Previews

PDC World Championship Darts 2009

Preview: Archery for the drinking classes

Not only is darts the only sport you can play with a pint in your hand, it's also one of the few where drinking may actually improve your performance. If you're a shaky old alcoholic who needs a few drops to iron out the creases, that is.

No wonder there's a corner of every (remaining) old pub in the land where men still gather to throw tiny spears at tiny targets, while demonstrating a remarkable capacity for mathematics in the face of inebriation.

This is the follow-up to a PDC darts game that we didn't rate very highly last time, but in the hands of a different developer it's addressed the issues we had with the original game's sticky controls.

Zoom

Throwing the darts is a pleasantly tactile experience. You aim a cursor, hold the A button and make a few practice movements to judge the force required - easy enough, thanks to a visible force meter around the edge of the target. Release the A button after throwing and your on-screen darter will launch an arrow.

There are three levels of AI assistance. Turn it all the way up and you'll be able to hit the trebles without too much fuss. On the medium setting, any wobbly movements of your hand will affect the flight of the dart (have another pint) and at the most unforgiving difficulty level you're on your own.

Bully for you
Presentation-wise, it's spot-on. The camera angles replicate the Sky TV coverage and the commentary voices will be familiar to anyone who's watched a match in the last couple of decades. There are also some WWE-style entrances for the globetrotting players, who walk into the venues through a smoky doorway to the tune of a crowd chant that appears to be the same all over the world. You get all the usual minigames and rule variations and you can customise everything to set your darts session up exactly the way you like it. There are even different weights of dart for those who know about such things, but no crazy powerups and suchlike.

We're told the AI players in the career mode get a bit glum when they start losing and you can see it in their faces. Exactly like down the pub, except without the potential for physical injury in the car park on the way home from an away win.

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