Snooker 19 – PS4 Review 10

We’re probably not required to tell you that Snooker 19 is a snooker simulation but it is and it comes to us from Leamington Spa-based indie studio Lab42 who have a mobile and porting based softography behind them but are now trying their hand and simulation of the relaxing sport of snooker.

Snooker 19 is a mid-priced retail release (which comes in physical and digital forms) and aims (bLOLf!) to be the most complete simulation of snooker yet by marrying realistic physics with that official World Snooker license to become the FIFA of snooker games. Something it does with mixed results.

The comparison to FIFA might seem odd but it is apparent as soon as you see the main menu which eschews the usual lists of options and instead gives you those big rectangular panels that EA favour for their sports games. There aren’t too many options here though, just the usual career, quick match and online modes and a few settings.  A neat online edition is to be able to play along with real life tournaments (including the World Championships which are due to start soon) but you’ll be hoping for players with a sense of fair play of course.

We dived into the career mode first. This allows you to pick an established top pro with all of your favourites there to choose from such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and whoever else is famous in the sport these days. Or you can pick a low-level prospect and work your way through the amateur circuit first. We did that but were surprised that we couldn’t create our own pro. You do get some customisation options but these were incredibly limited and restrictive. For example, on our pro we could change the colour of his trousers but not his jacket, even though the menu suggested we could. Very odd.

Once you get onto the green baize, things start off much as you’d expect. The game does give you a quick tutorial, explaining how to aim, shoot and put spin on your cue ball but beyond that you’re mainly on your own and left to compete.  The controls feel reasonably good but are a little fussy. You aim with the left stick and once you’ve set your direction and confirmed it with , you use the right stick to set your target power, pressing , again to lock that in. Then you pull the right stick back and push it forward to make the shot, making sure to stop within the target zone or else your accuracy will suffer. It’s the sort of system that’d work well in a golf game but maybe feels like it takes an extra step here and we often found ourselves attempting to do a shot while we were still in the power setting stage of the process.

You have four options in terms of aiming aids. Master gives you a little bit of aiming guidance but no white ball placement help, and there’s an option to turn off aiming assistance altogether (if you’re literally insane). In between are pro and amateur options which are so similar, we had to switch between them several times to tell the difference between.   Also, instead of the usual line leading off to the pocket, you get a thicker, transparent one here that fans out into a cone if you’re making a cut, offering less certainty.  It may be fair enough in terms of making the shot more difficult like it would be in real life but often the visual feedback you get makes the shot feel like you’ve got to hit and hope.

This is particularly true of shots along the cushion and also very short pots.  It just isn’t very helpful and to make matters worse, the two views you get sometimes seem to conflict.  So when you first line up a shot it looks perfect but then during the power phase of the shot it will look out and if you adjust there and go back to the first view it will clearly look like you’re going to miss the shot.   It’s just really sloppy and speaks to a lack of play-testing with normal people outside of the dev team.

What you don’t get is a nice easy option that really helps you to feel like a high level pro.  Pretty much every previous snooker game ever made has had that and didn’t suffer at all because the AI players were good and so it really felt like a battle of elite players. Where as in Snooker 19, it’s a lot harder to build breaks and therefore is less fun.  Hardcore players may applaud this decision but think of it like this.  Imagine playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater but instead of having the abilities of, say, Rodney Mullen you’ve now got the ability of you.  Or try playing FIFA but instead of having the close control of a Premier League player you now play like you in real life.  Yeah, those games wouldn’t be as fun and that’s the problem here.

This is mainly due to the aiming aid but it is not just that. Shockingly, there’s no overhead view which is a massive oversight for this type of game. Yes, we get it, real players can’t levitate over the table but even so, the angles you get in this game make it harder to judge shots. Moving the camera is possible but it turns off the aiming indicators and so is particularly useless.  If you look at the next pair of screenshots, you’ll see the two views you get with any sort of aiming assistance.  Good luck getting the 147 trophy with that vague level of assistance.

To compound this, the AI is prone to pulling out decent breaks quite easily and, at the higher levels of AI, nearly impossible to snooker (although some of the easier AI players can get completely stuck in a loop of poor snooker escapes). They are beatable for sure, but at the moment we feel like we’re not being given the best tools to compete and it is particularly galling because every other snooker game does including Snooker Nation Championship 2019 which also came out this week and offers about ten times the fun but for a quarter of the price.  This is an issue.  As is the fact that the AI players have none of the characteristics of their real life counterparts.  Don’t be expecting Ronnie to speed through a frame busting out left handed shots just for the fun of it.  Basically everyone here is just a face on a body.

Visually the game is a mixed bag too. Sure, the tables look perfectly fine with the colours popping thanks to the HDR support but the motion of the balls can be a little bit juddery, even on my PS Pro. Character models, while recognisable, are a little basic and ugly and the crowds are a little bit FIFA 2000 if you know what we mean, with the people all seemingly synchronised and a little unnatural, as if you’re playing in front of judgemental androids.  The game does model a whole year’s worth of venues including The Crucible and all the other ones but you’ll be wishing they put that effort into tightening up the gameplay.

The sound comprises of the various clacks of the balls and a very inconsistent commentary that fairly flatly describes the action but offers no real colour commentary.  A first week patch has gone live which removes some of the initial embarrassing errors though.  Indeed, Ripstone have committed to further patching and are being very responsive to criticism at the moment and so we’re feeling a little guilty about committing a score to Metacritic but on current form the game has issues. It does the basic stuff to the minimum acceptable standard but that’s about it. Yes, Snooker 19 simulates snooker and is playable enough but we were playing equally good, and better, snooker games over ten years ago and by now these games should be perfect. Unfortunately, Snooker 19 isn’t.

Snooker 19
6 Overall
+ Looks and feels like snooker
+ Cueing action feels good
+ Has all the players and events of the pro circuit
+ Devs do seem committed to patching the game
- Aiming options aren't good enough
- Controls are a little fiddly
- Character models aren't great
- A lack of an overhead camera may be an issue for some
- Can't move camera without losing aiming aids
- Poor commentary
- AI players don't have any real life traits
- Slow menus with no quick restart option
Snooker 19 does enough to be a snooker game, but not nearly enough to be THE snooker game. A lack of aiming and viewing options mean this may alienate players looking to participate in some relaxed break-building but are instead forced to remember just how poor at snooker they are in real life. And at four times the price of a competing snooker title released in the same week, this doesn't feel like a game we can recommend yet.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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10 thoughts on “Snooker 19 – PS4 Review

  • Marc Jenks

    I can’t believe you are making the inability to move the camera and still have the aiming aids as a con?, that would literally allow you to pot any shot very easily and would completely ruin online play, do you want to sit back and watch your opponent make a century every frame?, a lot of your comments sound like you have simply not spent long enough with the game, ie thin shots and pots along the cushion, whilst tricky (as it should be) they can be perfected and after playing around 10 matches myself I’m now able to execute these shots well with about a 90% success rate – which is realistic for these type of tricky pots.

    I would say 3 of your Cons (below) are down to personal preference which would not be shared by the majority of players of this game, and if implemented would not improve the game at all.
    – No overhead view
    – Aiming options aren’t good enough
    – Can’t move camera without losing aiming aids

    • Richie Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Marc. The sensible approach would be to limit aiming aids and camera views online but then allow single players to do whatever they want.

      I mean these are standard options for snooker games over the years. Removing such a common camera view is a mistake. Especially when the included views are so poor.

      • Marc Jenks

        Yes my comments were made with online play in mind whereas your review sounds like you are focusing on single player and would like an aiming aid even easier than amatuer, that’s fair enough I don’t see a problem with allowing as many aids as possible offline.

        My main gripe was with your request to have a free roaming camera which still showed the aiming aids?, I have never seen anything that extreme in a snooker game, maybe because Im coming from WC11 and compaing, the views are very similiar.

        After spending a lot of time with the game I find the best way to line up the shot is in the player view and then press O to go back to the initial table view and focus on your position of the white. this works really well and allows for great positional play.

        I just think in general you were a bit harsh with the review and with more time spent with it you would have different opinions, the game has many flaws (online shot timers, poor graphics, no custom player career) but the actual snooker and physics are great, there is an article on the BBC just now where Pro players are champiioning it to be used as a coaching tool because the physics are so realistic, the devs built the physics engine from the ground up and this is a great first effore at a snooker sim, really hope they follow up with some patches to fix the online play and custom player career.

        • Richie Post author

          Thanks, again.

          I expect the physics to be great by default. It’s like when they make yet another game about Aliens, throw in some corridors, some baby elephant squeals, a strobe light and the motion tracker and that’s half the game won right there. It’s what they do with the rest that matters but usually that stuff is enough for most of the fans.

          Snooker Nation doesn’t have the tournaments and real names but it has a perfectly good physics engine (based on the engine of an older full retail snooker sim that they did apparently) and is super playable too and gives you the options of having a better understanding of where the white will end up, which would make it just as good a coaching tool I’d say. But for a quarter of the price and way less alienating to casual players. But with the option to play online with much harder aiming set ups if you wish.

          Also, I didn’t get into it much with this review but the menus are so slow and cumbersome.

          That said, I really wanted to play this. I’ve been in the mood for a snooker game for ages and while 6 might seem like a disappointing score, it’s not a ‘don’t play it’ score at all. It’s just a ‘don’t expect to be making great breaks against a deadly, inventive and colourful Ronnie O’Sullivan’ type of score.

          The game is getting a very mixed response from gamers at the moment, so I don’t think this review is too controversial. I’m not against changing the score if the updates improve things though.

  • Neal Hayes

    Excellent, balanced review. I was in two minds about getting this game but your succinct and honest analysis has dissuaded me. Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments; snooker games are nothing news, they’ve been around for decades, and it appears that we are starting further from perfection. Cheers.

  • Jason Clarke

    Lol you dont need an overhead camera to make a high break or a 147 you just need to get good, the break building is designed to be challenging and yet rewarding, century breaks are suppose to be a triumph, highest ive made is a 133 in online play, im playing on pc.

    The controls are fine except when moving around table and the aiming options are perfectly good enough for.a game trying to lean on the side of simulation rather than arcade.

    Its still only deserving of a 6 though i think the score is right but for many of the wrong reasons, there are many many other issues deeper rooted than not having an overhead camera lol is this a mobile game or….

    • Richie Post author

      Jason, don’t be that guy that goes around telling everyone to get good. Also, pretty much every snooker game before this has had a top down view or at least the ability to view more than just two angles (which actually contradict each other visually here).

      Well done on that 133 though. That’s a serious effort. I have no idea how you managed it. I keep going back to this wondering if I’m being unfair somehow but every time I play it it frustrates me in a way that no other snooker game has. I understand positioning in snooker, I get how spin works. I just feel like this game doesn’t give me the information I need to properly make my shots.

      I don’t mind there being a sim option, make the game as hard as you want, that’s all good. But if catering to all players is a good idea. Especially in a career mode that is sooooo long.