PDC World Championship Darts 2008
I need another coffee. My eyes are flickering rapidly, signalling a welcome desire to close up and rid me of the mind-numbing product that blankly stares me in the face. I can’t take much more of this. The thing is, every time I play PDC 2008, I effortlessly retire to a non-existent, weary, and certainly non-thinking state of mind. For anyone who doesn’t enjoy this largely spectator sport, this feeling may be hugely familiar. It seems that Oxygen have managed to strip this pub favourite of any skill, fun, and damn right entertainment it may hold in the real world.
For most darts fans, the PDC console series will have been a welcomed with open arms. We’ve all seen and played versions of the sport online, on the DS, or even on our digital televisions, but the decision for Oxygen to publish a real-life simulation of the sport is definitely a gutsy, if slightly naïve one. Aiming at a particular niche, a darts game simply cannot rely on its popularity as a sport to shift a significant amount of units, just like football and rugby can. The fact is, if you decide to buy a title based on darts, you’ll almost certainly be a huge fan of the alcohol-fuelled entertainment itself.
If it fails to gain a decent audience on a regular basis on television, what chance does the game stand? Unfortunately, this title doesn’t hold up well amongst the abundance of excellent sporting games that have been released recently. All that PDC 2008 manages to do is eliminate any difficulty to the game, and induce a group of minor irritations that firmly ruin the experience from the first throw.
In darts, technique is everything. By hitting the high scores, you should be able to eliminate your score and win the round before your opponent. Interestingly, from our first throw, we knew exactly how to approach this game. Aiming for the treble twenty, we quickly lowered our score and won the round. The control system is extremely simple, as you aim with the left-stick, then pull back and push forward the right stick to throw. Depending on your timing, power, and direction, the dart should go exactly where you want it to, as it’s embarrassingly easy. Before you know it, you’ll be accomplishing great things, and beating the best.
This set-up is all well and good, but there needs to be more challenge in a title. There is a career mode on offer, but customisation and statistics are nearly non-existent here. You can choose from a minimal number of faces, shirts, darts, and even glasses in order to look the best, but can you be the best? Yes. Of course you can.
In career mode, you’ll tackle a number of licensed events in a bid to become the number one player. Featuring lifelike arenas and appearances, the reality of darts is realised well. Unfortunately, when playing against the lesser, fictional characters, you’ll be sure to feel oddly out of place. They all appear to look strangely inhuman, as the texture of their hair and face is insanely plastic and slapped on. I know darts players aren’t the prettiest of beings, but the created characters only amount to a freakishly virtual avatar of discomfort. A definite opportunity lost here, as greater customisation and individuality could have provided players with a reason to sign up for the rags to cleaner rags journey.
In all honesty, even though the career mode is simplistic and accessible, it doesn’t offer any entertainment whatsoever. It may sound harsh, but the formula feels completely overused and uninspiring that it hardly even fits on the 360’s catalogue. Even with the licensed professional players all lending their bumbling personalities, there is something about the title that derails the mind of the player, as you can afford to slip into second gear when playing.
Although a largely repelling title anyway, there is one aspect of this game that destroys any desire you might have to play on. We’ve all heard bad commentary in big-hitters like Pro Evolution Soccer, but PDC 2008 takes matters to an all time low. Featuring the annoying personality of Sid ‘Voice of Darts’ Waddell, the game couldn’t do any more to put a wince on the players face. After each dart throw, he’ll scream one of around five phrases, ensuring you’ll hit the mute button rapidly. For a sport that features so little sound, I couldn’t get rid of his ridiculously shallow and infuriating quips quick enough. In my mind, anyone who shouts “NAFFORAMA!” twenty times a match deserves to be subdued, if not hastily executed.
It’s difficult to write much more about this game, as the premise is so shallow and well known. Sure, there are a host of party games available, but these only offer the same sport in a different order. You might want to only hit the black segments of the board, or start from 701 instead of 501; the options are ready and waiting if you care for them. Unfortunately, all our fears of this title turning into a disaster were confirmed when we went onto the online stomping ground.
There we were, waiting for a game. Ten minutes later, and an opponent had joined. After quickly beating them, we headed onto the online leaderboard. Already, we found ourselves sitting at fourteenth in the world. Fourteenth! Regrettably, looking at the total amount of players, we were ashamed to see only around thirty existed, meaning the online crowd wasn’t particularly buzzing like we had hoped. It isn’t bizarre to see a title with a small following, but with fewer than fifty players actively playing at the time of writing, the online multiplayer becomes hugely inappropriate and wasted.
All in all, PDC World Championship Darts 2008 is not going to win the sport any fans. With an unnecessarily simplistic control system, terrible commentary and a lifeless customisation system, the only slight nugget of entertainment can be found in the licensed career mode. Although that’s the case, I imply the term “entertainment” rather loosely; placing it just above actually being attached to the darts board in the fun stakes. Still, if you need further convincing to not play this game, I’m sure the eye candy of Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld will do the trick.