October 13, 2016
Sony Interactive Entertainment
EPOS Game Studios
The game of pool was never really a concept I understood as a video game. I mean, I love going to pool halls in real life or playing the odd game at my local pub with some mates and a cider beside me, but that atmosphere never really translated to the digital form for me. Hustle Kings has been around for a while, but Hustle Kings VR attempts to bring the feeling of playing real pool to a virtual reality space. The results are… adequate, I guess?
There are a lot of different modifiers when trying to organize each shot, all done handily with an on screen UI that lets you know how powerful a shot will be, angle of the ball and more. It makes sure that you always generally know where your shot is going to end up, which is helpful in learning but ultimately a bit fiddly. In the real game, these are things you learn and get an actual feel for; here, it’s mostly just adjusting a bunch of meters to get the result, which means it’s easy to set up shots and mistakes are rare. It’s all a little too predictable and takes some of the fun out of sinking tricky shots.
One of the things about pool that anyone who has played it before will tell you is that getting low and right behind the white ball helps your frame up your shot to make sure you’re hitting things on the right angle. Wearing the VR headset, you actually do have to get low (at least low on your couch) to be able to see the right perspective of things. This isn’t really required given the on-screen indicators tell you where the ball you’re hitting is going to end up, but it does at least make proceedings feel slightly more authentic.
There are, at least, a variety of different game modes that do switch up the formula enough to stay interesting for a little bit. 1-vs-1 league matches, tournaments and daily challenges are designed to keep you coming back for more, along with trick shot, puzzle challenges and crazy tables that do add some lunacy to what is a pretty muted experience otherwise.
I mean, here’s the thing: Hustle Kings VR is a fine adaptation, but the real wonder of VR is being transported to another amazing place and experiencing something totally different. While nothing is inherently wrong with the gameplay here, all it really made me want to do was put down my headset and go to that local pub with my mates instead. There is a nuance in playing pool on an actual table. It takes practice and a patience that video games aren’t exactly known for and you don’t just select a setting on a ‘power scale’ that dictates the speed and light touch required. That nuance just isn’t here.
- Looks like real pool
- Variety of modes
- Better in real life
- Move controllers feel unnatural
- VR doesn't enhance that much
Hustle Kings VR is fine. I mean, it’s not poorly made or broken in any way. It’s just a virtual pool table. Some of the party games are mildly distracting, but really if you like playing pool at all you’re just going to be left feeling a bit empty and longing for the real thing.