"No one held their breath in anticipation, robbing me of a sense of clichéd drama. Their loss. The 360 version doesn’t really try to innovate or reinvent the original game; it simply builds upon it, gives you a create a character system of note, marries it up to decent career mode and throws the entire thing online."
Last time out, I took a lot of flak for reviewing a darts game. Fellow reviewing alumni took digs about it in reviews about pornographic poker, accusations were made about how I’d switched my focus from pulling forgotten games out of a sea of obscurity and how instead people didn’t know me anymore. I, of course, took this with expected grace and eloquence. Bottom line was, the game surprised me in how fun it was to pick up and play. The single player was quite lacking, the graphics decidedly dated and the online play nonexistent -- but grab a friend, hit up a few head-to-head games of 501, and the evenings fly by.
No, really. We still play it now.
But now it’s two years later and developers Mere Mortals have obviously gained a little confidence. Last time around, PDC World Championship Darts saw a very limited release: the already outdated PS2 and the universal dumping grounds for all titles, the PC. 2008 saw a dialling up in ambition -- if it was even slightly current, a PDC title would find it. Out of all these titles, the Wii version looked to be a sure-fire winner. It wasn’t. It was, in fact, pretty awful.
Mostly forgotten about after what should have been its moment in the limelight turned out to be a short, sharp date with a flamethrower, PDC retreated to lick its wounds and work on the two version that had been held back. The Xbox 360 and PSP.
No one held their breath in anticipation, robbing me of a sense of clichéd drama. Their loss. The 360 version doesn’t really try to innovate or reinvent the original game; it simply builds upon it, gives you a create a character system of note, marries it up to decent career mode and throws the entire thing online.
On the surface, not much has changed. The basic game mechanics remain unaltered: you have a crosshair you aim at the dart board and then simulate the throw by pulling back the analogue stick then nudging it back forward again. On easier modes, you have a bar present to show you how much pressure you have on your throw while, on harder settings, it’s all up to you to judge this. You then take turns hurling your darts at the dartboard against either the computer of a chum, trying to reach a set target before they do. It’s simplistic, repetitive and hardly pushing the system to its limits -- but I will always offer a smug grin every time I squeeze three darts into the treble twenty and hear the (slightly annoying) commentator scream OOOOOONNNNNEEEEE HUUUUUUNDREEEEEEEEED AND EEEEEEEEEIIGGHHTTYYYYYYY
There, that should eat up a hefty portion of my letter quota.
The best bit of the game has, and always will be, playing against someone rather than against the computer, which is why the jump online has really made the game so much more accessible. But even away from that, a lot has been done to improve the experience when you play on your own. The last chapter had an awful create a character mode which basically gave you the choice of looking like one of the pre-made pros (usually the one who looked like WWF veteran Ted DeBiase on a solid diet of cake) and left it at that. While PDC 2008 hasn’t got the most in-depth me-maker around, it does a solid job and then throws you into a career mode of actual note. All things that couldn’t have been said for its previous versions.
I could have a go at certain things about the title, and, as this is a video game review, I will. The graphics are still decidedly dated and Sid Waddell is, while I’m sure dearly loved by the majority of the darts-enthused public who enjoy his wacky commentating, someone I would endorse the testing of voice box removal on. It’s good that he’s got more lines in-game than he did in 2006, and I appreciate that a lot less of his quips are repeated relentlessly, but he seems to have only been placed on this planet to wind me up. No, that wasn’t a great dart; I missed the treble twenty. I wanted sixty points, and I have a third of that -- that isn’t superior strategy; that‘s the clever effects of my aim wobbling around because it‘s a big pressure shot.
The biggest problem here is just how niche the title really is. Know who Bruce Spendley is and still quote outdated references from Bullseye? Avoid the dodgy Wii version and go pick this up. Need a new title to shoehorn into your completive gaming? You could do a lot worse than PDC World Championship Darts 2008; it’s a great way to beat your friends in a way you never thought of before.
I’m glad I’ve played this game. Even if its left me open for another two years of relentless mocking from my peers.
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