Pure Pool Review – PlayStation 4

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I know we’re a bit late to the pool party with our review for Pure Pool. Somehow this release totally flew under our radar back in July and we only recently became aware of the game’s existence when we learned of a major update to the game, so perhaps we are lucky in that we are getting to play an even better version of the game than those who chalked up their cues in July.

First, a bit about me and my love for pool. From age 10-19 I had a pool table in my basement.  There was a pool table in our frat house at Purdue and when I moved to my first apartment they had a pool table in the clubhouse, which I frequently used to hustle others to help pay my rent.  In 1989 I worked on a pool game for the PC (Sharkey’s 3D Pool) that used some –“state-of-the-art” EGA graphics, and in 2000 when I bought my first home the very first “appliance” I purchased was a regulation size slate pool table.   You might say I enjoy the occasional game of pool.

I’ve played plenty of pool videogames in my gaming career; some good…some bad…some not even worth mentioning, but none of them have ever struck a chord with me like Pure Pool on the PS4. As the name hints, this game is about pool and nothing but pool, and it offers one of the best simulated experiences you can possibly achieve while holding a controller and not a cue stick. All too often videogame pool is often reduced to simply working the interface and the visual prompts in order to plot angles and trajectories to sink the target ball and position your next shot.   While Pure Pool does have those visual indicators, they are balanced in such a way that the game is almost always about “feel” rather than working the system.

A big part of this is the use of the analog stick to pull back and strike the cue ball. There are no gimmicky power meters.  You actually have to learn to feel and finesse each simulated shot as well as learning all the techniques for putting spin on the ball and adjusting the strike zone of the cue for special shots.  In past games prepping a shot has been more like going through a checklist of power, angle, spin, and then executing the shot.  In Pure Pool everything feels more natural, as I am able to tweak all of these setup variables almost simultaneously. And for those looking for the ultimate challenge, you can try the new Masters mode that turns off all the visual hints and has you playing by pure sight and instinct.

Pure Pool offers up the classic games of 8-Ball, 9-Ball, and the newly added UK Black-Ball as well as several Challenge games like Killer, Perfect Potter, and Royal Rumble. The career mode will take you on a lengthy multi-stage tour with each stage offering a substantial flowchart of games and sideline challenges.  Each game will also offer three special conditions that when met will reward you with a gold star.  The game also tracks countless Accolades such as distance shots, bank shots,snookers, etc.

The more you play the more the game learns about your play style, and that all gets incorporated into your Player DNA which in turn creates a virtual avatar that can go out and hustle pool online even when you aren’t available to play yourself.   So now you are able to play with your friends even when they aren’t online.  Additionally, you can also have a second player join you for some local competition, and if they have logged on using their PSN ID they can earn their own accolades and build their DNA.  This makes Pure Pool the perfect party game and a great alternative to hanging out at a smoky pool hall.

Pure Pool blew me away with its presentation, and not just the charmingly quaint barroom ambience of soft jazz mixed with clinking glasses and the muffled conversations of blurred guests in the background, but the sheer level of technical quality on the part of the game that matters most – the table and balls.  It just so happened that my review code arrived at the same time I was upgrading my review setup with a 79” Sony 4K HDTV.   No words can describe how amazing this game looks on a TV that is nearly the size of a real pool table combined with 4K upscaling.  To take it one step further, my Sony TV has the ability to convert anything into 3D and playing Pure Pool in 3D is nothing short of virtual reality.  I can’t imagine this game looking any better when Sony releases their Morpheus headset.    But even in 2D you can marvel in the fabric detail of the felt, the wood grain on the top rails , the impossibly perfect reflective shine on every ball or the exciting slow-motion final shot of every game that includes a powdery puff of blue chalk dust.

Pure Pool is almost therapeutic in its simplistic design, offering a challenging experience in a casual format. You know this game has its hooks into you when all your friends are playing Diablo III and Destiny and you are battling it out with a computer AI in round four of a 9-Ball tournament.  Playing real pool has always been mentally relaxing for me and Pure Pool is no different- the perfect momentary escape between work and diving into a more substantial game…assuming you can break away once you start.

Many of us don’t have a few hundred dollars to drop on a real pool table or the space to put one, but you can come awfully close to the real thing for only $13 when you grab a copy of Pure Pool from the PSN store.   I’ve been playing pool for 40 years and videogame pool for half that, and it doesn’t get much better than this. Rack ‘em up…

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