World Poker Tour Review (PSP)
Submitted on: Jun 13, 2006 by Shawn Drotar
World Poker Tour might be the best-known name in the growing galaxy of poker-related entertainment, and the PSP version of the "home game", as they used to say, brings a challenging and enjoyable game of poker to your handheld, as well as more options for this kind of title then you'd expect. If you're craving a little virtual high-stakes action, World Poker Tour might be right for you.
World Poker Tour isn't the most beautiful game you've ever set eyes on, but it's not that bad, either. It's style is rather utilitarian, but that never bothered me - I was more focused on the game itself. World-class graphics aren't as critical when the main focus of the game is on two-colored pieces of plastic-coated paper…
The game's player creator is surprisingly robust, and it's simple enough to create a caricature-like facsimile or yourself (both male or female characters are available), or create a wacky, unique player of your own design.
Authentic casinos are included, and I'm going to take 2K Games at their word when they say they're rendered authentically. In all honesty, however, most of the casinos look the same. The players rather a bit cartoon-like, and have silly names that come off more charming than cornball - somehow.
The game's video direction stands out as a plus. WPT uses camera angles, cuts and pacing to the fullest extent, and it does an excellent job a bringing that television broadcast "feel" to the PSP.
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, the TV show's commentary tandem, handle it here, as well. It's solid enough, but it gets exceedingly repetitive in a hurry. However, since the game doesn't require the sound in any meaningful way, it won't hurt to simply turn the speakers down and save your PSP's battery.
The game's feature set is outstanding, especially for a portable title, and even more so for a game that's tied to a television show.
WPT's career mode - where you'll progress through satellite tournaments before joining the World Poker Tour itself - is the meat-and-potatoes of the game, of course, but pick-up games are available (both as and/or against the pros), and the gamer even has the ability to create their own poker games, if Texas Hold 'Em begins to grow a bit stale. Pick a Stud game, a Draw game or a Hold 'Em game and make your own rules. The options are many, and most every kind of poker variant imaginable can be easily created, saved and played using this feature. It adds outstanding value to the title, and is a delightfully welcome inclusion.
Whether you're a poker novice or a self-proclaimed "expert" (and aren't we all?), World Poker Tour has ways that can improve anyone's game. Besides the difficulty settings, of course, the game features videos that will teach you game from scratch ("WPT Boot Camp") or offer handy tips from comely hostess Shana Hiatt and the world's top pros to help improve your winnings at the table in "Poker Corners". They're short and informative, and you might be surprised to know that you'll probably learn something new. The video features are another nice addition, as are the optional "Poker Lingo" overlays. They're designed for the novice, but there's nothing wrong with that - in fact, creating a game that can appeal to all varieties of players is no small feat for a poker game.
If you're getting the impression that World Poker Tour is complete product, and not some one-trick pony, you're right.
Of course, none of that matters if it doesn't play solid, smart poker. Fortunately for us, it does - and if you'll pardon the pun - in spades.
On the lower difficulty settings, you'll be able to dominate your opponents with aggressive play, but on the higher ones, World Poker Tour feels like a different game entirely. Players will vary their games; one hand bluffing you into painful folds, while smacking you down with "pocket rockets" on the next. While no video game can truly create the charged atmosphere of a real poker table, with all the vagaries of human behavior, World Poker Tour does an admirable job, and the end result is an enjoyable, entertaining and addicting game.
Pick-up games are available using Infrastructure (Internet) play, and when you can find enough players, it works well enough. Load times are an issue - both online and off - when players leave or join a table, and they're long enough to make you wonder if the game has frozen. (My copy never did, incidentally.)
The load times on the whole are rather long, but until I see a single PSP game with a less-than-glacial load time, I'll start blaming it on the publisher - but at this point, it's probably safe to say such things are a limitation of the PSP itself.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the game's manual - it's both detailed and thorough, especially in comparison to other games published by a company whose name rhymes with "telephonic hearts".
World Poker Tour isn't perfect - it's not much of a looker, and it has load issues at unfortunate times, but on the whole, it's both fun and challenging, with plenty to do for players of all skill levels. It's a smart poker "sim" - especially on the highest difficulty setting - and it's a natural fit for the on-the-go PSP gamer, while still being enthralling enough to plop down on the sofa to play a complete tournament at home.
I'm impressed by the scope of the game, which encompasses much of the poker "experience", both televised and otherwise, and far exceeded what I initially expected from the title.
In the final tally, holding a PSP with World Poker Tour is like holding the video-game equivalent of the ace-king "Big Slick" - it's not a sure-fire winner, but you're likely to have a lot of fun playing it just the same.