PlayStation Move and cue sports go together like balls and baize: PlayStation Network release Hustle Kings has already shown how well the motion controller can work with the sport, and now Dark Energy Digital has responded to VooFoo Studios' break with WSC Real 11.
The most obvious enhancement WSC brings to the table is the World Snooker Championship licence, bringing with it real players and real tournaments, from Steve Davis to Ronnie O'Sullivan. While the players aren't exactly rendered with Heavy Rain-like realism, their presence is enough to make the game notable to fans of the sport.
Of course you can create your own player to take to the baize, using a passable player editor before heading out into the season mode. WSC doesn't just contain snooker, it also features pool, so it's pleasing you can take your custom player out into separate seasons on both the green and blue felt.
Starting out a season as a rookie, you take on a series of qualifying rounds at various international tournaments, securing skill points as you go to increase your abilities in key areas such as potting, power and positional skill. Winning tournaments unlocks further tournaments, and onwards and upwards you go until you're rubbing shoulders with the world's best in classic sports style.
To rise up the ranks, though, you'll need to master the controls. If you're playing with Move, you'll also need a Navigation or DualShock controller, though in truth Dark Energy likely could have figured out a way to play the game with just Move.
Setting up a shot can be a fiddly affair. To aim you hold Move and point the controller from side to side or up and down to turn the cue accordingly, but this isn't pointer detection as you've seen in any other Move game so far: no matter how many times we calibrated the controls, they seemed to work only when we held the Move controller upright, manoeuvring it around like a giant gear stick. Forget about pointing at the screen to line-up your shot: gear stick controls are in. This sounds terrible, and until you adjust to the system it really is, but after a while it becomes less of a chore, though we'd still prefer proper pointer controls.
The pointer issue wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to switch to an overhead view to aim with the analogue stick, removing much of the game's feeling of involvement. You can fine tune your shot by holding L2, move your cue butt for spin and swerve shots by holding L1 and inspect the table with a press of Square, letting you plan your positional shots as well as your pots. To take a shot, hold T and pull back to set the power, then hold Move and push forward to imitate the cueing action and make contact with the ball.
Once you've got to grips with getting the balls to go where you want, the game opens up: aiming aids show the direction the cue ball and its target will go, and a black circle indicates where the white will end up afterwards. These aiming aids can be turned off if you like, and their accuracy increases as you progress through the career modes to make them potent tools. Racking up breaks is a satisfying experience, though the twitchy controls often mean it takes longer to make a shot than it should and prevent you from getting into a rhythm.
There are a number of interesting features hidden away below the baize, though. A replay function lets you rewind any shot, saving your favourites to the PS3 hard drive, and you can even choose to retake a shot if you really mess things up. This "Mulligan" system is limited to a few uses only, with Trophies awarded for not using it at all, but as the artificial intelligence can be brutal at times you may want to dip into it during high pressure matches.
However you play your choice of sport, be it snooker or pool, the physics are excellent, with balls behaving exactly how they should and responding accurately to all kinds of shots. The balls are also sufficiently shiny, and the table is rendered nicely, though the same can't be said of the players, who have a strange waxy appearance. They at least have some unexpected animations: players waiting to take a tough shot show despair, raise their palms to express surprise and show a little more humanity than some might expect.
Sadly the audio is a poor showing, with solo commentary from John Virgo that will mildly amuse for the first hour or two and then swiftly grate as he recounts tales of morning crosswords, the origins of snooker and a handful of other fascinating insights. The sound effects aren't much better: the sound of a cue making contact with the ball is horribly tinny, although the balls clack together reasonably well. Your watching audience will react to certain shots but at odd times: if a ball rattles in the pocket's jaws and bounces out, the crowd often will wait to gasp until all the balls stop moving, and the same applies for applause for tough shots.
It's a shame there are so many rough edges on Dark Energy's first Move title, but considering the commitment to fan feedback shown in its Hydrophobia Prophecy project we remain hopeful the developer will look to make improvements to WSC Real 11. Ultimately, in this state, the Move controls just lack the few tweaks needed to turn this from a snooker rookie to the champion of the baize it could have been.