Wednesday, February 20, 2008

PDC World Championship Darts 2008 Review

PDC World Championship Darts 2008, developed by Mere Mortals and published by Oxygen Interactive.
The Good: Numerous game types and career modes, good character models
The Not So Good: Really touchy controls require near perfection, infallible AI, no online features, repetitive commentary
What say you? Robotically flawless opponents and iffy controls make for a frustrating darts game: 4/8

We’ve all probably played darts at some point in our lives. I know I have, and the last time I did, I discovered I was pretty good at it (for a novice). Thus, I was mildly interested in receiving (all the way from England) PDC World Championship Darts 2008. Sure, darts (like golf) might not be terribly interesting to watch, but (like golf) it’s a lot more fun to play, and playing on a computer is a lot safer (less pointy objects flying through the air). And I bet the mouse could be an intuitive substitute for a dart. So let’s see if PDC World Championship Darts 2008 gets triple-20, or punctures someone in the face.

Considering that darts is not exactly the most visually exciting sport on the planet, the graphics of PDC World Championship Darts 2008 are about as good as they are going to get. The dart boards (and the darts themselves) are realistic replicas, as are the match venues. Probably the most work has been spent accurately modeling all of the professional dart players (darters?) that I’ve never heard of, and the result is a collection of highly-detailed and well-animated characters. The players look fantastic with a range of believable animations. With all of the effort that clearly went into character design, the sound has suffered: PDC World Championship Darts 2008 features very repetitive match commentary that becomes annoying the second time you play the game. Hearing “one-hundred-and-FOR-ty” announced the same way each time gets old very quickly. Plus, the insults directed towards the player are unnecessary, demeaning, and depressing for new players. Yes, I know my last throw was “rubbish,” I’m trying to learn the freakin’ game here. Summed up, PDC World Championship Darts 2008 has great graphics and poor sound.

PDC World Championship Darts 2008 embraces the 2008 PDC World Championship season (surprise!). You can undertake an exhibition game against an AI opponent, a single tournament, or an entire career that comprises of single tournaments (and you can enter exhibitions as well). You can create a custom player for a career or play as one of the sixteen real-life players. Party mode is designed for multiple players, as the AI can’t seem to handle anything other than 501. You and several others can engage in games of around the clock, black & white, cricket, fives, twenty one, knockout, odd man in, shanghai, and killer, but as long as its on the same computer as PDC World Championship Darts 2008 lacks internet multiplayer for some reason. Most of these games have essentially the same rules (aim for a specific area of the board) and the rules for cricket are completely different from anything I (or any reference material I have found) have seen.

You can use a gamepad or the mouse to control the darts and it is overly difficult either way. You need to be insanely precise in this game in order to simply throw the dart, let alone throw it correctly. You must hold down the mouse button, bring the mouse back, then push it forward quickly enough while letting go of the mouse button at exactly the right time. There are novice controls, but they simply provide the user with a meter that shows how far to pull back and decreasing the difficulty does not make the actual action any easier. Throwing darts is equally frustrating with a gamepad. PDC World Championship Darts 2008 should automatically release the dart instead of requiring the user to release the mouse button at exactly the right time (especially for beginners). PDC World Championship Darts 2008 takes the simple act of throwing a dart and makes it an infuriating practice.

Most of the time (unless you can find some friends who want to play this game on your computer…unlikely) you’ll be playing against the AI and they are almost as frustrating as the controls. The AI players are almost perfect, getting exactly what they need approximately 100% of the time. I realize these are professionals, but shouldn’t a variety of opponents be included for beginners to play against? It’s no fun to play when you know that once you miss the triple-20 you have lost, since the AI will score 140 or more every single turn. It’s really easy to make the AI “cheat” in a game like this, and that’s exactly what the developers have done. PDC World Championship Darts 2008 is passable in multiplayer, but since the game lacks online capabilities then there is no real reason to play it.

Darts could have been a simple and fun computer sport, but PDC World Championship Darts 2008 royally screws up in several keys area. The controls stink since they are too unforgiving and non-adjusting for difficulty. The AI is too perfect to provide fair competition. The game offers varied game modes, but they are only available as party games against human players on the same computer. The commentary is insulting and repetitive. About the only good quality of PDC World Championship Darts 2008 is that the player models are realistic, and that’s not important at all. The learning curve induced by the controls and the AI makes PDC World Championship Darts 2008 almost impossible to play as a novice. Even if you really like darts, it’s better just to buy a real dart board then to play this mess of a game.