Darts. The game of Kings, probably. Like archery only smaller, capable of causing pain in the hands of a novice and so much hilarity to onlookers. I don’t really know the history of the game, but it has grown from simple pub entertainment into a big money sport and like any sport worth it’s salt, darts has it’s own equivalent of football’s World Cup in the PDC World Championship Darts tournament, which even has it’s own video game.
The latest incarnation of which, Pro Tour from O-Games, has been released on the Xbox360, Wii and PS3. Perhaps the most interesting of these is the PS3 version which offers full support for the PlayStation Move controller. Using Move opens the game up to a far more casual audience, whilst also offering a far more realistic recreation of the sport for fans. Players simply hold the controller as if they were holding a dart and aim at the screen. Once the player has aimed, they press the Move button and mimic throwing the dart, releasing the button as they would release the dart if they were playing the real game. The angle with which the player swings the controller, along with the force behind it, dictates how close to their target they actually get.
It is true to say that playing the game in this manner is not that easy. The Move controller mimics the throwing of the dart quite well, so players who lack any darts experience will obviously have problems here. However, the game provides a number of assists that will make the game much more accessible to newcomers and casual gamers alike. With the assist fully on, the player will find themselves hitting their target more often than not. There is also support for the standard controller, for those that have yet to pick up Move. But using a standard controller will reduce the games appeal to both the casual gamers and those looking for a realistic experience.
PDC World Championship Darts: Pro Tour offers a wealth of features and a host of big name darts players, including the sport’s number one star, Phil “The Power” Taylor. Players will be able to play as any of these characters, or make their own in the character creation section. There is a nice career mode within which the player can take their custom built players through from the humblest of beginnings, to the biggest tournaments in the darts calendar.
Everything is lovingly recreated, from the licensed players through to the venues themselves, and they will all be easily recognisable to anyone who has more than a passing interest in the sport. The players are especially well done, looking very much like their human counterparts, although they lack the fluidity in their movement which breaks the illusion to a degree. Thankfully, this is a game that does not really rely on movement of the players, so it’s not really a big deal.
In an effort to make the game as realistic as possible, a lot of effort has obviously gone into creating the atmosphere that players would expect in the matches, both from the small games to the big reward tournaments. The cheer of the crowd, the smart-arse comments from the commentators when something doesn’t go the way it was planned, or indeed praise when it does. Even the reactions from the licensed players, and even being able to celebrate when something goes well and get a reaction from the onlookers, it all goes a long way to building that atmosphere, which is something that both fans of the sport and the casual gamers can appreciate.
With the lengthy careers and standard games of 501 out of the way, the player can always get to grips with some alternative darts games. Found within the party mode, this huge variety of different ways to play a game of darts adds variety and some quick hit gaming for up to four players. They can be played using one controller, or any combination of controllers and Move controllers that the owner happens to have at hand. These mini darts games are all taken from actual pub games that are played up and down the country wherever there is a dart board. In fact, my local pub did, until recently, run a game of Killer every Friday evening to win a Sunday roast.
All of this multiplayer fun can be enjoyed locally, with all of the rules explained for those that are new to the game, unlike Friday evening down the local pub where no-one would want to admit that they don’t know the rules. Unfortunately taking the game online limits the player to simple two player games .
PDC World Championship Darts: Pro Tour is a great package and certainly contains everything that a person could want from a darts game, with ample realism to keep the fans happy and a lot of fun for the casual players. The inclusion of support for Move lends itself well to the game of darts, although it does take a fair bit of getting used to. However, the game still suffers from the simple fact that it is just darts, at the end of the day. Whatever mode the player decides on, they will still be throwing a sharp pointy object at a target, nothing more. I am sure that this will be enough for the fans out there, but when it is possible to get a Snooker/Pool game on PSN with just as many, if not more, features for a much lower price, I can imagine that many gamers will find the cost of this game just a little too steep.
Pro Tour does a great job of bringing the darts game to the PS3. It looks and sounds good, and offers a whole bucket load of features to keep the enthusiasts happy. But the high price combined with the limited subject matter will likely keep away all but the die-hard fans. If darts is your game of choice, then there is no better video game representation out there.