World Championship Poker: All In
Poker games should be easy to make. The game has been around for more than a hundred years and in the past five years poker has exploded in popularity. Any developer already has two cards working in their favor – established rules and a pre-existing fanbase. After that, all they need to do is develop some artificial intelligence to challenge the player and create a graphics engine and the game is essentially done. Up until this point, no developer has been able to take advantage of what seems like a really easy game to make, and a lot of developers have tried. And even with all of these past failures to improve upon, the developers of World Championship Poker: All In still failed in creating an engrossing, realistic poker experience.
All In does a few good things, but for every good, there’s an equal bad. The game offers an incredible wealth of poker variety – this is one of the most complete poker experiences around. It’s got your usuals like Texas Hold’em, Five Card Draw and Seven Card Stud. All In then does one better by taking all of the game types and mixing them together – if you land at the right table, you might end up playing Five Card one hand and then Omaha Hold’em the next. This makes long games less boring because you constantly need to adjust your strategy. Of course, if you hate one of the variations, you might not want to play the mix entirely, especially considering that some matches lasted me more than a few hours and I wasn’t even close to winning, no matter how aggressively I played my cards.
Of course, the AI still isn’t that good either. It’s acceptable and occasionally will make really solid calls, but I think they’re more through luck than actual skill. During one hand of Texas Hold’em, the flop came down with three clubs, giving me a flush right on the flop. I made a huge bet, making it very obvious that I had the flush to my opponents. I didn’t care that I had been obvious because one opponent had already put all of his chips in, and I didn’t want to risk the other opponent at the table catching a better flush. The other opponent called my huge raise almost instantly, putting himself all in. He had no clubs, just a very low pair. I eliminated both players, but it really wasn’t satisfying because my computer-controlled challenger made a very stupid call that no one would have made.
But, for every bad, there’s a good. There are some cool features. The career mode has you travel the globe, entering big events so you can make a name for yourself. I liked this mode because the career mode in this is decidedly campy, full off bright, cartoon colors as you traverse the world map looking for games. If you can’t find a game you like for that week, you can head on over to your apartment (which fills up with prizes as you progress through this mode) and just play a random game of your choosing against random people.
The counter-point to all of this is that the game doesn’t really look that good. The cartoon look might have worked well if it was throughout the game, but the developers decided to go for a more serious look during the actual poker matches. This was a big mistake. The developers should have stuck with just a simple, effective graphics engine. Instead, they tried to squeeze in an engine that chokes the life out of the PSP. The system simply can’t handle it and there’s slowdown at every turn. Yes, slowdown, in a poker game. When the dealer tosses out the cards to the players, his arm stutters across the felt and the cards jump from their hand to the table like they’re having a seizure. It’s truly terrible. Through the career mode, you can also earn skill points that can be used to increase your character’s poker prowess. I’m certainly up for adding in some extra incentive to win, but the whole system seemed redundant. A good poker player is still going to be a good poker player, no matter how many points you put into his “luck skill” category.
While its console counterpart had no problem loading up, the PSP version of All In suffers from some atrocious load times that cripple the experience (four minutes to get into a game!) which turns an average poker simulation into a game that you really shouldn’t even bother with.
Three out of ten