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Copyright © 2006 Gigex, Inc.
HEADLINE: World Series of Poker: Tournament
of Champions Review.
Author: Robert Workman
I liked last year's offering of World Series of Poker...and it
seems that I was one of the few people to do so. Magazines and
online media slammed the game hard for its lack of AI competence
and minimal presentation, calling it the worst of the bunch. I
found it to be better than that. Sure, the AI is about as balanced
as my checkbook, but all the same, I felt that the engine was
no slouch, and the online
play made things worthwhile. I played it just last week, coming
in second during a tourney, falling on a pair of five's (which
soon became three five's after the flop- damn flop).
This year's version, World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions
2007, raises the stakes a little bit. The series makes its debut
on the Xbox 360 this year, and adds some more faces from the tournament
to make it feel more like a complete poker
experiment. But there are two questions that are probably going
to be asked...
Number one, is the game worth dropping $40 on? That budget price
is definitely more reasonable than a $60 price tag, but keep in
mind that Texas
Hold 'Em came out for the Xbox Live Arcade service a few weeks
ago- for free. Some people might already have the poker fix in
their XBLA library, so whether a purchase of World Series of Poker
would benefit said players is definitely a query worth visiting.
Secondly, is the game any better than last year's edition? Despite
the fact that I like World Series of Poker just fine on my Xbox,
there are a few things that I felt needed to be addressed and
bumped up for this edition.
Well, let me answer both questions for you. Regarding number
one, it depends on how much you like poker. Texas
Hold 'Em runs down a much more basic path than World Series
of Poker, and if playing a no-frills game is something you're
up for, it's worth the 800 points. However, if you're an enthusiast
or die-hard poker
player that attends weekly bar contests and knows his (or her)
way into a full-blown bluff to get a stack of chips, there's something
to be discovered here.
As for the second question, well, yes, there are some improvements
worth noting, but there are also some problems. Remember when
I was telling you about the snags with the AI from the first game?
Well, some of them have returned, with the AI players making lame-brained
calls off of a raised bet that you'll either find yourself giddy
with overconfidence when you slam down the dream hand of three-of-a-kind
or better, or frustrated to shit when you find they've created
an accidental straight off of a blind bet.
But World Series of Poker, despite this flaw, still knows how
to lay its cards down. The general flow of poker is well furnished
here, and you can make adjustments depending on how you feel like
playing. If you're up for watching how AI opponents react and
listening to commentary, you can go at a normal speed. However,
if you just want to get through a match and see who wins each
hand, you can speed things up. There's also a wide variety of
games to be found here, aside from the Texas Hold 'Em matches.
Feel like some Omaha? Or maybe even a little bit of Horse? You
have the option of setting up your own custom matches. Or, if
you're not up to all that, you can just jump into a quick Texas
Hold 'Em match to test your mettle.
World Series of Poker also adds an ingredient that Texas Hold
'Em is sorely missing- implementing your personality into the
game. Sure, the XBLA effort is Xbox Live Camera-friendly, but
World Series of Poker lets you map in your own face onto a player
via "Digiface". While it isn't always an exact fit,
it is a pretty cool feature that saves you some time on your customization.
You can also give yourself a few wardrobe changes to match up
your personality (and some that don't), and unlock even more accessories
over the course of your career. The option of setting up your
own poker room and allowing outsiders in to play is a nice touch
as well, although I'm still trying to figure out how to put a
deer head on the wall. (Why can't I just import one from the Cabela
games you offer, Activision?)
The Career mode is loaded, and will attract many hardcore players.
You'll work your way through a series of matches, just like the
real World Series of Poker pros do, before you find yourself in
the Tournament of Champions, where you'll be facing off against
a number of fierce opponents. Scotty Nguyen, Eric Seidel, Jennifer
Tilly (the Bride of Chucky herself), and Chris "Jesus"
Ferguson are just a few of the faces you'll run into along the
way. However, I didn't really find their playing styles that well
inbred into the game. Their voices are present, providing a little
bit of personality, but they play about the same as "Player
A" and "Player B" at the typical table. Fortunately,
the ability to play against the pros and earn Achievements and
Collector's Chips still make you feel like you're part of a real
Those who want to learn more about poker will find learning tools
aplenty here. Over the course of your play, you'll unlock said
player tools that will help tell you more about the odds of the
pot and opponents during your play. Some people won't get into
this feature that deeply, as their mathematician sides probably
won't come bubbling to the surface, but it's a fascinating feature
that tells us more about the technical nature of the sport. For
further assistance, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson provides
you necessary poker tips via tutorials to help shape you into
a better poker player. Some mini-tips are also provided during
the game's loading screens, and you'll have time to read them.
The loading time is a bit longer than I expected. For such a small
poker game, you'd think that the loading time wouldn't drag on
like it does.
Where players will find themselves right at home with World Series
of Poker is online. You can set up your own matches, or take part
in other tournaments being offered, and your custom character
is thrown right in. It's here that the competition really lays
it on the line, not making lame-brained decisions like the lazy
AI players and instead showing some real personality. The Xbox
Live Camera features are well-supported, allowing you to see who
you're up against better than Digiface could ever represent. This
is probably the most supported more in the game, and I give Left
Field praise for paying so much attention to it.
Now if only the presentation could've gotten a push for the Xbox
360. The visuals in the game don't really rise above regular Xbox
level, although some of the player models (particularly Ms. Tilly)
are impressive. The movements of the players are simplified to
the point that they barely show any life at all, save for a quick
standing-up after going all in on a hand. There are some new camera
angles that are helpful, including the dealer showing you a river
card well after the hand's been played out, the ability to "quick
peek" at your cards just like the pros, and even a first-person
camera, in case you want to get a better look at your opposition
from up-close. But it really is minimal at best. I know it's just
a poker game, but some more attention should have been paid here.
The audio isn't really that well done. There's barely a hint
of music in the game (the main guitar twang theme song from the
show), and the commentary, by World Series of Poker hosts Lon
McEachern and Norman Chad, seems slapped together. Instead of
sounding like a free-flowing conversation about the action on
the table, you just hear bits and pieces. The pros provide their
own voices, but are again edited to the point they don't really
say that much. And, really, who keeps sneezing at the table? That's
all I need, to lose my bankroll and THEN come down with the flu.
This game could've used more audio workings.
World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions 2007 still doesn't
have what it takes to be the poker champion of the video game
world, but at least it gets the right things down to make it worth
the reasonable $40 price tag. The presentation may not hit the
mark as much as it should, and those AI issues will frustrate
a few of you, but the game still engulfs you in the poker experience
through deep Career and Multiplayer modes. The Xbox Live Camera-supported
features are a plus as well, especially if you just picked one
up and you want to see what it can really do. World Series of
Poker: Tournament of Champions 2007 doesn't play the greatest
hand, but it still wins the pot...for now.
Poker Bonus Code: TPF150
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