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World Championship Snooker 2004 PlayStation 2 & Xbox

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Blade Interactive Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

With Codemasters being known for their driving games such as the TOCA and Colin McRae Rally series (and budget priced Spectrum games if you're an older gamer like myself), it's all to easy to forget that they have other successful game series in their product range. One of these is the World Championship Snooker series that has steadily improved over the last few years and has become the console Snooker game of choice. Here we have the latest version, World Championship Snooker 2004 and this year we've been fortunate enough to be able to look at both the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of the game. Can this year's version manage to improve upon last year's version? It's time to find out.

The list of improvements/additions for World Championship Snooker 2004 is definitely an impressive one. Thirty top professional players are now included. A new Classic Match mode has been included that allows you to relive some of the greatest games of all time. The game now has all the real tournaments of the current snooker season as well as the top snooker arenas in all their glory. Play animations have been improved and the players animate much more realistically now. Two pool games, 8-Ball and 9-Ball have been added and John Virgo's Trickshots now include pool challenges too. The game features plenty of unlockable items too such as video clips of classic matches, new tables and balls, memorabilia items and clothing items for your customised player to wear.

The main mode in the game is still the career mode (called the LG Tour mode) that enables you to take your custom snooker player from being ranked 129th in the world to number 1. This year with all the official tournaments, it's a far more authentic experience than in any other of the previous World Championship Snooker games. Of course there aren't many of us that would have a chance of carrying out such a task but thankfully the superb control system allows both beginners and experts alike to fully enjoy the game. You have a choice of three types of aiming aids which essentially determine how difficult the game is. Beginner will show you the path of the cue ball and the object ball and is viewable from the overhead view. Normal is not so informative and will not let you view the projected path of the balls in overhead mode. Finally, Advanced is even less informative than the Normal mode and relies on your skill more than anything else. Using the Beginner mode will enable complete novices the chance to amass big breaks with only a few hours play whilst the Advanced mode requires a sound knowledge of playing snooker if you are to do well. The controls feel equally comfortable on both the PlayStation 2 version and Xbox version and Blade Interactive deserve credit for this.

The number one difference between World Championship Snooker 2004 and the previous versions is that the game now fully supports online play for both Xbox and PlayStation 2. Like IndyCar Series 2005, which we looked at a few days ago, it's all too difficult to get a game with the PlayStation 2 online system whilst the Xbox Live system is once again a comparatively hassle free experience and you can jump into a game almost at will. This isn't a complaint against Codemasters though, as it's usually the case with many PlayStation 2 online games (not all though I might add). What is strange though is that you cannot play pool online. Pool would have been a great option for online player as it would enabled gamers to have a quick game when they don't have much time on their hands.

Graphically there's little between the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game. Blade Interactive have again gone for a TV style presentation and it works really well. The player models have been improved for this year's game but they still aren't as good as they could be. They may not look perfect but their animations are not far away at all and they are a big improvement on the previous games in the series. Strangely enough I've noticed the frame rate dip when the players are walking around the table on the Xbox version. It's only for a second or so but this doesn't seem to happen on the PlayStation 2 version. In terms of game physics, the game seems really accurate although it could be argued that the cushions aren't quite as springy as they could be. Cue positioning and spin seem to have been modeled very accurately indeed and shots play out exactly as you would expect. In fact it makes you wonder how it can be improved in future versions.

World Championship Snooker 2004 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Subtitles can be enabled which means you'll have full access to all the verbal material in the game. The commentators speech is shown in text (it tells you who is talking too). Dennis Taylor's comments for the Coaching mode is shown in text and John Virgo's trick shot mode is fully subtitled too. We commented with the 2003 version how the subtitles could have been placed on a dark overlay to make the text easier to see and thankfully Blade have done exactly that so now the subtitles are very clear and easy to read. Any fouls you or your opponent make during a game are also shown in text too so you'll never be left in the dark about anything. The game manual covers the basics well and lists the controls you'll need in a no nonsense fashion.

World Championship Snooker 2004 succeeds on more than one level. The snooker novice can play and enjoy the game as much as a snooker expert. I liked the way you could have short matches with only one frame needed to win the match. When an AI opponent is at the table you can also speed up their actions by holding down the B button (Xbox) or circle button (PlayStation 2), which again is a big plus because it means that you don't have to wait an age if an AI opponent performs a large break. The career mode has far more appeal now that official tournaments have been added and it's a fair bet that it will keep gamers busy until World Championship Snooker 2005 appears. It's not perfect but there's not a lot wrong with the game either. If you're looking for a snooker game for either the Xbox or PlayStation 2 look no further than World Championship Snooker 2004.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
A great snooker game that will be as pleasing to the snooker novice as it is to the snooker expert. Both the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions are as good as each other but you're more likely to get an online game with the Xbox version.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The game is subtitled, even the commentary too, and deaf gamers will have no problems with World Championship Snooker 2004.