PDC World Championship Darts 2008
Developer: Mere Mortals
Publisher: Oxygen
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8
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Last year PDC World Championship Darts arrived just before the actual PDC World Darts Championship started on Sky Sports, instantly raising everyone’s interest in the game. Yes, it’s amazing how much more appealing this sort of sports sim is when the real thing is on the TV. This year someone has dropped a clanger, and the game arrived just after the annual darts-fest (bizarrely, there’s not one but TWO world championships held every winter, and this year they ran back to back). So with my interest in darts already heading for hibernation until next Christmas, can this year’s effort do anything to get it back?

Well, an all new enhanced game engine is supposed to allow darts to fly more like the real thing than ever before – “see them flutter through the air and stack as on a real board” the blurb says… And the PDC Pros have been mo-capped and their throwing styles and walk-ons are now part of the game. Well I have to say I can’t see much difference from last year’s game, darts definitely do get deflected sometimes, but stack like in the real game? No not really. You can aim at the exact same spot on the board and darts will sometimes overlap, so I don’t believe the physics have had quite the overhaul that they claim. And motion captured Pros? Well maybe, but as they’re nearly all fat blokes who throw pointed bits of tungsten at a wall then waddle up and pull them out, there’s not a heck of a lot to that either.

There are plenty of game options (standard or double-in 301, 501 or 701) and amusingly they’ll allow you to set up a game the best of 25 sets and 25 legs! – But good luck finding anyone to do that with you. You can set up a tournament with up to 8 players and a choice of “real life” venues; London, Dublin (or maybe it’s Double-in), Las Vegas, Connecticut, Blackpool (snigger) or Bolton (chortle) or Frankfurt (no, really).

A commentary by Sid Waddell (well, as we said last year “commentary” might be the wrong term; inane and sometimes surreal ramblings might be more accurate) and Sky-Sports style presentation make for a spectacle not unlike the real thing – the camera even zooms in on the treble twenty when a 180 is in the offing. The player likenesses (including new World Champion John Part, Phil Taylor, Roland Scholten, Ronnie Baxter, Terry Jenkins, Kevin Painter, Andy Hamilton, Andy Jenkins, Raymond van Barneveld, Peter Manley, Wayne Mardle, Dennis Priestley, Adrian Lewis, Alan Warriner-Little, Colin Lloyd and Mark Dudbridge.) are a bit better than last year’s, but frankly they all look a bit too good to be true, and some players seem to have lost some weight and a lot of character, as well as wrinkles and extra chins. WWE for the PDC this ain’t, despite the walk-ons.

There are three difficulty settings, but the default one is quite hard enough to master, and the medium ‘Professional’ mode removes the on-screen power meter altogether, and your “skill and judgement” are required to decide how far to pull back the dart purely by watching the player’s arm movement before releasing it towards the board. As we said last year this is insanely difficult and was quickly discarded by me. For me at least, playing real darts is much easier than this method, so why make it so difficult to judge? – even after half an hour’s practice the darts NEVER went where I was aiming, and I had no idea how to make them go there. I was playing on the PS3 so maybe there’s an anomaly with the joypad, but as last year’s game was similarly unplayable in this mode I doubt it. Amusingly there’s an even more difficult setting than ‘Pro’, labelled ‘Master’… I didn’t dare try it but I imagine that, if activated, members of the development team come round and poke you in the eyes and stamp on your toes as you throw – it’s the only way they could make it tougher or less fun.

There’s a ‘career’ mode in which you can either use a Pro or “create your own player” – and this year there are 6 different player models (including 2 females that look like blokes), and you can also enter your name, change the hairstyles, colour of hair (even green or purple, weyhey!) skin, eyes and all the usual personalisation gubbins we’ve come to expect from this sort of option.

Each season requires you to take part in the available tournaments and exhibition matches in-between, with the aim being to rise to the very top and become world number one – good luck with that! The tournaments are insanely long and the game plods along as you have to sit and watch your opponent’s turn with no option to skip. I love watching top pros playing darts on TV but sitting there and playing a video game version of it for hours, nay, weeks? – No thanks. I’m sure there are gamers who are darts fans out there, but surely they go and play real darts on a real board if they want to play for this length of time? Whatever the case, with no online options the multiplayer party games are the only way to get away from tournament play. These games allow for up to 8 players (Around the Clock, Cricket, Killer, Black & White, Fives, Shanghai etc), but unless you have 7 mates who are all darts mad then these are only going to be a brief diversion, and they don't really work as party games, because despite having simplified controls, they still require too much prior experience to be competitive.

So to the out shot; if you’ve been waiting for a darts game to play on your PS2 (or PS3) then this is likely to be a fun game, but for a short time. As we said about last year’s game, PDC WCD 2008 is probably the best effort at a darts game yet, but the party games aren’t particularly fun and the career mode soon becomes a tiresome chore. Darts isn't football or golf and a season of this seems like a lifetime. And as we stated last year, most video gamers play games to do things they can’t do in real life, and I still can’t see why anyone would buy this rather than either watch the top players on TV, video or DVD, or alternatively play the real thing either at home or down the pub.

Best Bits

- All the top players
- It’s like the darts on Sky Sports!
- Lots of tournaments
- Party games
- Phil Taylor
Worst Bits

- The control method doesn’t allow for accuracy or consistency
- A few party games but where’s the fun element?
- No widescreen option?
- Do you really want to play darts on a console?
- Peter Manley

by: Masonic Dragicoot

Copyright © Gamecell 2008