Poker was first widely played in New Orleans in the early 1800s and quickly spread throughout the Western frontier. Back in those days, poker was mostly popular on riverboats and in saloons. Nowadays poker is everywhere. There are pocket-sized poker video games; online real-time poker tournaments, and who would have thought we would now be able to turn on our TVs and watch other people play poker? Of course, there are also full-featured poker videogames for PC and home consoles, the latest of which is Crave Entertainment’s World Championship Poker 2 featuring Howard Lederer. So with hundreds of poker games having been released in the past, the question begs to be asked: does World Championship Poker 2 offer anything new, or is it destined for the bargain bin?
World Championship Poker 2 (WCP2) not only features everyoneâ€™s favorite game, Texas Hold ‘Em, but also includes 14 different poker game variations, from Five-Card Stud to Deuce-Seven Triple Draw. The game features some impressive AI opponents, and each AI player’s unique personalities and play styles mean you never feel like you’re playing against a computer. This is great for gamers who don’t want to (or can’t) play online, and it’s a sign that Crave got the one thing right that any poker game needs to have: good competition.
The career mode in WCP2 has certain role-playing elements to it in the form of points that players can use to upgrade their character’s skills. For instance, you can level-up skills such as hand strength, stare down, tough read, stone face and others, and upgrading these skills gives you a much better chance of capitalizing off a bluff. The bluff/tell system itself is a sort of mini-game that appears when an opponent thinks you’ve made an improper play or thinks you’re bluffing. When the mini-game pops up, the player must choose “poker face” or “bluff,” which causes the character to act out the appropriate animation. You then have to try and line up two rotating markers to successfully show a bluff. If you fail to line up the marker, your character gives a tell and it’s all over but the crying. A good bluff will make your character keep his cool and show his best bluffing face, not giving away any clues about the hand you are holding. On the other hand, a tell will show your character acting happy or excited when he’s holding a winning hand, or nervous and pouting when holding a weak hand. It really adds some depth to the gameplay and breaks up the monotony.
While the single-player game is good practice, especially considering its impressive AI, the real thrill of WCP2 comes from the online multiplayer mode. WCP2 features cross-platform online play, which means PS2 players can also play against PSP owners, a feature that more games should have. What’s more, even though a game can include players on different platforms, the multiplayer lobbies are simple to use and make it easy to setup your own games or to join others. You can use your PS2 headset to use the voice chat option, and if you own an EyeToy you can let other players to see you during online play. You can also import your winnings from the career mode to be used online, and vice versa.
Not all is perfect online, as I did experience a few disconnects and had the game lockup a couple times, both of which can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of a good hand. WCP2 is also missing one feature that should never be left out of an online multiplayer game: a “boot player” option. There always seems to be that one jerk who takes forever to play his turn just to annoy the other players, but there isn’t a way to vote him or her out of the game without everyone just quitting. I know we all like to think such players don’t exist, but they do, and online games need to have an option to kick them out of the match when they rear their ugly heads.
Although the game’s overall look is best described as “functional,” and in spite of the card dealing just looking weird, what really matters with a poker game is its fun factor, and that’s where WCP2 puts forth a solid effort. World Championship Poker 2 doesn’t necessarily offer anything groundbreaking to the game of poker, but what’s there should be sufficiently fun and challenging for videogame poker fans.
- Gameplay: 7
- Good single-player career mode, but some problems online.
- Graphics: 6
- Robotic animations and limited customizations, and card dealing just looks funky.
- Sound: 5
- The voice acting gets repetitive after a while.
- Replay: 7.5
- Multiplayer can keep you playing, and the cross-platform connectivity is a nice addition.
- Overall: 7
- Despite some flaws, this is still an enjoyable poker game.
— Randie Kilgore