Hard Rock Casino Review (PS2)
I recently had one of those nights that we all have from time to time. Sleep, as appealing as it was, was not apparently an option. I tried counting sheep, warm milk and every other old wives' tale, but eventually just had to concede defeat, crawl out of bed and find some way to entertain myself at “stupid o’clock” in the morning. Flipping through my 120+ channels I noticed something that I hadn’t picked out before - poker. No, it wasn’t the first time I had noticed poker before, but it was the first time I noticed how much poker was on TV. At least a half a dozen different channels were showing some type of poker event, while a seventh was actually showing tournament blackjack. During each commercial break, on each channel, I saw advertisement after advertisement for dozens of different online sites to feed your poker jones. We’re literally surrounded by gambling. And I’m not even counting Sportcenter, Fox Sports Net and every other sports channel that was talking about Sunday’s matchups, making sure to clearly state the latest line and complete injury report.
As it often does, gaming continues to mirror our culture. Casino gaming titles are popping up all over. Like on TV, poker seems to drop the most games, but whatever your vice, there’s a game out there for you. Crave Entertainment, who already hit the market this year with World Championship Poker: All In, is hedging its bet by adding a full casino title modeled after the two greatest things in a man’s life – gambling and Las Vegas! Hard Rock Casino has hit the PS2 and with it 21 games of chance set in the hippest that Vegas has to offer. But, is it a safe bet, or will another gambling title bust the already flooded market?
Hard Rock Casino has a few things going for it right out of the box. The 21 games ranging from Poker, Blackjack and Let It Ride to Pai Gow, Craps and Roulette, present one of the most in-depth collections of casino games that we’ve seen on any title. They’ve even kicked it up a notch with the inclusion of a sports book that allows sports betting and the ponies. If you’ve been to Vegas recently, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a game that you won’t find in this title.
Also a strong mark in the win column is the price tag. With a retail price of just $19.99, Hard Rock Casino is screaming “use that gift card” for those after Christmas shoppers who like to experience a little casino action.
However, with that sub-$20 price tag comes a catch. You get exactly what you pay for. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to know what you can expect. While Hard Rock Casino does present you with a Story mode (oddly enough called Adventure mode), it’s nothing much to talk about and really adds no real interesting depth to the games; it's merely a mechanism to unlock new casinos and attempt to win challenges. It’s actually less interesting than just playing the games.
The AI at the tables works as well as it should. Keep in mind that in most casino games it is you against the house, so the dealer's logic should be pretty easy to program, considering it’s working off the same math equations that casinos have been getting rich off of for decades. That’s a good thing, because Hard Rock Casino presents no online multiplayer functionality on the PS2. I’m sure the $20 price is the mitigating factor on that decision, but remember, there are free poker games available that give you the multiplayer experience. I don’t think companies should even be considering releasing games like this without multiplayer modes included.
The look of the game is just OK, to be kind. The character models look like a strange version of The Sims and don’t really add anything to the game's feel. The casino itself isn’t much better. There’s nothing there to convey any type of realism of significance when inside the Hard Rock. I’m actually a little surprised that the Hard Rock licensed their name for a game that wasn’t going to do more to sell the casino.
Hard Rock Casino is a hard game to recommend.
The Adventure mode is lackluster. The presentation and user interface are very poor. And they don’t take true advantage of being licensed by one of the coolest hotel/casinos on the planet.
But, Hard Rock Casino is also a hard game not to recommend.
For $20 you get a variety of games that is far beyond anything else that I’ve played on the PS2. The game plays well if you don’t feel like you have to have a deep and detailed story mode.
It’s almost like doubling down on an 11 against the dealer’s face card. You always double down on an 11. But, it’s always tough to throw the extra cash on the table when you have to assume that the dealer is sitting at 20. Those are the situations where you have to throw Hoyle out the window and go with your gut. After all, it’s a gamble.