World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions 2007 Edition Review (Xbox 360)
With the avalanche of new poker titles hitting the gaming market every quarter, it’s never been more important for developers to go above and beyond to differentiate their title from the pack. After all, poker, the game, really can’t be changed. Sure there are a ton of variations (Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, High/Low), but the rules are the rules. Not much room for play in the core of the game.
World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions 2007 Edition hits the market with a few things going for it right out of the box. The most obvious is that is using the World Series of Poker name that has become synonymous with the new poker boom. You can’t turn on the TV during the year and not find clips from the World Series of Poker airing at all hours of the night. The annual Main Event has become a media circus and a worldwide phenomenon. Having the rights to the World Series name instantly adds familiarity and credibility to the title.
The second thing they brought to the table was an attempt to tap in on some of the name recognition that is starting to take place in big-time poker. Chris “Jesus” Ferguson is becoming one of the most widely known players in mainstream circles and is prominently featured in the game, as he acts as your host/mentor throughout the Career mode. Other World Series champions like Scotty Nguyen also lend their face to World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions.
The final significant difference is the birth of Digimask technology on the Xbox 360. Digimask allows owners of the Xbox Live Vision camera to digitally map their face onto their created player during both career mode and online play. The technology is actually quite impressive and the interface is surprisingly easy to deal with.
Now that’s all fine and good, but it’s all insignificant if it doesn’t play a good game of poker. On that front, I can tell you that it does play a good game of poker - not great, but good. The AI is not the best I’ve seen of the new console poker crowd, but it’s not bad either. It does play noticeably more aggressively then you’ll find in most of the competition. The CPU-controlled bettors tend to pull out the big guns pre-flop and then kind of buckle under later. That sort of leaves you with two options – play wide open with them or tighten up and let them smoke each other. I personally tend to play pretty tight, so I found myself with little to no opportunity to jump in and steal many pots as the stakes were simply too high from the get go.
If you’re like me, you’ll challenge the AI most often in the Career Mode. Here you’ll create your player’s appearance (including the Digimask technology if you have a Vision camera) and start them on their road to the Main Event. It literally starts in a friend’s basement at a weekly game and takes you from city to city as you try to build your bankroll and find enough success to make your way into the World Series Main Event.
Along the way, you can unlock different achievements and open up events, character outfits, and even new ways to improve your game. You’ll actually pick up the ability to know the pot odds, percentages to win, or even quick access to the number of “outs” you have in a hand. It’s really a nice tool and actually works far better in learning the game then any of the video tutorials available do.
The games themselves are a little bit slow if you let them be. You do have the option of clicking through the thinking patterns of your opponents, and I highly recommend doing so. While you’re at the table, one thing that really jumped out and me as very strange was the fact that most of my opponents are clearly allergic to poker. That’s my guess at least, because you hear nearly constant sneezing and coughing from the AI. It was bizarre. I was trying to find a way to figure out how it fit in the game, but could not pick up any patterns. It was just strange.
Aside from the phlegm, the rest of the audio in the game is actually pretty good. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, who are the best in this business for my money, provide the play-by-play. It doesn’t really add to the action, but it does give it a true feeling of watching poker on television.
The graphics are very clean and sharp and the game plays very smoothly. The players' movements are a little robotic, but it’s hard to get hung up on things like that in a poker game. Plus, the Digimask feature alone scores huge in the graphics department.
Of course if you’re not one to stick to the AI challenge, you can take World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions online for some Xbox Live competition. There are leaderboards and tournaments set up, and it’s very easy to find a game to your liking at any time. And, you’re not restricted to simply Texas Hold ‘Em.
It’s tough to ask an Xbox 360 owner to shell out cash for a poker game when they were giving one away just a few months ago. However, I can’t help but recommend giving World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions a look. It has a great single-player game to partner with the online experience. Plus, the Digimask technology is really showcased in this title, making it a must for Xbox Live Vision camera owners.