Video Game Reviews
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2007-03-04, by OzoneStacked
Artificial Intelligence: 95
Poker superstar Daniel Negreanu hosts your playing experience in 'Stacked'. The game includes a tutorial section full of strategy advice straight from Negreanu's mouth. After booting the game, you are prompted to create your character. This character may be used to conquest a huge bankroll in career mode or to simply dive right into a quick game. Texas Hold'em is the only poker variant offered in 'Stacked'.
The downfall of many poker video games is their senseless artificial intelligence. 'Stacked' is an exception to this. When this game was being produced, Daniel Negreanu was insistent on making sure the A.I. represented real life poker as much as possible. The A.I. is so advanced that it changes its style of play based on how you are playing. At the time of this game's release, it has the best poker video game intelligence on the market. The A.I. in this game is significantly, significantly better than the average play-money poker player you would find online.
The hardest of the four difficulty settings puts up a legitimate challenge. This makes 'Stacked' appealing to even seasoned poker players. Of course, on the easier settings the A.I. makes laughable moves that make the whole table resemble a group who just learned the rules of the game. Also, the players tend to play very passively on the easy and medium settings. Those seeking to face the strong aggression they might find in a real-money game should seek out the hardest setting possible.
'Stacked' has several features not found in other poker video games. The create-a-player feature offers a wide variety of options for clothing, facial features, and body type. Most other poker games have fully automatic camera settings. 'Stacked' allows you to view the action from your character's point of view. The right joystick moves your characters eyes around the table to observe the other players. Of course, half of the players you face are females with revealing clothing, so the view is never too repulsive.
Some poker games torture users by forcing them to watch the action in hands which they have already folded. This game has a user-controlled speed setting that allows you to fast forward through the dealing or the hands in which you are not involved. When involved in a tricky situation, advice from Daniel Negreanu is available with the push of one button. Occasionally the canned advice is horrible, but most often it advice is what you would likely expect to hear from Negreanu in a real-life situation.
With regard to graphics 'Stacked' offers nothing to blow your skirt up. The characters move awkwardly the casino visuals aren't anything spectacular. There is a very basic emotional tell feature where players will either smile or frown.
Verdict: Great A.I, but not much flash or flare to back it up
Click here to purchase Stacked at Amazon.com
World Poker Tour
Artificial Intelligence: 76
For fans of the Travel Channel's popular TV show "World Poker Tour", this video game is a great way to personally experience a thrilling WPT final table where you can match wits with Antonio "the Magician" Esfandiari, Evelyn Ng, and Phil "Unabomber" Laak. Commentated by Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, this game is just like a WPT TV episode, right down to the colors of the carpet in the casinos.
On the most difficult setting, the artificial intelligence on this game does a fine job of executing moves similar to what poker's top pros often make. The computer seems to have a good understanding of hand value and pot odds. On the weakest setting, the artificial intelligence simply plays horribly. If you fold your hand, frequently the computer opponents engage in a horribly played pot that often results in half of their stacks going in before the flop with horrible cards. Even after making this egregious error, the computer players will simply check it all the way to the showdown. Even the fishiest of real life poker games do not have players committing moves this illogical.
This game features a rather lengthy career mode. There is a long series of steps one must take in order to play a WPT event (and thus against the game's simulated pros). The player begins playing a super satellite to get into a satellite that gets you into an "amateur series" event, where upon winning you may join the WPT where you start the satellite process all over again. This is a cool feature for anyone looking to invest several hours into the game, but anyone hoping to sit down and immediately battle it out at a final table against the "Unabomber" will be disappointed.
One of the strong features of this game is the ability to create your own poker game. When creating a game, the options are plentiful. This allows even the most bizarre ideas for a poker game to be played on the World Poker Tour.
World Poker Tour features several real-life international casinos that are detailed perfectly down to the design of the carpet. You travel all over the world in this game by playing at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, Aviation Club de France, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, and at other famous casinos. While sitting at these famed poker tables, one may control the facial expressions of their created player. There are thirteen expressions to choose from that range from horror, to resentment, to satisfaction.
Verdict: Worth it if you love the WPT.
Click here to purchase World Poker Tour at Amazon.com
World Class Poker with T.J. Cloutier
Artificial Intelligence: 47
Complete with annoying twang music, World Class Poker is hosted by the "World's Winningest Poker Player" (or so the box tells us), T.J. Cloutier. The objective in this game is to amass a bankroll of $10,000 and use it to face off against the master himself in the "World Class Poker Championships". Upon booting the game, the main lobby screen is defaulted to Omaha Hi poker. Users hoping to play Texas Hold'em (probably nearly all of them) should be sure to note a need to scroll through to the appropriate variant.
World Class Poker offers a smooth interface with a lobby set to resemble a saloon from the old west. Thankfully, there is a setting to turn off the banjo music that interrupts the playing experience. Using the default deck of cards, it can be hard to distinguish the difference between a club and a spade. There are four other decks available to choose from, some of which offer jumbo-sized suits. Using a jumbo-sized deck might be a necessity for users who don't have super-human vision.
The artificial opponents in this game tend to emulate the cautious style of play T.J. preaches in his poker strategy books. Stealing blinds in this game is far too easy. The artificial intelligence does not like to give out free cards. They will frequently make a bet if you check on the flop. This adds an increased benefit to making check-raises that is also not representative of most real poker games. In general, the artificial intelligence plays mediocre at best. Even on the highest difficulty setting they will make bonehead calls on the flop only to fold the same unimproved hand on the turn. Late in tournaments when the stacks are short, computer opponents will often limp in and then fold to a raise. This is a move that is regarded as suicidal by most poker enthusiasts.
During nearly every decision at the table, a "T.J.'s Tip" will pop up in the corner of the window advising you on how to handle the situation. In general, his advice tends to be very cautious. It is almost as though the advice errs on the side of extreme caution just so T.J. can cover his ass and say "I told you so" after you go broke. For example, sometimes he will recommend folding to a single raise when you have a non-nut flush, even though the pot odds clearly mandate a call.
One of the strengths of this game is the multitude of settings available to customize the playing experience. Virtually everything can be sped up, turned down, deactivated, or fine tuned. For the impatient, six different speed settings allow gameplay that ranges from stagnant to lightning fast. Those with a love for the dramatic can turn up the amount of in-hand dialogue between the computer opponents.
Verdict: Well-produced game with poor A.I. and bad advice
Click here to purchase World Class Poker at Amazon.com
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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