PlayStation 3 Reviews

Review: Pool Nation – Digital Pool Hall Junky

Written by Chris Lock


Pool Nation, from developer Cherry Pop Games, has come to PlayStation Network and as you may have guessed, it is a billiards video game.  Perhaps billiards simulation is a more accurate description.  Aside from the disembodied floating pool cues, Pool Nation is perhaps the most true-to-life pool based video game available right now on consoles.

Pool Nation 1When boiled down, there isn’t that much to a game about pool.  There’s the table, the cues and the game balls.  There is not  much else going on that you’re going to focus on.  That said, Cherry Pop Games have done a really impressive job of making everything in Pool Nation look as good as it possibly can.  There are 4 venues in which to play and they have very modern and sharp looking decor.  Pool Nation themed tapestries and accents decorate the locales while the lighting in the virtual pool hall is reflected in the shiny billiard balls’ finish.  The cues, balls and tables are all customizable.  Decals which liven up the table felt, ball designs and pool cue accents all add extra flair to the settings.  Everything, including the backdrops, are modeled for realism.

Although it is a downloadable title, Pool Nation offers a variety of game modes outside of the traditional 9 ball and 8 ball games.  While the 8 ball and 9 ball tournaments make up the majority of the single player content, there is also a Versus Mode, Endurance Mode, Free Play and online multiplayer which includes online tournaments and ranked/unranked matches.  In the single player tournaments, you will face off against a line up of fictional, and admittedly cheesy, characters.  Each successive match offers a slightly more skilled opponent.  By the time I was halfway through the second tournament I was facing AI opponents that were completely capable of running the table, which exponentially increases the pressure of making each shot count.

Each character has 3 challenge stars that can be completed while competing against them.  Challenges range from, but are not limited to, winning the match outright, not using flashbacks (do overs) during the match, or performing difficult/trick shots.  Certain characters also offer bonus rounds which are unlocked once at least two challenges are completed.

In Endurance Mode balls have to be potted as quickly as possible.

In Endurance Mode balls have to be potted as quickly as possible.

The bonus games unlock the unique pool cues, felt decals/designs, and ball designs.  They also introduce the non-traditional billiard games such as Endurance, Killer, Straight, Rotation, etc.  These add variety to the gameplay and mix up the experience.  Straight is a head to head game where shooters face off potting as many balls as possible.  The shooter must call their shot by selecting which ball they will pot and in which pocket.  In most cases this is done automatically by the game as the shot is lined up but for some combo and skill shots the nominations have to be done manually.  In Endurance, the challenge is to pot as many balls as possible and as fast as possible because as time ticks by balls are continuously added to the table.  The longer the shooter lasts the faster the balls are added and once 24 balls are on the table, the game is over.  Making it past 5:00 minutes takes quite the level of concentration in order to get into the groove.

My biggest gripe with Pool Nation, and the tournaments in particular, is that there’s really no fanfare.  While the opponents do get more difficult there really isn’t any sense of drama or weight to any of the matches.  You just play the next opponent in the line of opponents until it’s complete.  The environments are sterile in the sense that while you’re playing in nicely appointed pool halls they are barren and void of any human existence.  Considering that it is a downloadable title, it’s understandable that it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles in regards to a proper career campaign of sorts.  That being said, it still left me wanting in that respect.

Pool Nation overs varying levels of aiming assistance and 2 views to line up your shots.

Pool Nation overs varying levels of aiming assistance and 2 views to line up your shots.

As I said in the introduction, Pool Nation is one of the most accurate representations of billiards in a console video game thus far.  The balls move around on the table in much the same way that they do in real life.  So much so, that many of the tricks I learned in Pool Nation could quite easily be translated to my real life game.  Without any joking whatsoever I have learned more about the implementation of ‘english’ or spin on the ball by playing Pool Nation than I ever have shooting in real pool halls.  While I know that doesn’t say much for my real life pool game, it should say plenty about the billiards experience Pool Nation provides.  If you’re looking for one of the best pool simulators, you need not look any further.  Pool Nation delivers that in spades, however, if you’re a casual fan of billiards it may struggle to keep your attention after a few hours of play because while it does simulate pool very well, that’s about all it does.

[checklist]The Good

      Pool Nation offers a very realistic billiards gaming experience.
[badlist]The Bad

      The single player experiences lacks depth.  Also finding an online game at the time of this writing was extremely difficult.


[button color=”green” link=””]Recommended[/button] Recommended:  Recommended games are not held in the same esteem as those of a Must Play. A game that receives a “Recommended” is one that you certainly will enjoy playing, and our editor recommends that you do, but it may have a few problems that stop it from being the type of game you have to have right that instant. Example: Halo 4, Saints Row 4

About the author

Chris Lock

Just a guy that loves games and wants so badly to tell you about them. I have a habit of being a terrible person. Prone to talk about the worst games imaginable. Poke-fan. LBP admirer. RPG lover. Writer. Podcaster. Father. Husband. Student. Tired. @Snickelsox on twitter.

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