There’s been a rather evident void in the sports video game genre for a good while. That void? A fully licensed snooker game. Whilst it may not be a title the masses have been crying out for, fans have been waiting rather impatiently for another crack at the official tournaments with their favourite players. Lo and behold, Lab42 and Ripstone Games have joined forces to push Snooker 19 out of the door for the wanting crowd, and it’s a strong contender for the best snooker game ever made for the fans.
The first thing you need to know about the game is that it’s tough. It’s tough as snooker balls. The game begins with a terrific tutorial which guides you into the games seemingly basic control premise, reminiscent of the majority of snooker/pool games. Snooker 19 gives you complete control over your shot, the speed, the power the direction and spin, allowing for lining up of the perfect shot along with dictating where the white ball will eventually end up. The tutorial guides you through each option step by step, intuitive to the end. Once the tutorial ends though you’re on your own and it’s up to you to take on the best snooker players in the world and at first, it’s fair to say my ass was handed to me on a plate several times over with very little mercy.
Missing a single shot obviously means your opponent can step up to the table and essentially clean house. My first game, rather stupidly, was against Ronnie O’ Sullivan and after missing a rather simple red he took charge and cleaned up. No really, he just smashed everything in with little regard for poor old me just sitting on my sofa with a controller doing absolutely nothing and waiting for the torture to end. The beauty of course of this is you can see just how specific shots have to be in order to succeed. The difficulty spike is in plain sight, represented in unforced errors and the technicality of the safety shot. Playing on Easy will enable your opponent to miss the odd guaranteed sink or try a safety that leaves you on. When they call this game the ‘ultimate snooker simulator’ they’re not wrong. Snooker 19 is a snooker simulator the same way Forza Motorsport is a racing simulator. The difficulty of being a pro snooker player is effectively the entire point. Shots from tight angles, in the vain attempt at hitting a middle pocket are not simple, and you learn as you play and persisting will ensure you eventually learn how the white ball movement works in your favour. Real life snooker players should get their head around it rather seamlessly. There are obviously a variety of difficulty options and if you want to take on the game at the highest level, all assists are removed and you just have your own intuition to work with. I’ll probably find out where mine is someday.
But fans of the sport will eat this up. The game, much like any other rather serious simulator, is for fans of the sport and the fan service can’t be ignored. Snooker 19 includes 128 real-world players and arenas from across the globe, including old-hands such as Jimmy White, which I learned when playing this game on Twitch is very much still going strong (who knew? Snooker fans, evidently). The game offers a variety of real-life tournaments and different games based on established rules (including a full 35 frame match if you’re a real purist) featuring Six Reds format and Shootout, a quickfire match that is over almost as soon as it began. The game is full of rewards to including shiny waistcoats and cues. Even bow-ties because bow-ties are cool.
The highest compliment I can pay Snooker 19, apart from throwing everything and the kitchen sink at this game for the fans – is that when playing it genuinely feels like there’s a snooker cue in your hand. The weight and physics of the movement and inch-perfect precision allows for intricate gameplay, forcing your hand when you need to get yourself out of a sticky situation. It’s never particularly easy to pull of a tricky spin shot, but when you do the feeling is exhilarating (as far as it can go playing snooker, at least). There’s very little room for spectacular trick shots, and as we tested on the stream you seem unable to hit any balls off the table, so you won’t be hurting anyone in the very, very dark crowds. But hey, you’re a professional snooker player, you shouldn’t be doing that anyway.
From a technical standpoint, I can’t fault Snooker 19’s mechanics. As previously mentioned, the tables feel great to play on and the sheer precision of each shot has been crafted to within an inch of its life, ensuring that if you’re a fan of the sport you’re not going to be disappointed with how it plays. Real-life players should feel right at home with how much work has gone into ensuring each shot feels just like it would if you were playing in real life. Visually, Snooker 19 looks terrific, with the recreations of real-world snooker arenas ensuring that level of authenticity you look for when playing a simulator. The tables and balls are gorgeous, particularly with the lighting on each ball jumping off the screen. It looks and feels like you’re watching BBC coverage for the most part and it’s a testament to Lab42 at just how spot-on the presentation is. The menus are easily navigated with a four box display (think recent FIFA games) and it’s easy enough to get yourself into a game with little fuss.
Worth mentioning the sound design also, despite there not being an awful lot of it, and quite rightly. You’ll hear little more than the cut hitting the ball and the ball hitting another ball which all sounds great. The games referee sounds authentic when he’s telling me damn near every shot I take is a foul and he’s just going to award my opponent a few points for what can simply amass to ‘absolute bullshit’, a phrase I use a fair bit playing this game. The game also features commentary which is a little bare bones but does a solid job of keeping the game moving. There’s very little repetition in a single game, something that hampers a fair few other sport simulators.
The visual issues, sadly come with the players themselves. Whilst – at least for me – the way the players look whilst I’m playing isn’t hugely important – you barely see them all that much anyway – whilst we were playing the stream it became clear that the snooker fans were a little disappointed by their overall presentation and animation, which is disappointing. I will say it can take you out of the immersion a little, considering everything else is so solid. Lab42 have been keen to stress this is something that will be improved upon in future updates but it’s still certainly strange to see it on day one.
Then of course, how does Snooker 19 appeal to those who are not fans of the sport? I can easily proclaim that I’m not an aficionado when it comes to my knowledge of snooker, and this being a hardcore simulator it can sometimes be a little too tricky to get your head around. What I took away from Snooker 19 more than anything else though was the competitive aspect, and we’re always on the lookout for games which allow us to test our skills here at Finger Guns. Snooker 19 is no exception, it’s got one heck of a learning curve which ensures it will separate the weak from the chaff relatively quickly (the stream above attests to that). I had to learn how to play the game properly away from streaming and playing online as I was getting battered. Reviewing the game ensured I needed to give the game the time it needed to be good enough to take on a career. Sure enough, that’s what I did and I got there. If you’re looking for a game to test your metal away from arena shooters and battle royals and BloodSouls, Snooker 19 has enough depth to it to ensure its mass appeal.
At the time of writing the game has been readily available for a couple of days and I’m still unable to test the online careers due to some matchmaking issues. A quick look at the Lab42 Twitter ensures they’re all over it and I don’t doubt it for a second, though I’ve not been able to test out that particular mode which is hugely unfortunate. I’ve been playing with Sean on our own private matches that you need to set up with a password that you both share (it’s not easy to find, but look in the bottom right corner when you enter the online menus) and in that regard, it’s been seamless. I will keep trying and hopefully I’ll be able to find a match soon, I’ll report back should I be successful.
Snooker 19 is a cracking simulator, and I’ve probably had more fun with it than I was ever expecting to. After pouring hours of my life into genre titles like Pure Pool, it’s strange how you miss a genre as much as the cue sport in a competitive space. It’s a game that’s going to test your balls, figuratively and literally and if you’re not up to it, well, it’ll eat you alive.
From a personal standpoint, I still believe Pure Pool/Snooker to be the better video game overall, but as a nails simulator that’s absolutely for the fans that have been waiting forever for a brand new licensed simulator?
Snooker 19 is untouchable.
Snooker 19 is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Publisher: Ripstone Games
In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.
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