Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection was a great package when it was released for the PSP and the Wii last year, and now that it has arrived for the PlayStation 3, it's better than ever. Even if you already own one of the older versions, this one is well worth checking out, not only because the tables look really good in high definition, but also because there are more of them. An extra three tables have been added to the virtual arcade that serves as the game's slightly unwieldy menu system, bringing the total to an impressive 13. Not all of the featured tables can be considered classics, but if the lineup was chosen specifically to offer plenty of variety, then it's most definitely a success. Older tables like 1970's Jive Time bear little resemblance to the likes of Whirlwind and Funhouse, which were released 20 years later, and playing through this collection in chronological order is a fun way to see how Williams' offerings evolved during that time.
The moment you step into the virtual arcade that serves as the game's menu system, it's clear that The Williams Collection's goal is to re-create as accurately as possible the experience of visiting an arcade to play pinball. You can choose to practice on tables in a mode that awards you tokens based on your scores and the completion of table-specific goals; you can play against up to three friends in tournaments that span up to seven different tables; or you can take on the time-consuming Williams Challenge. This mode challenges you to achieve target scores on 12 tables one after another, and doing so is the only way to unlock the 13th table for regular play. You get three attempts at each table, and if you fail at any point, you have to go back to the first table again. The scores aren't overly tough to beat once you learn your way around the tables, but it would be a good idea to practice on any tables that you're not familiar with before embarking on the challenge.
Regardless of which table you're playing, you'll find that Pinball Hall of Fame's controls are flawless. The shoulder buttons are clearly a great fit for activating the left and right flippers, and the analog sticks are good for launching balls and for tilting the tables. The flippers on these tables never feel unresponsive or sticky, as their real-life counterparts sometimes do, but realism is definitely the name of the game, and the all-important ball physics are nigh on perfect. Furthermore, the tables' various targets, bumpers, slingshots, switches, and ramps are every bit as believable as the ball that you're trying to hit them with, which ultimately makes The Williams Collection's gameplay difficult to fault.
If you feel the need to, you can easily change the camera angle by tapping the circle button while you're playing. Cameras can be problematic in pinball games, but the dynamic (or "smart") cameras used here masterfully display the whole table and zoom in on areas when it's appropriate to do so. All five of the camera options work in the same way, so choosing between them is akin to deciding how tall you'd like your invisible avatar to be when he stands at the table. You can play from so low down that you feel like a kid standing on tiptoes with the flippers right in front of his face, or from so high up that you're afforded something close to a bird's-eye view of the entire table.
Like last year's versions of the game, The Williams Collection on the PlayStation 3 supports up to four players who must take turns. There's no option to play simultaneously against friends online, which is unfortunate given how much fun the ad hoc play of the PSP version is, but new online leaderboards make trying for high scores significantly more compelling than it was in last year's games.
All of the tables in Pinball Hall of Fame look and sound authentic, right down to the labels detailing how much it costs to play and how many balls you get for a single credit, and the loud knocking sound when you earn an extra ball. It's not always easy to see where some of the table features are because the artwork on raised areas blends in with that on the playfield, but these rare moments of confusion aren't detrimental to gameplay since they generally occur at the top of the table where you don't have to worry about losing a ball. If you find this particularly bothersome on a specific table, switching to a different camera angle will also often solve the problem.
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection doesn't have a lot of competition, so saying that it's one of the best pinball games currently available for the PlayStation 3 wouldn't count for much. With its great selection of tables and believable physics, this is one of the better pinball games to be released for any platform in recent memory, though, and while it's significantly more expensive than a ZEN Pinball download, your money goes a lot further and it's still a lot more affordable than a real table.