It’s hard to deny the beauty of Pure Pool. Everything from the tables to the décor are astoundingly detailed and the games are played on a table smack bang in the middle of a fully-realized club setting. While the pool balls completely emulate the visual texture and look of the real thing, right down to the slight shine from the overhead lights, the physics too are incredibly sophisticated, allowing for realistic actions between the pool cue and the cue ball, as well as interactions between other balls on the table.
The difficulty options allow for both experienced and inexperienced players to jump into the game and have a great time. Ranging from Amateur to Intermediate to Master, the major differences are in what the game pre-emptively determines for each action. For Amateur, Pure Pool stretches a white line from the cue ball to show where it will go, even after making contact with another ball; and the game also shows a yellow line indicating where that ball will go after being struck. For Master, the game will simply show the player where the cue ball will strike the intended target, which emulates the actual game of pool more readily.
Pure Pool features a few game options as well. The two main game options are 8- and 9-Ball. 8-Ball is a standard game of pool that’s played with eight balls on the table, where the first player to pocket a ball gets that shape for the rest of the game. 9-Ball is based on pocketing the balls in numeric order rather than by which balls are either solids or stripes. To accentuate this, Pure Pool also features an extensive Career Mode, which varies up different other game types along with the separate 8-Ball and 9-Ball careers, such as Speed Pot (pocketing all the balls in a set time), Perfect Potter (pocketing all the balls without missing), Checkpoint (pockets as many balls as possible before a timer expires), and Killer (pot a ball and lose a point), to name a few.
Each game is accompanied by three Accolade stars, which are predetermined feats that must be fulfilled in order to earn them, such as “Come back to win from three balls behind” or “Pocket three balls consecutively in corner pockets.” Once the first Amateur Career Mode is completed, players can jump into the next-difficult career Pro and ultimately Master. To complete the entire game, you would have to play a lot of pool.
Thankfully you’re not just going through the motions, there’s a great sense of progression as the game grants experience for each game based on games won, lost and achieved which provide a visual notation of how much experience the player has had with the game. Each player has a level that’s determined by experienced earned, but players also have an ability status based on how many levels are earned, such as Novice, Pro, Master, et cetera.
Unfortunately, the network is a frustrating thing, but I’ll explain more on that after some context. Players can play online against other players on multiple fronts: either pick a friend to challenge or have the game find a random challenger automatically, or players can even participate and invite other players in Tournaments. Games manually created tended to have the most problems. When it’s the opposing player’s turn, the game almost automatically prompts a message that says that the opponent is away from the table. Along with it is a 30-second timer, and if the opponent doesn’t make a move in the 30 seconds, then the game automatically ends the round and gives the player a win. In contrast to this is the option to have an opponent chosen automatically: the game detected their presence more readily and the 30-second warning came up far less often.
The network has a few more flaws. A feed at the top of the screen is constantly updating the player with the names of other players jumping into the game, but the list of names is based on who owns the game rather than the player’s friends list, so the feed is constantly streaming unknown names. If the player does want to play a friend, Pure Pool has a Friend’s List, but nothing appears in it. There is no option to add players to that Friends List anywhere in the game, and the list doesn’t include players from the PlayStation 4’s list of friends either. This means that if the player wishes to find a friend to play a game of pool, then the player must sift through a long list of the online players and find that friend.
I can’t say it’s all bad though, since the online feature is great when it works. Even so, figuring out how to work around it doesn’t take much effort, and the timer almost ensures that games don’t take a very long time to complete. At the same time, this timer ends up being a paced thing that leaves a lot of vaguity behind. The connection between players isn’t live, which results in the player having to wait for the opponent to make and move and then wait for the server to show the player what move the opponent has made. So, the 30-second timer can end up being an instant loss for the opponent anyway, even if a move is made after 25 seconds.
Pure Pool has a lot of pool to be played for a cost of $12—and it’s even cheaper with the current PlayStation Plus discount of 20%—considering that playing pool at a bar table ends up costing at least a dollar per game in a dive bar. Though the network flaws can be frustrating, it can be looked at as a pacing issue rather than a hindrance; still, it’s too bad the player cannot see what the opponent is doing in real time like they can in the Career Mode. Regardless, Pure Pool has the best pool emulation outside of an actual pool table. It features a great deal of game modes and difficulties, offering something fun for everyone: any pool aficionado would be crazy not to own it.