All-In is the third game in the World Championship Poker Featuring Howard Lederer series, so it’s normal to expect and see some additions. Lo and behold, it does feature a few improvements over the last game, and although it could still use some work and has a few rough edges, it’s still the best console poker game out there right now.
WCP features 18 types of poker, including Texas Hold’em, Five Card Draw, Seven Card Stud Omaha and many other popular variations. What’s interesting is that you can play two or more variations of poker during a single game, with the game changing every time the dealer button makes one revolution around the table.
Along with Howard Lederer, the game also features some of the world’s most successful poker players including Annie Duke (Howard’s sister), Paul Darden, Greg Raymer and Marcel Luske. But you, as a simple Player One, will begin your career as a no-name professional who has very little money and lives in a tiny apartment with old furniture. As you improve and start winning games, you not only win money but skill points as well. You can use the money to redecorate your apartment, which increases your reputation and gains you respect from other players. In turn, the higher your reputation, the more fearful other players are when they face you at the table. It’s nice to see earnings used for cosmetic purposes actually affect the gameplay, too. Meanwhile, the skill points are used to upgrade attributes RPG-style, adding skills such as “keen eyes” to read bluffs more easily and “stare down” to force a player into a bluff/tell mini-game.
The bluff/tell mini-game will either allow you to successfully bluff your opponent or show no reaction at all. If you lose the mini-game, your character will give away that you’re bluffing by shaking his head a little and letting out a sigh. If you succeed, your player will show a stone-cold poker face, leaving your opponent no clue whatsoever about whether you are bluffing. This is very useful in multiplayer matches, especially if you want to have a chance at bluffing a real-life player.
WCP allows you to play against up to seven other players online on the PS2 and will also let people join in who own the PSP version. A couple of nice features in the online play are that you can use the cash you’ve won in the single-player mode to play online, and that you can hook up your EyeToy if you want the other players to see your real poker face (or if you don’t trust your mini-game skills). If you are a hardcore stats follower, or if you like to try and top the online leader boards, you will be disappointed because WCP: All In doesn’t have any. However, playing online against other real players is always a lot more fun than playing against the game’s AI anyway.
This is because the game’s AI is a mixture of good and bad, and while it does a fair job overall of giving you a challenge, it can be downright stupid at times. You know the old saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”? Well, sometimes you will be seated across from a few of them in WCP. These moments of stupidity are few and far between, and it’s actually pretty nice to take the computer’s money: at times the AI players will call all of your maximum raises, even though they had no chance of winning the hand. If only I could find some real players like that. Still, as much fun as it might be to have the extra cash for online multiplayer, at the end of the day you’ll still wish for improved AI.
If you just want to play a fast round of poker without all the animations and other features that slow down the pace, WCP: All In includes Turbo Mode. This speeds the pace of the game up dramatically, but sometimes it actually seems a little too fast-paced. I found that I would barely have time to have a good look at my hand and think of my next move before the timer was up. But, if you’re a poker master and have a limited amount of time to play, Turbo Mode is the way to go.
The graphics in World Championship Poker Featuring Howard Lederer: All In are better than the previous two games, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Character models represent their true-life counterparts well enough, but their movements and gestures are a little too still and jerky. All things considered, however, it’s still the best-looking poker game for any console to date. The sound is also lacking in a lot of places due to boring music and some bad (and repetitive) voice acting. But if you look past these flaws and the occasionally dumb AI and just play the game it was intended be played (just to have fun), you will get a lot of enjoyment from both the single-player and multiplayer portions.
- Overall: 6.5
- Some dumb moves by the AI and bad voice acting drag the game down a bit, but if you don’t take it too seriously, you will enjoy it a lot more.
— Randie Kilgore