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World Series of Poker - PS2 - Review

I used to have a Tekken face. You know the type – very stiff, very stoic. It really baffled my opponents. They couldn't understand why I wasn't angry when I lost, or why I didn't smirk or smile after a glorious win. Most of the time they'd walk away feeling down and defeated. Every once in a while an arcade junkie would fire a few angry words, hoping to break my silence. It never worked.

My Tekken face is no longer needed now that all the new fighting games are console-exclusives (or close to it). But it sure comes in handy when I'm playing poker. Real poker where my opponents are mere inches away. When you're that close to your opponents you can smell their fear – and they can smell yours. The least you can do is keep your face from showing that you're betting all your chips to fool them into folding. They need to think that you're in the game and that what you're doing is serious.

In World Series of Poker, such tactics are unnecessary. Bluffing has always been a part of the game, but here you can relax, stretch out on the couch, and make a devastating move with the press of a button. No need to hold your face in a stiff position. No need to use constipation as an excuse for leaving the room (I'm onto you Ralph! We're going to make you eat laxatives next time!).

 

The game types found in this value-priced package are:

  • Texas Hold 'Em

  • Omaha

  • Omaha Hi-low Split

  • Seven Card Stud

  • Seven Card Stud Hi-low Split

  • Razz (Seven Stud Lowback)

Play 'em individually in any order, or fire up the Career mode to see how good you really are. Custom games allow you to change the rules (such as the dollar limit). That feature isn't present in the Career mode, but you do have several other aspects that may be customized, primarily those surrounding your homemade character's appearance. Are you picky about the pants you wear? How about your shoes and your socks? Those may be changed to your liking. While you're at it you might as well pick out a new shirt, a snazzy pair of glasses, change the color of your eyes, etc., the whole works.

Hair style and color changes are a given, as are varying skin tones -- who knew we'd also be able to change the way homemade characters sound? This option is limited to 19 pre-recorded voices, so it's not overly expansive.

In a future version I'd like to see Logitech microphone support with voice-altering that would allow the player to speak into the game and, when played through the TV speakers, sound like an entirely different person.

 

Comfort and convenience are the primary reasons that gamblers will be interested in this game. Load times are present (as in all video games), and you may choose to wait for your virtual opponents to take their turns. Or you can skip them and speed the game up rapidly, making each round pass considerably faster than if you were playing a real game with real players. More games in less time - that sounds like a great way to improve your playing skills (to a degree at least).

Virtual players are limited by the sole fact that they're virtual, so don't rely on them forever. World Series of Poker's multiplayer mode brings your friends, family and strangers into the mix. For those of us who want to play against someone a hundred miles away, this is one way of doing it. The others include driving to the location of your opponent and playing in person, or choosing to play a free, Web-based version of the game.

One of the advertised selling points is the official World Series of Poker license includes a tournament based on the real game. I, however, don't consider poker to be a sport. I don't watch it on TV. I play it with friends and occasionally play it online. Therefore I don't care about the tournament, or the pro players, or any other part of the license. Besides, the graphics are horrendous and the 3D animations are pointless. I like the idea of having virtual opponents that act realistically, but the technology is not there yet. Give it a few decades - then virtual poker will rock.

 

World Series of Poker is the first serious attempt at capitalizing on the game in the same way that EA capitalizes on football, basketball and hockey. The results are nowhere near what they could have been. There are a select few who will find value in it. The rest of us will prefer to stick with that two-dollar deck of cards that exists in the real world. It's cheaper, and a lot more interactive.

Review Scoring Details for World Series of Poker

Gameplay: 6.5
Point-and-click poker. Load times in place of deal times. Online play via PlayStation 2 and a TV screen instead of online play at a computer and a Web page. The ugly sights and soporific sounds do absolutely nothing to enhance the gameplay experience. That shouldn’t matter too much to the game’s adopters – they’ll buy it ‘cause they love to play poker.

On the up side the gameplay is pretty quick, the load times are short, and the skip button (used to skip the monotony that is your opponents taking turns) is generally effective.

You already know the rest. No surprises – this is poker, plain and simple.

Graphics: 3.0
Stiff faces, sub-par animation, and below-Dreamcast-level backgrounds – if it looked any worse it’d belong on 3DO.

Sound: 4.0
Dull commentary (it’s poker, what’d you expect?), cheap sound effects, lame music, horrendous voice acting, etc. In all seriousness, the silent moments didn’t sound good either, not with the low-key sound effects running in the background.

Difficulty: Medium
Like the card game itself, World Series of Poker is as challenging as your opponent makes it. The AI isn’t as sharp as the virtual players would have you believe, but if you play against them frequently enough your skills will surely improve.

Concept: 6.0
Truth be told, I suck at poker. I was hoping that someone would develop a poker game with an in-depth tutorial that clearly explains the rules of each variation, provides tips on how to win, and would go into the difficult strategies the pros use to become champion. World Series of Poker is a budget title – of all the games to have a tutorial, this one is a no-brainer. Why wouldn't there be one when we have to sit through 20 minutes of tutorials for games that are clones of or sequels to titles we've beaten a million times?

Disappointingly, World Series of Poker assumes the player already knows everything.

Multiplayer: 6.0
Good for single-player practice games, World Series of Poker doesn’t quite cut it as a multiplayer title. I’d rather play the real thing.

Overall: 6.5
I wasn’t expecting a revolution from a poker game, but it would’ve been nice to have at least one unique and/or standout feature outside of the create-a-player mode. Looking at how bad the graphics are makes it hard to give that mode, inventive or not, any credit at all. Visuals are secondary, I know, and the sound shouldn’t bother me. But that’s why we play games – to get a complete experience, a point this game missed.

Above Average

Gw
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