snooker 19 whenever you want your fix of aiming for that 147 break or to put your friends to shame by showing off your skills.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher