WSC Real 08: World Snooker Championship Hands-On

WSC: Real 08 is bringing snooker to the Wii, complete with a cue peripheral. We aimed for a 147 with the developers at a recent preview.

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Since Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker bar billiards and its many cousins have been re-created on pretty much every format going, and in the second quarter of 2008 it will make another appearance, this time on the Nintendo Wii. While it's also coming to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and DS, the Wii version is notable because it will ship with a snooker cue attachment for the Wii Remote that will re-create the physical experience of playing the sport. Blade Interactive recently dropped by with advanced builds of the several console versions, and we had a play.

WSC Real is being built using Blade's Infinite Worlds engine, which the company is also using for its highly anticipated upcoming title Hydrophobia. It will feature all the major tournaments from Sheffield to Shanghai, online play for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, and commentary from the likes of John Virgo. In addition to being able to create a player in the create-a-player mode, you'll be able to play as 32 real-life snooker pros in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions and as 96 pros on the Wii. And as you'd expect, all the official snooker equipment and sponsorship deals are true to life, whether they be from manufacturers such as Riley or broadcasters such as the BBC.

Locations for matches are more varied than you might expect.
Locations for matches are more varied than you might expect.

The centre of the WSC Real experience is the career mode. As with most sports games these days, when you create your own player you can design his facial and physical features before taking him into the game. You'll then build up this player from the lowly ranks to play in the world's major competitions, and only then will you take on players such as Mark Williams and Ronnie O'Sullivan. Despite your humble beginnings, you'll still have your own snooker hall, where you can practice certain shots, see the competitions that are coming up, and collect newspaper cuttings about your games. One nice touch in WSC Real is that you'll be able to supplement your income with DVD appearances, and you'll see the cases lining up along the shelf for each one you star in.

When it comes down to the snooker itself, WSC Real doesn't stray too far from common conventions. You can move the camera to look around the table or shift to a top-down perspective, and once you've chosen your target, you can add spin and change the angle of the cue if necessary. Playing the game on a debug Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the developers demonstrated a mode where you can see where both the cue ball and the target ball will end up on the table. You won't be able to use this in the final game, but it served to show some of the mathematics going on in the background of the Infinite Worlds engine. Taking the shot is a matter of using the right analogue stick, with a green bar at the top of the screen indicating how much power you're applying.

The Wii version of WSC Real is a different beast entirely. The game will ship in a case that contains a 2-foot-long attachment that will turn the Wii Remote into a proper cue-shaped peripheral. The buttons and the infrared emitter will still be accessible so that you can control the game, but you take shots by holding down the B button and thrusting the cue forwards. According to the developers, this action takes a little getting used to and is slightly less precise than the joystick motion of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 controllers, so some leniency has been allowed in the difficulty of the AI opponents. While it's no walk in the park, the AI level has been dropped by approximately 30 percent over the other versions, allowing you a little bit of a safety net if you mess up one particular shot. We were initially reticent to thrust the prototype controller with any force, but thanks to the inclusion of practice shots, we quickly got the hang of it.

On the graphics side, WSC Real definitely makes the most of TV-style presentation. The wealth of detail makes it feel undeniably authentic, but the game isn't afraid to have some fun with the World Snooker Championship licence either. We saw one match being played in the official Shanghai arena and another in a trendy sky-high bar with lots of people watching from plush sofas. The audio production is even better, with a number of famous commentators who will be familiar to anyone who has seen snooker on TV in the UK. Like Sid Waddell is to darts, John Virgo is the instantly recognisable voice of snooker in the UK, and his witty commentary track adds some light relief to WSC Real. As the developers explained how to play the game, we'd hear John cracking one-liners about reading a book or watching paint dry as he waited for the action to commence

The game will also allow you to play pool when you're looking for a little light relief.
The game will also allow you to play pool when you're looking for a little light relief.

WSC Real will be online-enabled on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for one-on-one play, and in testing, the developers have found it to be a much more social game than the usual online fare. With typical games such as Call of Duty 4 and Burnout Paradise, encounters can last for as little as a few minutes at a time, during which the high-intensity action can prove to be a barrier to communication. With snooker matches taking 30 minutes to an hour, the developers have found that players tend to act more socially, advising each other about shots and generally becoming more relaxed. Sadly, there will be no online mode for the Wii, nor will there be any Sixaxis motion-sensitive support, although Blade admits that these are features it will look into for next year's version.

With all the official licensing, simple controls, and an intuitive Wii accessory going for it, WSC Real 08 will be an interesting proposition for snooker fans. It's still a little rough around the edges, but there's plenty of time for Blade to polish it up before release. The developers plan to have it ready for an April ship date, which should coincide nicely with the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible. Even better, the version bundled with the Wii cue peripheral won't cost any more than a standard Wii game, so expect it to be around £35 once it hits stores. If we hear any more in the run-up to April, we'll be sure to keep you in the loop.

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