Rapidly becoming something of a fixture on the PC sporting calendar, Codemasters' snooker-based affair has again missed the tournament from which it draws its name. Not our problem, though more sinister is the fact that the same developer has also completed World Championship Pool 2004, which has now mysteriously been put back until August. Furthermore, that game also features snooker, and this one also features pool. Go figure.
Marketing shenanigans aside, updating a snooker game must be a largely thankless task. At least with football, there is scope to include new transfers, stadia and - for spotters - the latest kits. But snooker is a sport in which the same players can eke out a career for a quarter of a century (witness Steve Davis' inclusion here) and the addition of a new waistcoat design or different coloured carpet at the Crucible may not necessarily warrant shelling out 30 quid.
But if you've yet to sample Codemasters'/Blade's take on the sport, it's a mildly compelling experience. Utilising a power bar as opposed to the more physical mouse control, no real tactile skill is required, and it's simply a question of knowing the basics of positional snooker play and being able to apply the requisite spin, side and power to achieve them. As for potting, it largely involves being able to judge if a truncated arrow is pointing towards the centre of the pocket.
Once you've mastered your cue, there's a wealth of opportunities to use it, with the game offering an extensive career mode including all the major professional tournaments. Shorter matches are available, although contesting the World Championship over a single frame does tend to cheapen the occasion. Either way, once you've earned a few quid, you can change your image by buying yourself a new bow tie, or more usefully a new cue.
Further longevity should be added by the new online mode, about which we can currently tell you nothing, servers being non-existent at time of writing. Also new are so-called Classic Matches, the bulk of which are drawn from recent years. The only exceptions are Steve Davis v Dennis Taylor in 1985 and the final between Fred and Joe Davis from 1940, although the integrity of that match is somewhat undermined by the generic audience in Ben Sherman shirts. Elsewhere, pool is ably covered with the inclusion of both 8-ball and 9-ball modes, and John Virgo fans will be glad to know that he's back with some more trick shots.
Essentially, World Championship Snooker 2004 is a technically competent recreation of the sport - replete with glib commentary and authentic coughing - but is only really of interest to enthusiasts of the green baize. But if you can get the hang of it, there is enough here to keep you busy for more time than any man can possibly spare. Perfectly playable, but ultimately destined for the 'broken leg' cupboard.
A solid contender
- Plays like snooker
- Online play
- Extensive career mode
- No Jimmy White
- A bit fiddly